FORT WORTH -- In a move that many will view as the end of an era, Stage West founder Jerry Russell has announced that he will be stepping down from his duties as producing director at the theater that he opened next to his downtown sandwich shop more than 30 years ago.
"It's time for me to change my involvement to more of an acting, directing and consulting position and leave the daily financial stresses to another generation," Russell said in a letter addressed to patrons over the weekend.
Russell cited the growth of the theater's financial base as the reason for the move, noting that "a $400,000 budget is one thing. Now it's over $800,000 and I wear out a bit faster."
Artist director Jim Covault and director of development Dana Schultes will become co-producing directors beginning January 1, 2013, and a new business manager will be hired, the letter said.
Russell stressed that he will continue to perform and be closely involved with the theater, which is now on West Vickery Boulevard.
"Have no fear. I'm not going away," said Russell, father of state Sen. Wendy Davis. "My position, now, will be as a committed volunteer, to serve on the board and continue my artistic contributions."
Russell opened his first Stage West production, Edward Albee's The Zoo Story, on Oct. 18, 1979, in a 65-seat space adjoining his European Sandwich Shoppe on Houston Street. Since that time, the theater has earned the enduring respect of patrons by presenting a wide range of first-rate comedies and dramas.
Russell is especially known for his love of the prolific British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, whose works have frequently been part of Stage West seasons.