Capital Stage picks a familiar face for artistic director

In March, Capital Stage announced that its co-founding artistic director, Stephanie Gularte, would be stepping down at the end of the 2013-14 season and the company would begin a national search for her replacement.

That search has ended very close to where it started. Co-founder and producing director Jonathan Williams, who is married to Gularte, will be introduced today as Capital Stage’s new artistic director, beginning Jan. 1. He has been the company’s producing director the last four years, overseeing technical production elements as well as acting and directing. The company will also announce that Erin Lucas of Portland, Ore. has accepted the newly created position of managing director to work with Williams.

Capital Stage board president Clifton McFarland said Williams did not apply for the position until late in the process, after the company had already solicited and received applications for the position.

“Just before the deadline closed we got an application from Jonathan, which was a surprise to all of us. I think we all assumed we’d lose Jonathan as Stephanie moved on to wherever she was going to go.”

Gularte, Williams and Peter Mohrmann co-founded the theater company in 2005. All worked as actors, directors, and in various forms of production and marketing. In 2011, the company moved from a tiny space on the Delta King in Old Sacramento to a new theater at 2215 J St. in midtown.

Capital Stage now has more than 1,200 subscribers and its annual operating budget is just under $600,000. The company has grown along with its new space, experiencing a 20 percent increase in season subscribers and a 70 percent spike in individual donations over the past year. This year it is presenting a seven-play subscription series and will host a new play development series in the summer.

Williams said he always had the interest but there was question of whether or not he’d be available.

“It happened the way it did because Stephanie and I needed to spend a little time figuring what would work for us as a family,” Williams said. “Whether or not I would be able to say to the board of the directors, ‘Hey, I’m your guy,’ not just because I’m ready artistically and I’m ready as a leader, but because I’m going to be around.”

McFarland said that Lucas had already made a short list of artistic director candidates when Williams came into play. At that point, it was felt that splitting the duties of the artistic director might make sense. Gularte’s position was an executive director role, which encompassed both artistic director and managing director responsibilities, and she reported to the board on both programming and finances. Williams will now report to the board and Lucas will be under him. Lucas will focus primarily on Capital Stage’s finances and marketing.

“It’s a nine-year-old theater company, it’s still growing, it’s still spreading its wings. It’s not a mature organization. So having a founder in the artistic director position, the continuity, the stability, maintaining the artistic vision, makes everyone pretty happy,” McFarland said.

In 2011, Lucas was named managing director of CoHo Productions Theatre in Portland, where she was working toward a masters of fine arts in directing from the University of Portland. She had been the founding producing artistic director of Philadelphia’s Flashpoint Theatre Company from 2003-2008 and also held marketing and management positions at the La Jolla Playhouse in Southern California, Symphony Space and HEREArts Center in New York City, and Main Line Art Center in suburban Philadelphia.

Lucas brings an outsider’s perspective that can benefit the company, McFarland said.

“It’s good to have somebody coming in from the outside, an injection. So there is a new leaf, a new page, a new set of views and hopefully somebody bringing something new to the table that we haven’t thought about, haven’t done, haven’t explored.”

Gularte, who is beginning a program at the University of Idaho where she is both a visiting artist and earning a master of fine arts, said she thinks her husband is the right man for the job.

“I have been very supportive of Jonathan’s decision to pursue the position because I think there is no one more ideal to continue and build upon the reputation that we’ve worked together to build,” Gularte said.

Williams said he’s ready to evolve with the company he helped create.

“The idea of being a cornerstone piece in a theater like Capital Stage is something that I’ve always aspired to,” he said. “I believe that the company is really poised now to take the next step and jump into the future, and I want to be the person that leads us into that.”