Carole Rothman to End 45-Year Tenure at Second Stage Theater

Carole Rothman, the president and artistic director of Second Stage Theater, will step down next spring after 45 years with the organization.

The move is a major development in the world of New York’s large nonprofit theaters, several of which have leaders who have been in their jobs for three to five decades. Nationally, the field has experienced a much higher high level of turnover.

Second Stage, which Rothman co-founded in 1979, is a singular institution in New York’s theatrical ecosystem. Established, as its name suggests, to stage revivals, it has long since added new plays to the mix, and focuses exclusively on work by living American writers. “No Brits. No Chekhov translations. No classics,” Rothman said in 2017.

Second Stage is one of four nonprofits that operate theaters on Broadway: In 2015 the organization acquired the Helen Hayes Theater, which with about 600 seats is Broadway’s smallest house. Second Stage began programming at the Hayes in 2018, and last year its production of “Take Me Out” won the Tony Award for best play revival.

Much of Second Stage’s work has been presented Off Broadway, in a former bank building in Times Square, as well as in a smaller theater on the Upper West Side. The company had a $25 million budget in fiscal 2022, according to an I.R.S. filing; Rothman’s total compensation was $369,000 that year.

Rothman’s departure was announced on Wednesday not by Second Stage, but by a public relations firm representing her. That firm would not give more detail about the move, and said she would have no immediate comment beyond a written statement in which she said, in part: “I’m forever grateful to all the people who have helped make Second Stage the creative springboard it is today. I’m so proud of what we have accomplished together.”

Asked for comment, the chairmen of the theater’s board, Terry Lindsay and Kevin Brockman, issued their own statement, saying: “Carole has been a driving force in American theater since founding Second Stage 45 years ago, and we’re all indebted to her for her vision, her leadership, and her unwavering commitment to championing new artistic voices and diverse new works. We look forward to the world-class productions Carole has programmed for the upcoming 45th anniversary season and to celebrating her remarkable achievements over the coming year.”

The board has already formed a committee to search for Rothman’s successor, according to Tom D’Ambrosio, a Second Stage spokesman. The position is likely to be a desirable one given the organization’s strong track record and the opportunity to produce on Broadway.

Under Rothman’s leadership, Second Stage has presented a slew of important shows, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning plays “Between Riverside and Crazy” by Stephen Adly Guirgis and “Water by the Spoonful” by Quiara Alegría Hudes and the Pulitzer-winning musical “Next to Normal” by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt. The theater also presented a pre-Broadway production of “Dear Evan Hansen,” which went on to win the Tony Award for best musical and to enjoy significant commercial success.

This fall, Second Stage plans a Broadway production of “Appropriate,” a play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins that will star Sarah Paulson, and next spring the company plans a Broadway production of “Mother Play,” a new drama by Paula Vogel, starring Celia Keenan-Bolger, Jessica Lange and Jim Parsons.

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