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Huntington Theatre artistic leader Peter DuBois resigns after inquiry prompted by staff complaint

Peter DuBois, shown in 2013.
Peter DuBois, shown in 2013.Pat Greenhouse

Peter DuBois, Huntington Theatre Company’s artistic director for the past 12 years, has stepped down, the company confirmed Wednesday. The resignation comes after months of complaints about theater leadership from current and former staffers.

In an e-mail to employees that was later released to the public, board of trustees chairman David Epstein and president Sharon Malt said DuBois had informed them of his resignation, noting that the board would start “a process designed to inform” the search for a new artistic director in the coming weeks.

“[T]he myriad challenges around the pandemic have illuminated concerns about the theatre’s workplace environment and issues of structural imbalance,” the board leaders wrote. “We are taking the time during this period where we are unable to produce theatre to reflect on how to improve our organization, open the lines of communication, including greater dialogue with our BIPOC staff and artists, and become a more equitable institution.”

They added: “We have a lot of work to do in this area, but it is a high priority for our organization.”

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In a statement to the Globe, DuBois said his resignation was “effective immediately.”

“I believe that during a time when the theater is not producing, and during a time of truly hopeful cultural transformation, I am no longer the right person for the job,” he said, adding that his departure offered an opportunity “to change the make-up of the Huntington.”

“It is my sincere hope that artists and producers of color will be strongly considered for my position. I hope that by resigning I can create an opening, which allows the theater to continue on its journey of structural transformation.”

Managing director Michael Maso did not directly address DuBois’s departure, seeking rather to look to the theater’s future.

“I am deeply appreciative of the Huntington staff and their passion, artistry, and commitment to the company," said Maso in a statement to the Globe. "My confidence in the future of the Huntington is undiminished, thanks to our staff and to our board, who are dedicated to helping us to build the most equitable and nurturing environment possible for the staff, artists, and community partners who call the Huntington home.”

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In their memo, board leaders did not describe the reason for DuBois’s departure.

His resignation comes amid months of turbulence behind the scenes at the theater, as staffers expressed their dismay at the theater’s handling of a variety of grievances, including layoffs, diversity issues, and salary transparency.

In an e-mail to board leaders last month, a group of employees expressed their “deep concerns” over the broader issues of “retaliation from supervisors and an overall lack of accountability in leadership.”

The Sept. 25 e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe, went on to request “clarity on questions concerning the behavior of Peter DuBois and the board’s investigation.” The employees go on to ask: “Why has [DuBois] not been put on administrative leave?”

A spokesperson for the theater confirmed Wednesday that the board had launched an investigation after receiving a complaint in September about DuBois, noting that the inquiry also involved other issues.

“There are a lot of staff concerns about our workplace culture, our communications, and equity within the company," said Temple Gill, director of public affairs for the Huntington.

Gill said board members looking into the complaints had spoken with roughly 20 people, but she declined to comment on their findings.

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"We are committed to making those changes so that we can be a more equitable and fair organization,” she said.

The Huntington is one of many theaters across the country that has struggled in recent months with charges of racial insensitivity. In August, a group calling itself Boston BIPOC Theatre created an Instagram account for anonymous posters to cite racial incidents at Boston’s theaters. Attention quickly focused on the Huntington. That same month, the Huntington released its first “Anti-Racism Public Update,” announcing the creation of an anti-racism task force, hiring an equity consultant, and other measures, acknowledging “[t]his work is long overdue.”

In their memo, board leadership said they would be sensitive to employee concerns as they moved forward with the search for a new artistic director. “As we are an evolving theater company, so too is the role of the artistic director,” they said.

As both a director of individual productions and as the company’s artistic leader, DuBois placed a high premium on word, idea, and story. While the Huntington attracted its share of high-profile directors and performers, and the company was known for its stellar set designs, it was playwrights who enjoyed a preeminent place at the Huntington during the DuBois era. In a 2013 interview with the Globe, DuBois spoke of the Huntington Playwriting Fellows as part of the company’s “commitment to living writers, and to putting the play and putting the spoken word at the center of the enterprise.”

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In 2015, he launched an ambitious project to stage 15 musicals by Stephen Sondheim. Subsequently, the Huntington presented acclaimed productions of “Merrily We Roll Along," ”Sunday in the Park With George," and “A Little Night Music.” A high point of DuBois’s tenure came in 2013, when the Huntington earned a Tony Award for regional theater.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Huntington has put its 2020-21 season on hold indefinitely. A spokeswoman recently told the Globe that the company has not changed its previously announced timetable, which involved rescheduling postponed shows to a point in time that, she said, “might start as early as spring.”

Over the summer, the Huntington laid off 11 staffers, furloughed 46 others, and eliminated four vacant positions. At that time the company projected pandemic-related losses of around $6.3 million from a combination of lost rental revenue and lost ticket revenue caused by the postponements of shows that had been scheduled from March 2020 through this winter.

Globe writer Don Aucoin contributed to this story.



Malcolm Gay can be reached at malcolm.gay@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @malcolmgay.