In a surprise announcement this past Sunday, Will Adamson, president of the board of Cockroach Theatre, announced that Erik Amblad would no longer be the theater’s artistic director.
Amblad had been named Cockroach’s artistic director in the run-up to its residency at Art Square Theatre in 2012, and was the theater’s only paid, full-time staffer. Both sides cite finances as the reason for the amicable split.
“Two years ago when I got offered the job of AD we all knew that for this to work, we needed there to be a parallel fundraising drive for it,” Amblad said. Unfortunately, “Opening the theater and getting our first season on its feet presented a lot more challenges than any of us could have ever anticipated.”
The fundraising never reached the level it needed to, and at the beginning of the year Amblad decided he needed to step away from the position for his own financial health. “After some really hard soul searching, and some blank stares from my bank account, I had to come to this decision.”
Levi Fackrell, managing director of Cockroach Theatre (and one of its founders), praised Amblad’s work at Cockroach, and expressed his own disappointment at the separation. “Erik’s got a lot to offer, and I brought him aboard two years ago because I saw he had so much to offer,” Fackrell said. “For me it creates a fantastic catalyst to press forward with a higher degree of fundraising, a higher degree of reaching out to the community.”
Fackrell will be operating as interim artistic director, helping produce Cockroach Theatre’s next show, Corner of Hacienda by local playwright Ernie Curcio, which opens February 14 at Art Square Theatre, and directing the show after that, Edmond by David Mamet. He will also lead the theater’s efforts to amp up its fundraising by way of a Next Stage campaign, and remains steadfastly optimistic about the theatre’s future. “We’re at a really exciting time in both the city and Downtown and this neighborhood. There’s no other place that we’d rather be, but we just have to find a way to do what we do more effectively financially.”
For his part, Amblad said he’s encouraged by the support he and Cockroach have received since the announcement. “I think that speaks to a groundswell of support not only for Cockroach, but for theater in the Valley,” he says. “We’re all on the right path; Cockroach is on the right path—I just wish the path had been a bit more accelerated.”
Amblad said he plans to remain a fixture in the local theater scene, and a staunch supporter of Cockroach. “I feel very sad to be leaving Cockroach Theatre. I’m very excited by how the entire team there is mobilizing right now to move their company into the future, and I can’t wait to see what happens with Cockroach now,” Amblad said. “You will always hear me singing the praises of Cockroach Theatre.”