When BoarsHead Theater raises the curtain on its 2009-’10 season in September, don’t expect to see Carmen Decker and John Peakes. The anticipated stage reunion of the veteran actress and BoarsHead cofounder, which was announced in May, isn’t happening. Both actors have bowed out of the show, largely because of the layoff of the theater’s artistic director, Kristine Thatcher.
Thatcher confirmed that Decker and Peakes had told her they weren’t doing the show.
BoarsHead’s board terminated Thatcher’s contract for financial reasons, effective in August.
Peakes, who had been invited by Thatcher to do the play with Decker, said he had looked forward to the show before the news of Thatcher’s layoff came in early June. In a telephone interview, Peakes stopped short of saying he would be in “Beau Jest,” “I probably will not be, ” Peakes said.
“I think they’ve done absolute violation to the theater by firing Kristine, who was the muscle,” he added. “I just don’t think it’s going in the right direction; I don’t particularly want to be up there in that environment.”
Peakes would not speculate as to whether he would work with the theater in the future. Peakes lives in Philadelphia, where he moved after retiring in 2003 from BoarsHead as artistic director.
Decker said the combination of Thatcher’s dismissal and Peakes’ exit from the show led her to drop out. “I added all those things up, and it seemed like there was no reason to do it,” she said.
Decker, who began working with BoarsHead in 1973, estimated that she and Peakes have done more than 100 shows together. “Beau Jest” was to be their first time on stage together in six years.
As for future roles, Decker said she wasn’t sure how many more she would take on, at BoarsHead or otherwise. “I’ve reached the age where roles are few and far between, and whether I do another show anywhere is extremely problematic,” said Decker, who declined to give her age (“People know by looking at me,” she said.).
John Dale Smith, BoarsHead’s executive director, said the theater will stage the show with different actors, recommended by Thatcher, in Decker and Peakes’ roles. “We will do ‘Beau Jest,’ and it will be as good as it can be,” Smith said.
When asked if he foresaw casting issues with any other shows this season, Smith said, “No, not at all.” “[Thatcher] had gone ahead and cast this show, and the deal is now we’ll be casting the rest of the season,” Smith said.
But Decker and Peakes aren’t the only ones prepared to turn down shows at BoarsHead out of loyalty to Thatcher.
Chicago actor Michael Joseph Mitchell, who has played several critically acclaimed roles at the theater since 2006, said although no one had asked him to do a show there next season, he would most likely say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” if someone did. Mitchell also said Gary Houston, another Chicago actor who is well received in Lansing (and a 2009 Pulsar winner), had shared a similar sentiment with him. Mitchell called Thatcher “The most artistic partner I’ve had the privilege to work with,” and “about as professional as it gets.”
Thatcher declined to comment on Peakes and Deckers decision or name any other actors she thought would turn down roles at the theater. “I know there are some who won’t work there without me, but I think John Dale will be able to fill those shoes,” she said.
For now, Thatcher wants to encourage people to see the theater’s current production of “Bluff,” starring John Astin. It’s her last as artistic director. “Come out and see ‘Bluff’ and just celebrate this last show,” she said. “John Astin is just a hoot — a really funny, nice guy. I think people ought to take this opportunity to see him.”