André Bishop to step down after three decades running Lincoln Center Theater

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André Bishop to step down after three decades running Lincoln Center Theater
André Bishop, right, Lincoln Center Theater’s producing artistic director, with Kewsong Lee, chairman of the theater’s board of directors, in New York on April 10, 2018. Bishop will leave his post in 2025, while Lee will lead the search for Bishop’s successor. (Rebecca Smeyne/The New York Times)

by Michael Paulson

NEW YORK, NY.- André Bishop, the producing artistic director of Lincoln Center Theater, will step down in the spring of 2025, ending a 33-year run leading one of the nation’s most prestigious nonprofit theaters.

The organization has under Bishop’s stewardship been a leading producer of grand Broadway revivals of Golden Age musicals, and has simultaneously committed itself to nurturing emerging artists by constructing a black box theater for that purpose on its rooftop.

“I’m exhilarated and sad at the same time,” Bishop said in an interview. “I will have been here many, many years — almost half my life — and it’s time for someone new and fresh to come in and pick up where I left off and go into other directions and do other things if they want to.”

Bishop, 74, said he is choosing to leave at the end of the 2024-25 season because that is when his current contract ends, and because that will allow him to join in that season’s celebrations of Lincoln Center Theater’s 40th anniversary.

His decision means that there are job openings for the top positions at three of the four nonprofits with Broadway houses, portending potentially significant change, and uncertainty, in a key sector of the theater industry that has had almost no leadership turnover for decades. Nonprofit theaters, which pay lower artist wages than commercial productions and are funded by philanthropy as well as box office sales, have become an important part of the Broadway ecosystem; Lincoln Center Theater has been able to stage musicals on a larger scale than many commercial producers can afford.

On Wednesday, Carole Rothman, the president and artistic director of Second Stage Theater, said that after 45 years she would be leaving that institution, which she co-founded. Second Stage operates the Helen Hayes Theater on Broadway. And Roundabout Theater Company currently has an interim artistic director following the death in April of Todd Haimes, who led that organization for four decades. Roundabout operates three Broadway houses, including the American Airlines, the Stephen Sondheim and Studio 54.

Lincoln Center Theater, which is a resident organization at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, has three stages of varying sizes, and has produced a wide variety of work. The company currently has an annual budget of $34.5 million and 55 full-time employees. Bishop received $783,191 in total compensation during fiscal 2022, according to an IRS filing.

The Vivian Beaumont Theater, where Lincoln Center Theater has staged Broadway revivals of “Camelot,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I” and “My Fair Lady,” is the third-largest stage in New York, after Radio City Music Hall and the Metropolitan Opera; it also features a thrust configuration that is quite rare on Broadway.

When asked about the productions he was proudest of he named “The Coast of Utopia,” Tom Stoppard’s trilogy about 19th-century Russian intellectuals, which began running in 2006 and won the 2007 Tony Award for best play. Lincoln Center Theater’s other Tony-winning productions during Bishop’s tenure include “Carousel,” “The Heiress,” “A Delicate Balance,” “Contact,” “Henry IV,” “Awake and Sing,” “South Pacific,” “War Horse,” “The King and I” and “Oslo.”

This season Lincoln Center Theater is planning to stage a Broadway revival of “Uncle Vanya,” with a new translation by Heidi Schreck; an off-Broadway production of “The Gardens of Anuncia,” a new musical by Michael John LaChiusa; and an off-off-Broadway production of “Daphne,” a new play by Renae Simone Jarrett. Bishop also plans, before he leaves, to produce new plays by J.T. Rogers and Ayad Akhtar, and a world premiere musical.

“I’m proud of the variety of plays and musicals that we’ve done, from young experimental shows to well-known revivals,” Bishop said. He added that the theater is financially healthy and rebounding from the pandemic; although it has had fewer productions since the pandemic shutdown, he said he expected full-strength seasons ahead. “I think the future is glorious — we have an incredible staff and a very strong board and I see nothing but good things ahead.”

Bishop arrived at Lincoln Center Theater in 1992 as artistic director, and he became producing artistic director in 2013. He had previously spent 16 years at a smaller off-Broadway nonprofit theater, Playwrights Horizons, where he served as artistic director for a decade.

The Lincoln Center Theater board will conduct a search for Bishop’s successor.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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