The drama at Little Lake Theatre in McMurray is usually confined to its stage. But lately, the well-regarded company has found itself dealing with a considerable behind-the-scenes tempest.
To recap: The company reached a crossroads last year when Sunny Disney Fitchett stepped down as its artistic director. She and her husband, Rob Fitchett, who had been Little Lake’s managing director, walked away from Little Lake in order to move to California to be closer to his family. Even though she landed a spot on Little Lake’s board of directors, Disney Fitchett’s departure merited attention because it marked the first time since 1949, when her father, Will Disney, founded Little Lake, that someone outside the Disney clan would be guiding it.
Before they headed west, the Fitchetts sang the praises of the two people tapped to replace them: Roxy MtJoy, the new artistic director, a Greene County native who arrived with impressive academic credentials and a background in theater in New York and Los Angeles; and Bob Rak, a Peters Township resident who had worked in the nonprofit sector and also as a performer and board member at Little Lake.
“We have confidence in these two,” Rob Fitchett told the Almanac’s parent publication, the Observer-Reporter, last May.
It turns out, however, the confidence was apparently short-lived, at least where MtJoy was concerned. On Jan. 8, she was handed a pink slip after Little Lake’s board unanimously voted for her ouster. Artistic decisions for the 2016 season will be handled by a three-member committee consisting of Art Deconciliis and Richard Rauh, both mainstays of the Pittsburgh theater scene, along with Disney Fitchett, who will be fulfilling her duties while continuing to live in California.
MtJoy maintains that during her brief tenure she ran afoul of entrenched Little Lake insiders who didn’t appreciate her attempts to change some of the ways it did business. For their part, members of the board have not elaborated on why MtJoy was fired, but, according to board president Kevin Gallagher, they feel confident they did the right thing.
That will be borne out depending on the success or failure of the upcoming season, which will get under way in the spring. But with MtJoy’s involuntary exit, there can be little doubt Little Lake is experiencing a significant amount of turmoil.
Given the esteem in which Little Lake is held, as “a community theater with professional standards,” we hope its board is able to resolve its personnel issues and deliver some stability.
It has a loyal following, draws consistent kudos from critics, and lures visitors from Pittsburgh and beyond. It boosts the county’s economy and its prestige, and that benefits even residents who couldn’t hum a bar from “A Little Night Music,” couldn’t recite a line from “Twelfth Night” or couldn’t name a single play penned by David Mamet or David Hare.
We’ll have to wait and see what the upcoming acts in this knotty drama yield, but we’re hoping for a happy ending.