New Edgecliff Theatre announced today that founder Michael Shooner will no longer be serving as Executive Director. He will, however, continue to serve on the board of NET, while the Executive Director position will be combined with that of Artistic Director, creating a new position, Producing Artistic Director, to be taken on by current AD Jim Stump.
Shooner established New Edgecliff in 1998 (becoming its first Artistic Director) in hopes of reincarnating the professional standards he had first experienced in the wake of David Barrie’s resident Equity company at Edgecliff College in the 1970s. His first acting job with NET (Eric Bogosian’s Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll) earned him a CEA nomination for Best Actor. He appeared the subsequent season in the critically acclaimed The Woolgatherer, but did not return to the NET stage again for another 6 years. “That was odd”, he says, “because I had at least in part wanted to create a place where I knew I could work as an actor without having to wait for the phone to ring” (during those “dark” years, he did make a few appearances at Cincy Shakes). When Elizabeth A. Harris became the new AD, she put Shooner back on the NET stage as Teach in American Buffalo, which earned him an Acclaim Award as well as another CEA nomination. In the 7 years since, he’s managed four more appearances at NET: Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross, Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, Dysart in Equus and the Man in St. Nicholas. He’s also appeared opposite Dale Hodges in the Xavier University production of Frozen, which earned him another Acclaim Award.
During his years at NET, there have been 48 main stage productions mounted, 7 of which were co-productions, as well as the annual Sweet Suspense radio-theatre shows, three Fringe appearances and three editions of the Cincinnati Director’s Competition. Of which productions is he most proud? “First off, the easiest way to answer that question is to say I could count on one hand those shows that would not be in the running, but if pressed for favorites, I’d have to point to Equus, I Stand Before You Naked, American Buffalo, Square One, Lives of the Saints and Death of a Salesman. All these productions were perfect reflections of NET’s commitment to the reductive notion that in its finest distillation, theatre requires no more or less than strong actors telling a compelling story; where any requisite production elements, while executed to the highest professional standards, are rigorously dedicated to supporting that notion rather than competing with it.”
Shooner feels the move is imperative not only for him personally, but also for the continued growth and health of the NET organization. As he puts it, “15 years of improvising in the role of an arts administrator qualifies as the longest and most challenging acting gig of my life! I’m hoping to make room now for some other roles.” At the same time, as NET moves to the next level (he promises more on that very soon), he says “a much surer hand is needed up front, and Jim Stump has proven himself eminently capable in that regard.” As a member of the NET board, Shooner will continue to work behind the scenes, initially helping with the transition to the new staff structure. Of course, as far as acting goes, he’s now looking forward to being able to get on the NET stage “more than once every couple years.”
Mr. Stump, who just completed his third season as Artistic Director, is well known and respected in the Cincinnati theatre community. He earned his B.A. in Theatre from Indiana University and went on to graduate from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. As a performer, he has appeared frequently on multiple area stages, including Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Know Theatre, Stage First, New Stage Collective, the Carnegie Theatre, Human Race Theatre, as well as New Edgecliff. He served as President of the League of Cincinnati Theatres from 2005-09, and continues as member-at-large. He’s chalked up administrative theatre experience with such organizations as Cincinnati Costume Company, Cincinnati Arts Association, Madcap Productions and The Whodunnit? Players.