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Ben Moore, Who Guided Seattle Rep Through Recession, Retires

Seattle Repertory Theatre/Alan Alabastro

After almost three decades on the job, Seattle Repertory Theatre Managing Director Ben Moore will retire at the end of June.

Moore's retirement will come just weeks after the untimely death of Jerry Manning, the company's artistic director. According to Rep spokeswoman Sarah Meals, Moore has been a rock through the ordeal.

"We have never needed him more," Meals wrote by email. "His steadfast leadership for us during this sad time has been, in one word, amazing."

Ben Moore has faced a slew of challenges during his tenure in Seattle. Two years ago he helped the company cope with the death of longtime Education Director Andrea Allen. Allen died of cancer.

"It's like every day I think about Andrea," Moore says.

He says he always turned to her when he needed advice. He says one of Allen's most important legacies was her devotion to bring art to young people.

"If we don't do more to help young people to understand live art,” Moore says, “then they won't be touched by it, and they won't think of attending it or supporting it in their future lives."

Moore worries about how to keep live performance vital. The Internet has provided an array of entertainment opportunities for potential audiences. They aren't as likely to subscribe to a full season of plays, if they attend theater at all.

That proved problematic when the recession hit in 2008. It fell to Moore, the Rep's money man, to guide the theater company through that economic crunch.

Rep employees went to a four-day work week, programming was slashed, and Moore had to dip into the company's endowment. But unlike fellow nonprofit arts organizations in Seattle and around the nation, Seattle Repertory Theatre made it through the recession relatively unscathed.

Ben Moore originally came to Seattle in 1985, in part to work with the Rep's then-artistic director, Dan Sullivan. Moore says that when he got to know Sullivan, both men were steeped in classical theater.

But during his years in Seattle, Sullivan built a reputation for nurturing new work by such New York writers as Wendy Wasserstein (author of the award-winning "Heidi Chronicles”), Herb Gardner and Bill Irwin. In 1990, the Rep was honored with a Tony award as America's best regional theater company. Under the late Jerry Manning, the Rep renewed its emphasis on new work.

Moore will be replaced by Jeffrey Herrmann, currently head of Washington D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth Theater company. Moore plans to devote his time to a proposal called Cultural Access Washington. It would allow communities across the state to tax themselves to support arts and cultural programs.