Little Lake’s artistic, managing directors announce retirement plans

September 3, 2014
Sunny Disney Fitchett talks to the audience during Little Lake Theater’s celebration of its 60th season in 2008. - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

For the first time in its 65-year history, someone named Disney will not be at the helm of Little Lake Theatre Co., following the announcement Wednesday artistic director Sunny Disney Fitchett will step down in 2015.

Her husband, Rob Fitchett, the managing director for the theater company, will also be leaving. Little Lake, located off Route 19 in McMurray, was founded in 1949 by Sunny’s father, Will Disney, and the couple took the reins at the theater when he retired in 1993. They plan on moving to a small community outside Sacramento, Calif., in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, where Rob plans on pursuing work in the wine industry and Sunny plans on writing plays for children. He is a California native while she grew up and attended school in the Golden State.

“We’re not retiring,” Sunny said, adding with a laugh, “we’ve been running a theater company, not a Fortune 500 company.”

The Fitchetts will stay with Little Lake at least through June, allowing its board of directors enough time to pick their successors, and for the Fitchetts to work with them in the transitional period. The roster of plays in the 2015 season will likely be a mix of choices made by Sunny and the new artistic director.

“There’s not really a way to fill their shoes,” said Kevin Gallagher, the president of Little Lake’s board of directors. Gallagher cited “not just their longevity but their expertise.”

Gallagher said there’s no specific date set for when the board will choose the new managing and artistic directors. Both Gallagher and Sunny emphasized Little Lake is in solid financial shape, and dispelled any notion the Fitchetts’ departure was prompted by concerns about its future. Subscription sales for its children’s Looking Glass Theatre exceeded expectations this year, and its mainstage productions, which included favorites like Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and less well-known fare, like the period piece “When We Are Married,” have typically drawn about 100 people per performance. Little Lake’s staging of “Doubt,” the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winner by John Patrick Shanley, opens Thursday.

“It’s sort of the best time for Rob and I to leave,” Sunny said. “(The board) is so committed to moving forward. It’s going to be OK. It has already evolved in so many ways. We’re both excited about Little Lake’s future.”

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. Brad holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from George State University in Atlanta, Ga., and a master’s in popular culture studies from Bowling Green (Ohio) State University. He has covered the arts and entertainment for the O-R, and also worked as a municipal beat reporter. He now serves as editorial page editor.

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