David Stewart is resigning from the Guthrie Theater, the third of four senior leaders hired for Joseph Haj's "dream team" to leave within a two-month span.
"Maybe we weren't so much the 'dream' team but the transitional dream team," Stewart said during a phone call Monday morning.
The theater's director of production for the past 2 ½ years, Stewart follows managing director Jennifer Bielstein, who resigned in June, and Danielle St. Germain-Gordon, who resigned in May. Stewart said he is leaving of his own volition but that resigning "is more bitter than sweet."
Stewart's last day at the theater is July 20, and his first day at his new job in Orlando will be July 23. He'll be a production manager for Disney Parks Live Entertainment, a job that will pay him half of his Guthrie salary but offers a different set of challenges.
"I think here at the Guthrie, I've reached the top of the industry. I have no designs on becoming an executive director or artistic director. There's no place to advance or grow into. The challenges before me will remain the same for the next 15 years," said Stewart, 51, whose new job will see him working on shows for Disney theme parks and cruise ships and whose two children are named after characters in Disney's "X-Men" franchise. During interviews for the Disney job, he said he was taken by seeing children interact with Disney magic.
"Let me go in 'Star Wars' land! I want to hopefully bring Wakanda to Disney. I want to make magic for little kids and big kids alike," said Stewart.
Referring to the Disney position as a "dream job," Haj, the Guthrie's artistic director, said he's sad to lose Stewart.
"We're going to move very swiftly on these positions. They're obviously all very important," said Haj, alluding to the Bielstein, St. Germain-Gordon and Stewart openings. "On any given day, up to 500 people are working in this organization, so there's always some amount of turnover, though obviously a great deal of senior leadership transition is terrifically challenging."
Stewart said he struggled with the need to effect change at the Guthrie, which recently received results of an investigation triggered by accusations of harassment by former employee Molly Diers. The investigation concluded the theater needed to toughen enforcement of inappropriate-behavior policies, restructure its human resources department and create management training.
"There are people who feel that we're moving too fast, and they're white-knuckled. There are people who feel that we're moving at the pace of a snail and not doing enough," Stewart said.
His resignation was not related to the investigation, Stewart added, but he said it had damaged his reputation.
He also said he had a tough time adjusting to the Guthrie's culture.
"I'm a warm, friendly, occasionally huggy person and that's not the deal here. This organization was hard for me as a person of color. I have to work twice as hard to be viewed as half as good," said Stewart, noting that "the Guthrie didn't create racism and misogyny; those things don't change overnight."
He said bringing about change will remain a key challenge for the theater. "People have a heightened sense of awareness [of the theater's shortcomings] and are working as best they can to get the work done."
Haj said the incoming administrators, when they're hired, will continue those efforts.
"We're doing a lot of work to think about how we can be of still greater service to this community, in a hundred different ways, and how we can make our own organization as equitable as possible," said Haj. "I think that's going to take some years and some generations of people."
Theater critic Rohan Preston contributed to this report.