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Flea Theater producing director Carol Ostrow and artistic director Jim Simpson (Photo by Angela Jimenez)

Jim Simpson to Leave the Flea Theater

The founder of the Off-Off-Broadway mainstay leaves as the theatre plans a move into a new three-theatre complex.

NEW YORK CITY: Downtown Manhattan’s Flea Theater will lose its founding artistic director, Jim Simpson, when he steps down from the theatre’s helm at the end of the 2014–15 season. Simpson and the Flea’s producing director, Carol Ostrow, have begun a search for his replacement.

This announcement comes in advance of the Flea’s move from its longtime rented home at 41 White Street in lower Manhattan into a planned three-theatre complex on 20 Thomas Street in Tribeca in 2016.

After he steps down, Simpson will continue at the Flea in the advisory role. In a recent American Theatre story about the Flea’s imminent move, Simpson remarked on his dedication to small-scale, artistically innovative work: “If you follow the money, you may end up with the money, but as an artist you won’t be moving forward.”

In a statement, Simpson said of the transition:  “It feels like the right time to add another, newer vision to our future. The artistic director’s role in our exciting new home will present a singular leadership opportunity.”

Said Ostrow in a statement: “Jim has been a wonderful partner who continues to inspire us all.  We have become a mainstay in Tribeca, and a true part of the Lower Manhattan community. We remain committed to the goals that Jim laid out when he started The Flea. Our new space will be the beginning of the next chapter for The Flea, and will enable us to fulfill our mission to represent the wide range of what is possible Off-Off-Broadway.”

The Flea was founded in 1996 by  Simpson, designer Kyle Chepulis and playwright Mac Wellman with the motto: “Present a joyful hell in a small space.” Notable world premieres at the Flea include The Guys by Anne Nelson—a two-hander starring Sigourney Weaver, Simpson’s wife, and Bill Murray, meditating on the aftermath of 9/11 attacks, which occurred just blocks from the theatre—and Oh the Humanity and other exclamations by Will Eno, starring Marisa Tomei and Brian Hutchison. In recent years, the Flea has also become an ad-hoc artistic home for playwright A.R. Gurney; the theatre has produced eight of his plays.

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