Ballet Chicago’s Randy Green Bows Out

Ballet Chicago’s Randy Green abruptly left his post as managing director this week after just two years in the position. His departure signals another wrenching change for the fledgling, financially strapped company, which has weathered a number of hard times since it rose from the ashes of Maria Tallchief’s long-struggling Chicago City Ballet. The news that Green was leaving “to pursue other professional activities,” announced in a letter last week from board president Jack Staley, surprised company members and others close to the troupe. The letter also indicated that the company would conduct a national search for Green’s replacement and that corporate and foundation development director John Schmitz would serve as interim managing director.

The announcement touched off rampant speculation earlier this week as to the reasons for Green’s sudden departure. “I felt comfortable with the ballet company,” says Green. “But I had another opportunity I wanted to pursue.” But other sources indicated the company’s board of directors may have concluded it needed a more seasoned dance-company manager to lead the company in the crucial years ahead. One board member said the company would seek an “experienced and aggressive” chief executive to replace Green.

Green had had no previous hands-on experience in runnning a young and struggling arts organization. He came to the dance company from the Civic Center for Performing Arts (now known as Civic Stages Chicago), where he spent nine years as executive director, managing the Civic Opera House and Civic Theatre and programming the two facilities with a mix of dance, theater, and other live entertainment. While Green was at the Civic Center it incurred heavy losses underwriting the appearances of several dance companies that did not perform well at the box office.

When Ballet Chicago hired Green in 1990, the company was still struggling to establish fiscal stability and a solid artistic identity, “When Randy came to Ballet Chicago, the dancers never knew whether the organization would make its payroll from week to week,” says one source close to the company, “but the money situation is considerably better now than it was then.” Ballet Chicago dancers are currently signed to 34-week contracts.

Still, sources indicated the company is far from flush with funds, and earlier this summer it launched a major fimdraising effort to raise as much as $1 million to mount its first full-length ballet, Hansel and Gretel. Green’s departure also comes at a time when the company is beginning to succeed in establishing a stronger reputation both local ly and nationally. The company is slated to perform at Columbia College’s Dance Center in September and on the Steppenwolf mainstage in November in addition to touring in six states. Ballet Chicago was also negotiating an appearance in Civic Stages’ spring dance festival next year.

Art Wars: Who Runs the Fairest Fair of All?

Art Chicago cofounders David and Lee Ann Lester have turned up the heat in their ongoing attempt to wrest a significant number of dealers from John Wilson’s prestigious Chicago International Aft Exposition. Earlier this week the Lesters, announced the formation of an advisory committee comprising 14 major dealers from around the world, including Chicagos Paul Gray of Richard Gray Gallery and Rhona Hoffman of Rhona Hoffman Gallery. No fewer than 10 of the 14 dealers listed on the new advisory committee participated last year in Wilson’s Art Expo. The Lesters also moved up the dates to May 6-11 for next year’s fair at the Merchandise Mart ExpoCenter, one week ahead of Art Expo’s scheduled May 13-18 run at Donnelley Hall in McCormick Place. Previously the two fairs ran concurrently.

In unveiling the advisory committee, David Lester tried to suggest it was the start of a major defection from Art Expo, which a number of dealers have roundly criticized for the way it has been run by Wilson and his associates. “We expect to have 300 applications for 90 spaces in our show,” says Lester “It will be a top-quality show.”

A press release issued in conjunction with the announcement said the advisory committee members would participate in Art Chicago ’93. But at least one of the committee members, Paul Gray, says he has not yet made such a commitment: “It’s hard to make a decision because things are up in the air at both fairs.”

In years past the Lesters’ fair had been faulted for its less lustrous lineup of participating galleries. Lester said his advisory committee will have a significant say in dealer selection and a major role in planning promotional strategies and peripheral events that will be held in conjunction with the fair. Lester says, “We want to do all kinds of things to make people come back to Chicago for the fair.”

Meanwhile, Art Expo’s John Wilson is said to be forming a new advisory committee to be headed by Jack Lemmon of Landfall Press. But an Art Expo spokeswoman said the committee would not be formed until September and that details of its mission will not be finalized until then. Art Expo executive director Tom Blackman did not rule out the possibility that some major dealers now leaning toward Art Chicago may well wind up back at Art Expo. Blackman says, “We will all be working the same way we’ve always worked to make our fair better.”

Weekly Publisher Takes a Stand: No Pay, No Plays

Publisher Ron Roenigk has brought the curtain down on theater coverage in Inside Lincoln Park, Inside Gold Coast, and Inside Ravenswood, three free weekly neighborhood newspapers with a combined circulation of 65,000. Roenigk says he’s fed up with theater companies that want coverage in the newspapers but don’t want to support that coverage with advertising buys. “I spend between $7,000 and $10,000 on theater coverage and I’ve been lucky if I get back $7 to $10 from theater advertising,” explains Roenigk. “These theater companies have an arrogant attitude.” Stephen Eich, managing director at Steppenwolf Theatre, says a company such as his has little money to experiment with advertising in many of the city’s neighborhood newspapers. Has anyone called Roenigk to complain about his decision to drop theater coverage? “Only the publicists,” says Roenigk.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steven D. Arazmus.