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Artistic Director Michael Butler Departs Center REP

Facing a deficit, the city-run company has eliminated positions, including that of the artistic director.

WALNUT CREEK, CALIF.: Center REPertory Company has announced that due to the financial challenges presented by the pandemic, the company has eliminated staff positions, including artistic director. Michael Butler, who held the position for 15 years, stepped down in August. The company’s programming at the Lesher Center for the Arts has been put on pause until 2021.

Michael Butler at the Lesher Center for the Arts in 2013. (Photo by Dan Honda)

“The City of Walnut Creek wants to express our great appreciation for the 15 years of service and wonderful theatre that Michael Butler provided our community,” said Kevin Safine, Walnut Creek arts and recreation director, in a statement. “We hold deep regard for his professionalism and his artistic abilities, as well as his genuine appreciation of the Lesher Center’s audiences. It was a difficult decision to make and we’ll miss him, but we wish him all the best and are sure he’ll go on to do wonderful things.”

During Butler’s tenure, both the theatre’s earned and contributed income reached record levels, the number of annual subscribers doubled, and major gifts from corporate sponsors tripled. Butler commissioned and developed new and original works at the company. In addition to working as a freelance director at theatres across the country, he performed with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company and toured India with an original rock musical he also co-wrote. Butler, a graduate of the Juilliard School, is a member of the famed Actors Studio, has played in rock bands at CBGB, and was commissioned by the Whitney Museum.

“It has been one of the greatest joys of my career to serve our patrons and work with so many great theatre artists over the past 15 years,” said Butler in a statement. Together, with the support of the city of Walnut Creek, Center REP has risen to a level of professionalism and artistic excellence that has enriched the civic and cultural life of the East Bay, and been an economic as well as artistic anchor for the Lesher Center. It has been a success story of how a city and a theatre company worked together to provide a place for the community to gather and celebrate the power of the human imagination through art, entertainment and ideas.”

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