Departures continue at Breckenridge Backstage Theatre with longtime artistic director resigning | SummitDaily.com

Departures continue at Breckenridge Backstage Theatre with longtime artistic director resigning

The longtime artistic director at Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, Chris Willard, is leaving his post for reasons he won't discuss.

Reached over the phone on Wednesday, Willard declined to talk about his pending resignation, saying only that he hopes to get some much-needed rest after leaving his job, which is expected to happen in late September.

While Willard confirmed he sent a letter to the theater's volunteers on Wednesday informing them of his decision and thanking them for their support, he said over the phone that his reasons for leaving the job he's held for the last 13 years were something he'd rather not go into.

"(Wednesday) marks my 13th anniversary with the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre," states an excerpt of Willard's resignation letter, the only piece of the letter that was provided to the Summit Daily.

"Looking back, I am immensely proud and satisfied with the theatre's growth and accomplishments during my tenure," the letter continues. "I will always remember the wonderful years of being part of such an honest, authentic and supportive Rocky Mountain community."

Via email, the president of Backstage Theatre's board of directors, Nina Jannetti, also declined to talk about Willard's departure. Instead, the board offered the excerpt of his resignation letter along with a statement complimentary of his work.

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"The Breckenridge Backstage Theatre Board is sad to see Chris leave the organization," the board's statement reads. "Chris has worked tirelessly to deliver high quality productions in our community. We are grateful for his endless dedication to the theatre over the past 13 years and we wish him continued success in the future."

Jannetti declined the newspaper's requests for an interview, telling the Summit Daily via email that the board and Willard "mutually agreed" to send out just the excerpt from his resignation letter and the board's statement, both of which have been published here in their entirety.

Willard's departure comes on the heels of the resignation of former executive director, Erin Gigliello, who assumed the job in January with great expectations but ended up announcing her resignation in July.

Gigliello's resignation came just one day after the board publicly apologized for a satirical sketch at the theater's biggest fundraising event of the year that poked fun at President Donald Trump.

"We would like to apologize to those guests who were offended by a brief political satire skit performed during our program, and please know that this will not happen again," the short apology went. "The intent of the evening is only respect and gratitude at an event that is so meaningful to us, our patrons, and supporters."

Like Willard, Gigliello also declined to discuss her reasons for leaving in any kind of detail, saying only that she and the board "didn't see eye to eye on some things."

With Gigliello's and Willard's almost side-by-side departures, Backstage Theatre will have seen the departures of three executive directors and now its longtime artistic director in roughly one year's time.

Before and during his time at Backstage Theatre, Willard directed shows at the Arvada Center, Town Hall Arts Center, Theatre on Broadway, The Dairy Center, Country Dinner Playhouse, TheatreWorks and the Nomad Theatre, according to his bio.

He has been a director, actor, producer and playwright with a long, long list of local credits in the Denver area and with Backstage Theatre, including everything from children's productions like Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" to comedies more appropriate for adults, such as "The Full Monty."

On a relatively small budget, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre is a local nonprofit that offers a year-round slate of productions for a variety of ages with three full-time employees, one part-time worker and numerous volunteers.