The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center Board of Directors is searching for a new leading lady after longtime Executive Director Clare Bisceglia announced that she will be stepping down from her position in January.
Ms. Bisceglia, who joined the theater 11 years ago, said this week that she feels it is the right time to move on, adding that the theater is in excellent shape both financially and in terms of producing quality shows. The Quogue resident said she will remain at the Main Street theater, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, through January when her contract expires, before possibly heading to a warmer locale and continuing her career.
Members of the PAC’s Board of Directors, who have known about Ms. Bisceglia’s intentions since the winter, have already formed a search committee and intend on hiring a firm to help find her replacement.
“Clare is superb,” said Board of Directors President Neil Braun, who also sits on the search committee. “She is an excellent programmer and really understood how programming and fundraising go hand in hand. She has become the face of the theater in many ways for the community and those are the kinds of character attributes we are looking for.”
He explained that the board is working to retain the services of a national search firm, though he declined to say which one until it has been finalized. The search committee, he said, hopes to be able to announce the new executive director in the fall so Ms. Bisceglia can assist with training her replacement.
“Everyone evolves and learns and gets better at things with time,” Mr. Braun said. “The likelihood that we are going to find someone who is as good as Clare right away is not likely—there will have to be an adjustment period.”
In an interview this week, Mr. Braun said the committee is still in the very early phases of its search. The first step, he said, is to create a detailed job description so all board members can be on the same page about what qualities they want in the new executive director. From there, the job description will be posted in several magazines, websites and playbills geared toward the arts community.
After sifting through the applicants, the committee expects to present three candidates to the rest of the board, as well as Ms. Bisceglia, and from there a director will be selected. Mr. Braun did not have a set salary for the new executive director, saying it will be based on experience. He did note, however, that the salary will be very competitive and should appeal to top candidates in the field.
While it is unclear who will be at the helm of the PAC a year from now, one thing is for certain: Whoever succeeds the popular executive director will have some big shoes to fill.
During her tenure, Ms. Bisceglia has been credited with transforming the former movie theater into a tightly-run entertainment ship. Thanks to her ability to cultivate relationships, she has managed to attract some big-time artists to the 425-seat venue, including comedian Bill Cosby and guitarist Warren Haynes.
Ms. Bisceglia is also a master fundraiser. The PAC operates on an estimated $1.5 million budget each year, most of which comes from donations. Each year, the PAC hosts several fundraisers to raise enough money to keep the facility running.
“It will be a loss to the theater and to the community,” said Thomas Poole, chairman of the PAC’s Board of Directors. “I think she came to the conclusion for her and her family that it was time to move on, and the most that we can do—and what we should all do—is celebrate her great 11 years with us and the total transformation that she did for the theater, and wish her luck.”
Ms. Bisceglia, who declined to share her age, said this week that she does not know what she will do next. She did note that she is now looking for new professional opportunities, and hopes to stay in the performing arts industry.
She also said she’s ready for a change in scenery, and looking forward to moving to a warmer locale.
“It has just been a wonderful 11 years and we have accomplished so much at the PAC,” she said. “What is most important is that it be a smooth transition and the theater continues to flourish and thrive.”