Wolfe has held the position since 1993. He will remain on the institution's board of directors and will continue directing shows at the Public, including William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park in the summer of 2005. A sub-committee of the board of directors has been set up to seek a replacement for Wolfe; it will be co-chaired by Gail Papp, the widow of Public Theater founder Joseph Papp, and Kenneth B. Lerer, chairman of the board.
"I have had a long and wonderful relationship with The Public, starting in 1986 when Joseph Papp presented my play The Colored Museum," Wolfe said in a statement that was released to the press. "I've enjoyed every minute of my 11 years. The Public has been a way of life for me. I feel very emotional. I love this institution. I am sad about leaving as producer but my pride in what we have accomplished is a salve to the sadness and I am thrilled I will remain on the board and will keep directing at the Public. I always wanted to create a theater that looked and felt like New York City -- that had that excitement, that energy, that feeling of what the hell will happen next. And at certain miraculous times, it really felt like that."
Wolfe's tenure at the Public was notable for many critical successes, including Topdog/Underdog, Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, and the current Caroline, or Change. But he was also the prime mover and shaper behind On the Town (1998 revival) and Michael John LaChiusa's The Wild Party (2000), two Broadway productions that had brief runs and reportedly lost millions of dollars for the theater. In recent years, the Public has increasingly been renting its various performance spaces on Lafayette Street to other companies rather than offering its own product; and though the Public presented two productions per summer at the Delacorte for most of its history, it has offered only one per summer for the past two years.
It was widely speculated that the enormous failures of On the Town and The Wild Party had eaten away at the Public's endowment. According to the theater's press office, the endowment as of December 31, 2003 is valued at nearly $18 million and the 2003 fiscal year audited financials reflect an accumulated operating surplus of $7 million, including cash and investments of $5 million. The Public is projecting that it will end the current fiscal year with a balanced budget.
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