Change has come again to the White Plains Performing Arts Center, with the departure of two of the venue’s key figures.
Holzman told The Journal News in an email today that he and Needleman — winners of the Kleban Award for promising librettists — will not be back for a second season at the theater in the City Center mall.
“Our work at WPPAC has taken up so much of our time that Felicia and I have not been able to get any writing done,” wrote Holzman, who lives in Dobbs Ferry. “We are currently working on two new shows (in addition to ‘Wallenberg’ rewrites and ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’) and we feel compelled to put the creative end of things first.”
“The two of us have therefore decided not to move ahead with the administrative side of things at WPPAC at this time,” the email continued. Needleman lives in Larchmont.
Artistic Director Annette Jolles, a longtime collaborator of Holzman’s and Needleman’s, said today she is working with the staff and board to set the 2011-12 season. She plans to meet with Actors’ Equity to set the contracts and determine the mix of theater, concerts, youth (Conservatory) shows and events the budget will permit.
Board President John Ioris confirmed the departures.
“We are unbelievably grateful for everything they did for us and all of the effort they put forth on our behalf,” he said. “It was a really great first season. I wish them completely well in their writing endeavors and I really look forward to putting more of their works on our stage in the future.”
The announcement comes one week before WPPAC closes the book on the 2010-11 season, with “Two on Tap,” a two-person show that was plugged in to replace a canceled premiere of a musical staging of “Enchanted April.”
The rest of the first season was heavy on Holzman-Needleman works, opening with “Wallenberg,” their musical (with music by Benjamin Rosenbluth) about Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who is said to have saved 100,000 Jews in WWII Hungary.
Next up was the Christmas-Hanukkah musical, “That Time of the Year,” another show with words by Holzman and Needleman and music by a host of composers. That was followed by the New York premiere of the one-woman show, “The Passion of the Hausfrau.”
The fourth show was Andrew Gerle’s play “Renovations,” the story of a father, a son and a fixer-upper.
“It was a challenging year, and you learn from it and hopefully improve on it,” Jolles said. “But we’re very proud of what we did, which was amazing in and of itself, and on to the next one.”
Holzman’s wife, Lara, is managing director of the mainstage season. Her future with the company was not clear yesterday, although Ioris suspected she would also be leaving.
Ioris and the WPPAC board turned to this creative team — with a concept to produce only new works — last fall, the latest chapter in the saga of the venue in the City Center mall.
It began as a community-based venue, partially underwritten by the city of White Plains when the mall was built.
In 2007, producer Jack Batman arrived with a proposal to present rarely seen Broadway musicals. He brought the talents of Robert Cuccioli (“Jekyll?&?Hyde”) and Nick Wyman (“Catch Me If You Can”) to downtown White Plains.
After nearly two seasons, when the economic downturn hit, the big-budget musicals failed to find an audience or crucial corporate backing, and Batman left.
The theater went largely dark, with a few concerts and a youth theater the only productions, until last summer, when Ioris announced the latest team.
Ioris couldn’t praise the departing Holzman and Needleman enough.
“They appeared to us when we were in need,” he said. “We don’t forget our friends.”