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Head of Classic Stage Company to Depart in 2022


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John Doyle, the artistic director of Classic Stage Company since 2016, announced on Monday that he would step down from the Off Broadway theater next summer.

“I feel like it’s somebody else’s turn,” Doyle, 68, said in a video interview from Britain. “It’s as simple as that. I think art is better with a kind of turnover.”

Classic Stage Company on Monday also revealed its 2021-22 season, Doyle’s last with the company. The productions include: Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s “Assassins”; Marcus Gardley’s “black odyssey”; Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s “Snow in Midsummer”; and Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Terrence McNally’s “A Man of No Importance.”

Doyle, a Tony Award-winner in 2006 for his revival of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” will direct the musicals “Assassins” and “A Man of No Importance.”

“Assassins,” which will be Classic Stage Company’s first in-person production since the start of the pandemic, was in rehearsals last year when New York theaters were closed to slow the coronavirus’s spread.

Given the events of the past year and a half, Doyle said, storytellers “must be addressing the stories they tell.”

“How they tell those stories, why they tell those stories, who are they for?” he said. “We have to pick up that responsibility very strongly.”

Doyle has also asked of Classic Stage Company: What does it mean for a piece of theater to be a “classic” today?

“It need no longer mean plays by dead, white, European men,” Doyle said. “Which is inevitably what most classical theater has been.”

Two of the coming season’s works — “black odyssey,” directed by Stevie Walker-Webb, and “Snow in Midsummer,” directed by Zi Alikhan, both planned for the first half of 2022 — are by living artists of color. Both reimagine classic stories: Homer’s “The Odyssey” and Guan Hanqing’s “The Injustice to Dou Yi That Moved Heaven and Earth.”

Those plays, Doyle said, are “trying to take the worldwide stories and make those available to the modern audience, in the hope and intention of bringing in new audiences into the theater.”

“A Man of No Importance” resonates with Doyle. It’s a musical about a Celtic man (Doyle is Scottish) making theater for his local community (which Doyle once did).

“It celebrates what theater can do, and it celebrates how theater can make change,” Doyle said. “And I’m hoping that my leaving will help to make more change. And I’m hoping that my doing a piece about how spiritual, in a way, the theater can be, in terms of how it touches our souls, is a nice way to leave.”

Reflecting on his tenure, Doyle said he was especially proud of reconfiguring the physical space of the theater itself. “It really feels like a New York space to me now, not just a black box,” he said. “Plays come and go, but the space stays. And it is a truly remarkable space.”

His departure is not a retirement. Doyle said that the pandemic made him realize the importance of family, self and quiet time, but that theater remains as important to him as ever. And although he would like to spend more time in the Scottish Highlands with his husband, he has no plans to leave New York any time soon.

“I’m really hopeful that I could do another Broadway show or two, before I pop my clogs, as we say in Britain,” Doyle said. “I would love that.”

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