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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 73.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
The Daily
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Leo and Lee Ann Cooper comment on the end of an era for Strollers Theatre

Lee Ann Cooper resigned as managing director of the Bartell Community Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 19. She told Isthmus:

I have been managing director since August 2002. I was an X-ray technologist for 33 years and retired from that position in March of 2002. I came out of retirement to help out at the Bartell when they needed an interim managing director for one year. That one year has turned into five, and it has been a great five years.

Since I will turn 62 in just a few months, and my son and daughter-in-law who live in Los Angeles have had our first grandchild and are expecting our second grandchild in April, I figured this was a great time to get away from this cold Wisconsin weather and head out to California and visit my grandchildren before they get too old. I have enjoyed working at the Bartell, but as the Bartell has grown and prospered it has become apparent that one employee is not sufficient. It's just too big of a job for one person to do it all.

I'm sure the Bartell won't have any trouble finding another managing director. It's a great job, especially for someone who is young and has a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and there are plenty of people in Madison who fit the bill.

It has been a pleasure working with Sarah Whelan-Blake, the president of the Bartell Foundation. I have certainly enjoyed her support and [the] confidence she has shown me over the years.

After having earlier resigned from the board, Leo Cooper is serving as president of Strollers Theatre until spring elections. Strollers is withdrawing from the Bartell Community Theatre. He told Isthmus:

It is true that Strollers Theatre has decided to take a hiatus from producing shows. The Strollers board unanimously agreed to take this hiatus not because we are short of actors or directors or money but because it is very difficult to find people to produce shows and do the day to day running of the Strollers Theatre for no money.

I retired in 2000 after 33 years of teaching, and Lee Ann and I have been producing almost all of the shows in the last 10 years. Obviously I will be going with Lee Ann to California to visit our grandchild, Jack, and the new grandchild, Graycen, when she arrives next month.

The Strollers board is considering hiring a full-time producer, which might solve the problem, but until that happens, Strollers needs to take a break to re-group.

It has been a pleasure to be one of the founders of the Bartell Theatre and realizing a long-time dream that I have had since I first started in Strollers in 1963. The Bartell is one of the finest venues in Madison for community theatre and I wish them the best of luck. The Bartell just keeps getting better and better. Who knows, maybe the Strollers will be back before you know it. It's been a great run but time for us to take a break.

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