Hartford Courant http://www.courant.com/entertainment/stage/hc-lamos.artjan06,0,913279.story Lamos Named New Artistic Director At Westport Country Playhouse By FRANK RIZZO | The Hartford Courant 3:11 PM EST, January 5, 2009 Mark Lamos returns to the role of artistic director when he becomes the new head of the Westport Country Playhouse. (HANDOUT / January 5, 2009) Mark Lamos, the the new artistic director of the Westport Country Playhouse, is pictured here in November with Michael Wilson, artistic director of Hartford Stage. (JEREMY BARROWS / HANDOUT / November 24, 2008) Mark Lamos is back leading a Connecticut theater, this time in Westport. The 62-year-old Lamos, who built Hartford Stage into a Tony Award-winning, internationally known theater from 1980 to 1997, is the new artistic director of the Westport Country Playhouse starting Feb. 1. Lamos replaces Tazewell Thompson, who left in January, 2008 when the board of trustees cut his three-year contract short. Joanne Woodward and Anne Keefe — who led the playhouse's transformation from summer barn to new year-round theater — were interim artistic leaders in 2008 as the board searched for permanent leadership. Lamos says by mutual agreement he will be there from three-to-five years as the playhouse refocuses on its strength first as a summer-centric theater. Mark Lamos Photo Michael Ross Photo When Lamos left Hartford Stage he became a free-lance director of plays, musicals and operas around the country. In 2001, he was a finalist for artistic head of Yale Repertory Theatre and dean of the Yale School of Drama. Two years ago Williamstown Theatre Festival tried to woo him when Roger Rees left. But Lamos says the timing or situation wasn't right for him — until now. "I'm kind of jazzed I have to admit," said Lamos on Monday, praising the renovated theater, the community and the board. Another factor, he says, is the appeal of an artistic home where he can develop his own projects after more than a decade on the road. Lamos says a condition for taking the position was to bring in "an old chum" to oversee the "daunting challenges" the playhouse (and all theaters) face in the current economy. Michael Ross, a colleague from Hartford Stage, will join Lamos in a leadership role as managing director on Feb. 1. It's the same job he held at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre and Baltimore's Center Stage over the past 10 years. During his tenure at Hartford Stage from 1986-1996, Ross moved up from box office and business manager to general manager before leaving to become program officer-project director at the Baltimore-based National Arts Stabilization, a nonprofit group that assists arts groups across the country. Since leaving Center Stage in June to become an arts consultant, Ross became interim managing director at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Ross, 49, replaces Jodi Schoenbrun Carter, who was executive director of the theater for the last two years. Having Ross as managing director was a deal maker for Lamos, according to Sandra Walters DeFeo, president of the theater's board of trustees. Ross said Monday, "I left Baltimore after six years wanting some new challenges, new ideas, something that scared meIt was only this trifecta of was Mark Lamos, the Playhouse and Connecticut that could get me back to running a theater like this." Lamos, who lives in Sherman and Manhattan with his civil union partner of 29 years, Jerry Jones, will be focusing on the 2010 season, the first one entirely of his own creation. He will also stage a still-to-be-determined production this year at the Playhouse. In Lamos, Westport gets a longtime and respected director of the classics (especially Shakespeare), new work and musical theater in venues from Broadway to off-Broadway, to regional theaters and opera companies around the country. He received a Tony Award nomination for directing when the Hartford Stage production of "Our Country's Good" transferred to Broadway in 1991. Lamos will oversee a relatively new organization with a wealthy, high-profile board as it tries to forge an identity and find a market in southern Connecticut, an area where other theaters have struggled and some have died. Though most of the Playhouse's 79-year-old life was as a summer theater in a converted barn, the new state-of-the-art theater as a year-round facility is still finding its way and securing stable leadership. In the Playhouse's short time since the launch of the drive in 2000 to renovate and expand the theater which reopened in 2005, there has been a string of leadership exits including Janice Muirhead, Elissa Getto, Alison Harris, Thompson and now Carter. The productions since the Playhouse reopened have received mixed reviews and audience response. There have also been some marquee events from outside producers such as James Earl Jones in "Thurgood" in 2006 and the Kander and Ebb musical, "All About Us" in 2007. Besides expanding to a year-round line-up of original productions, the theater has been used for a reading series, concerts and family programming. Attempts to create holiday shows included two tries at "A Christmas Carol," a production of "David Copperfield" and last month's "Christmas Garland," an informal collection of traditional songs and readings. Lamos directed in New York (Broadway's "The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm," "Seascape," "Cymbeline"; off-Broadway's "Thief River," "Buffalo Gal,"); in regional theaters (including Yale Repertory Theatre's an all-male "Taming of the Shrew," "Lulu"); at major opera companies (Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera Theatre); and a return gig at Hartford Stage ("Much Ado About Nothing"). Last fall, Lamos replaced an ailing Paul Newman as director of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" at the Westport Playhouse. Woodward and Newman, who died Sept. 26, were longtime- supporters of the theater. Woodward remains on the theater's board. Lamos says serious discussion of his role at the playhouse began at that time. Lamos will direct the upcoming "Adriana Lecouvreur" with Placido Domingo, opening in February at the Metropolitan Opera. He will also be overseeing a reading of a stage version of "Dodsworth" and will be working on a musical based on "Pride and Prejudice" this spring at the University of Miami at Coral Springs. The Westport season begins in April with the Hartford Stage production of "To Kill a Mockingbird," directed by Michael Wilson, artistic director of Hartford Stage. Other 2009 shows include A. R. Gurney's "Children"; Alan Ayckbourn's "How the Other Half Loves" directed by John Tillinger; Jonathan Larson's "Tick,.Tick..Boom!" and Mark Brown's stage adaptation of Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days." Prior to taking over at Hartford Stage in 1980 at the age of 33, the Chicago-born Lamos, who began his career in the theater as an actor, was artistic director of the Arizona Civic Theatre in 1979.