Park Square (St. Paul) Cuts Job of Artistic Director

Park Square

Park Square AD on Job Less than 18 Months

This strikes me as odd. Letting him go after one season? After hiring with a mound of existing debt? And leading with an “artistic committee”?

Minneapolis area people smell a rat, and are talking about setting him up for failure. Not giving him time to turn the ship around seems suspect; other theatres give three to five years for a turnaround. Even if he was overly optimistic and even if he ran a deficit, you need time to change the fortunes of a money losing venture.

This smacks of poor planning in general from the board

Three months after it cut shows to balance funding shortfalls, St. Paul’s Park Square Theatre has cut the position of artistic director.

Flordelino Lagundino’s job was eliminated at a board meeting Jan. 13. He started Aug. 1, 2018, moving here from New York.

Last fall, Lagundino explained the decision to close this winter and spring, eliminating musicals “Evita” and “Miss You Like Hell,” as a response to both funding shortfalls from major donors and disappointing ticket sales for two shows he programmed — “Aubergine” and “The Rocky Horror Show.”

Together, that added up to about $425,000. But, as theater officials figure out a future for the St. Paul institution, that wasn’t enough.

“During the second half of 2019, we were exploring many different options related to how to sustain the theater and meet the demographic changes in audiences and the financial challenges we’re facing,” said Paul Mattessich, president of Park Square’s board. “The elimination of the position came out of that process.”

For “at least two years,” Park Square will be in the unusual position of being an arts organization without a full-time artistic leader, Mattessich said. Board members plan to arrive at a solution this weekend at a retreat, he said. The plan is to create an “artistic committee” — made up of Park Square staffers and Twin Cities theater artists — that will be involved in season planning (which Lagundino had already begun), working with collaborators and overseeing productions.

“We’re going to determine how best to staff that, whether there’s an existing staff person who can pick up part of it, or whether we can contract for that,” said Mattessich, who acknowledged that the theater has found “keeping two stages up and running has been a challenge.”

Park Square ran a deficit of $411,563 in 2017 and $178,998 in 2016, according to tax records.

As the theater moves forward, auditions planned for this weekend will take place. Mattessich also said there are no plans to significantly reduce the roughly $3 million budget and that Park Square will continue to operate two stages. The theater has been in talks with SteppingStone Theatre for Youth about a partnership. Mattessich said long-term plans also are on the agenda for the board retreat.

“We’ll be thinking about at least the next few years,” he said, adding that meetings with a nonprofit consultant has him feeling “pretty optimistic about the work we do.”


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