Michelle Pingel named Players' Managing Director

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In case you didn't read Jay Handelman's article in this morning's SHT:

Players Theatre lays off executive director it hired in March

By Jay Handelman

The Players Theatre in Sarasota searched for more than a year before hiring Darlene Sparks as executive director.

But Sparks fell victim to a tightening economy. Her position was eliminated and she was laid off late last week from the community theater that she joined in March.

Board Chairman Brenda Terris said Tuesday that concerns about a budget shortfall led to a reorganization of the theater's management and the promotion of Michelle Bianchi Pingel from director of operations to the newly renamed position of managing director.

"We made a budget cutback," Terris said. "This is not about her performance, at all. This is about the need for us to have a balanced budget this year.

"As with all organizations in business right now, we're having to look closely and long and hard at every expense."

She cited a decline in subscriptions for the coming season, which opens Thursday with the Stephen Sondheim musical "Company," and concerns about fundraising.

"The unfortunate circumstance is that we must make an employee cut in order to balance our budget," Terris said.

Sparks was hired more than a year after the theater began a nationwide search for a successor to Burton Wolfe, whose contract as producing and artistic director was not renewed.

For a time, the theater's board was torn between hiring one person to fill the two jobs or splitting it in two. The board eventually hired Jeffery Kin in July 2007 as artistic director.

Sparks came to the theater after serving as associate director of campus advancement at the University of South Florida's Sarasota-Manatee campus and as advancement director at New Gate School.

This month the theater combined its box office manager position into a new sales and marketing director job and hired Laura Coyle, who had spent nearly five years as associate marketing director for the Sarasota Orchestra.

Terris said Coyle will help promote group sales and develop a stronger marketing plan for the theater.

Pingel joined the theater in August 2002 as administrative assistant. She was born and raised on Longboat Key and graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School.

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Comment by Jeffrey E. Salzberg on September 24, 2008 at 11:06am
the theater's board was torn between hiring one person to fill the two jobs or splitting it in two

I'm always puzzled by theaters who assume that a person who is qualified to do one of those jobs is equally qalified to do the other. Occasionally, of course, one is, but the opposite is usually the case, so the theater gets someone who's not as good at either job as the two people they would have hired would have been.

I understand the need to save money, but compromising the quality of the artistic and financial leadership is a pound-foolish way to do it.
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