Mosaic Theatre, the award-winning not-for-profit theater company based at Plantation’s American Heritage School, closed its production of Conor McPherson’s The Birds on Sunday – and now the theater itself is closing.
Over the past 18 months, South Florida has lost Florida Stage, the Promethean Theatre and the Caldwell Theatre Company. Mosaic now joins that list of admired companies that, for different reasons, have gone out of business.
In Mosaic’s case, the reason is a personal one for founder and executive/artistic director Richard Jay Simon. He and his wife of two years, Dyani Batcheller-Simon, are expecting a baby girl in January. After wrestling with the intense time commitment involved in running Mosaic, Simon, 37, decided to leave the company to pursue other opportunities. He submitted his resignation to the theater’s board several weeks ago, offering to continue as a consultant and board member. But last Monday, after trying to get Simon to reverse his decision, the board voted to shut down the theater, withholding the news until The Birds finished its run.
“More than anything, I wanted this theater to continue after I’m gone,” said Simon, who launched the company in 2001 with a production of Nicholas Kazan’s Blood Moon. “But over the past year, without anyone knowing why, I’ve talked to artistic directors about working 42 out of 52 weekends every year. It really came down to quality of life. Ninety-five percent said that after they had children, they wish they’d done things differently.”
Although Mosaic was able to operate on a relatively lean $450,000 budget in part thanks to producing in the black-box theater space at American Heritage, Simon’s high school alma mater, board chairman Myron Levy said that closing the theater seemed the only viable option after Simon’s resignation.
“We felt we couldn’t go on without Richard. It was a struggle with him, and it would have been impossible without him,” Levy said.
For the remainder of the season, Mosaic had planned productions of two plays by Rajiv Joseph, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and Animals Out of Paper, plus one more show. Subscribers will get full refunds for those shows, with checks being mailed to them shortly.
Over its 12 seasons, Mosaic produced dozens of challenging scripts and became a place where much of the region’s top-tier talent wanted to work. The company won its first Carbonell Award in 2006, a best ensemble honor for Yasmina Reza’s Art. Two more best ensemble awards followed, for Glengarry Glen Ross in 2008 and The Irish Curse in 2012.
Also winning the area’s top theater honor for work at Mosaic were Paul Tei as best actor in a play for Talk Radio and best supporting actor for Glengarry Glen Ross, and Matt Corey for his Talk Radio sound design in 2008; Simon as best director, Gregg Weiner as best actor, Dennis Creaghan as best supporting actor and Sean McClelland for set design, all for 2009’s best play The Seafarer, plus Kim Morgan Dean as best supporting actress for A Body of Water; Barbara Bradshaw as best actress in a play for Why Torture Is Wrong in 2010 and Collected Stories in 2011; and Deborah Sherman as best actress in a play for Side Effects in 2012.
In thanking a long list of supporters, artists, patrons and critics who made Mosaic possible, Simon cited mentors Joseph Adler of GableStage and William Hayes of Palm Beach Dramaworks, calling their work “a benchmark for success.”
Reached on Sunday before GableStage’s final performance of Venus in Fur, a clearly shocked Adler expressed sadness at Simon’s decision, which means that union talent now has one less place to work.
“I really love Richard…He combined business savvy with good artistic choices. But none of this reflects on the climate for or viability of theater in South Florida,” Adler said.
As for Simon, he’s not sure what lies ahead, though he intends to stay in South Florida. Closing Mosaic now instead of struggling through the rest of the season allows those full refunds. And he says that’s important to him.
“My values and ethics have always been geared to doing the right thing,” he says. “But I’m looking forward to my next chapter.”
For more information on Mosaic, visit the theater’s web site at www.mosaictheatre.com.