Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Olivia D’Ambrosio presents “Dark Room” in August 2018 at the Multicultural Arts Center in East Cambridge. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The celebrated Bridge Repertory theater company pulled out of its residency at the Multicultural Arts Center in East Cambridge in May in a dispute with leadership that led to one city councillor calling for a formal investigation. Now, Bridge Rep leader Olivia D’Ambrosio says the company isn’t coming back.

In an update Sunday, D’Ambrosio announced that she’d been invited to serve as managing director of a venue called the Worcester Brick Box that’s under construction in that city’s downtown. She began work Sept. 3 for the venue’s parent company, The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts.

“The respect and support we’re already enjoying at The Hanover makes me realize just how problematic for us the Arts Center really was,” D’Ambrosio said Sunday from Worcester.

The contract negotiations that broke down between Bridge Rep and the Multicultural Arts Center included such mundane things as being able to open and close curtains, uncover and move a piano and adjust a thermostat, rather than needing to ask center staff to do it, and repairs to a shower that would put the center in compliance with union rules – but city councillors also heard concerns about whether executive director Shelley Neill was balancing properly such revenue-producing events as weddings with the arts mission of the center. D’Ambrosio said, for instance, that to secure weekend dates for her shows, “we had to pay the for-profit rate to buy out the wedding space.”

There were also concerns raised that Neill had created a hostile workplace.

Bridge Rep left Cambridge initially for a sabbatical that would replace its seventh season, but the announcement noted that associate producer John Tracey and D’Ambrosio had also each relocated with spouses – Tracey to Providence, D’Ambrosio to Worcester. (She continues to lecture in theater at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.) “We need time and space to figure out how we can move Bridge Rep forward while balancing our family lives, our new geography and our income-earning jobs,” D’Ambrosio said in May.

The announcement that the company’s departure from Cambridge is permanent was accompanied by news of a “strike party” coming Nov. 19 to Boston. In theater parlance, “striking” is taking down a set at the end of a show’s run.

“I will miss Cambridge audiences and look forward to ‘wooing’ them out to Worcester, if you see what I did there,” D’Ambrosio said.