Indianapolis Opera hires Stolen to help assess future

The Indianapolis Opera has hired Steven Stolen, former managing director of the Indiana Repertory Theatre, to direct an assessment and strategic-planning effort.

Stolen left the IRT in 2013 to become regional director of Rocketship Education, a charter school operator. He left the San Jose, California-based not-for-profit earlier this year after it tabled plans to open Indianapolis schools.

Although Indianapolis Opera has lacked an artistic director since the resignation of James Caraher in April of this year and an executive director since the resignation of John Pickett in May 2013, Stolen is not coming on board as a full-time employee, at least not at this time. Instead, he’ll work as an independent contractor for 25-30 hours per week until the target Oct. 1 completion of the assessment.

The opera board said in a prepared statement that it hopes the period of reevaluation will find a “new artistic vision and business model that reflect the interests of Indianapolis audiences and the realities of today's arts and culture landscape.”

The hiring of Stolen, funded through a $150,000 Lilly Endowment grant with support from the Arts Council of Indianapolis, was announced to patrons at the opera’s annual Lobsterpalooza fundraiser on Saturday night.

The opera’s recent troubles have included canceling the final production of its 2013-14 season. While it has yet to announce specifics for 2014-15 programming, it is promising a 40th-anniversary gala in November as well as a concert and a mainstage production.

"I am thrilled to join the Indianapolis Opera to direct this effort over the coming months," Stolen, an active singing artist who has performed in operas around the country, said in a statement. "As someone with strong personal ties to the art form, I believe there is a place for opera in Indianapolis, but also recognize that it can't be 'business as usual'. We are anxious to evolve the opera to appeal to today's arts market."

Arnie Hanish, acting president of the opera's board, said in a statement that the organization is "on the front end of an important period of discovery and reinvention.

"We are eager to honor the success and tradition of the opera's first 40 years, while developing a bright and sustainable strategy for the future," said Hanish, who is fromer chief accounting officer for Eli Lilly and Co.

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