Encore Michigan

Jeff Daniels takes over as Artistic Director of The Purple Rose Theatre

News February 02, 2022 David Kiley

CHELSEA, MI – Purple Rose Theatre founder Jeff Daniels is stepping in to the theatre’s open Artistic Director’s position after a formal search for a replacement for Guy Sanville did not yield a result with which the theatre wanted to move forward.

PRT board chairman Steve Hamp sent a letter to those on the theatre’s mailing list today stating the theatre is pursuing a different structure.

“After hiring a national search firm, and forming a committee to lead the search process, we decided that an organization committed to evolving should consider new ideas and embrace new models in order to accomplish its ambitious goals. As a result, rather than a search, we have created a new structure to assure growth in our artistic programs, as we welcome audiences back to our theater,” said Hamp.

Purple Rose striving for greater diversity

Jeff Daniels will lead this new structure as Artistic Director. In addition to serving as the artistic voice of the theatre, Daniels will oversee and mentor three emerging artistic leaders in the theatre – Rachel Keown Burke, Lucas Daniels and Rhiannon Ragland. Each will serve as Artistic Associates.

Associate Artistic Director Rachel Keown Burke
Associate Artistic Director Rhiannon Ragland
Associate Artistic Director Lucas Daniels, the Founder’s son.

According to Hamp, Jeff sees this new role as his “third act” – one in which he can share what he has learned through his career, and his experience with The Purple Rose, building a foundation for the next phase of PRT’s evolution, while holding close to the programs that have made us special. In this new co-leadership structure, Daniels, along with our Managing Director Katie Hubbard, will report directly to the Board.

PRT has re-opened this week with a new play, Under Ceege, the first production since the theatre suspended plays before the Covid-19 pandemic, and the first since the theatre was besieged with complaints about mistreating apprentices, as well as black and LGBTQ artists. Long-time Artistic Director Guy Sanville, the target of many complaints, stepped down last Fall.

Hamp wrote the following in his letter: “Under this new artistic structure, we will move forward as a leader among theaters of our kind nationally. We are committed to attracting a more diverse audience, providing more casting and writing opportunities for artists of color, and maintaining a safe, professional working environment.”

Daniels, who will manage this process while he remains a fairly hot property in TV, Broadway and films, has not directly addressed the culture of the theatre over the last two decades, nor the specific complaints from artists and employees. The theatre is known to have reached financial settlements with several apprentices who lodged complaints with Actors Equity Association for everything from being overworked to bullying behavior by PRT leadership and staff.

Despite a pledge to create more diversity and inclusion at PRT in 2020 too, it’s noteworthy that the theatre’s board remains entirely white, though the theatre has pointed out that one board member, George Moses, is Lebanese, which is generally not considered a minority in D&I circles. Additionally, none of the three Associate Artistic Directors are minorities.

The theatre has pledged to develop work by artists of color and of LGBTQ identity. Long-time actor/director at PRT Lynch Travis holds the title of Chief Diversity Officer, and is directing Under Ceege, which is a new play written by African American playwright Jeffry Chastang.