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The curtain will fall next spring on Gavin Cameron-Webb's lengthy tenure as Studio Arena Theatre artistic director.

The English-born stage veteran said Friday he will leave the Main Street showhouse at the end of the 2004-05 season, his 13th, to return to directing full time.

Cameron-Webb, who has spearheaded the theater's recent effort to develop plays with local themes, said "an accumulation" of factors led him to tell the theater board of directors earlier this week that he is stepping aside. "It wasn't a sudden decision."

But he added that growing administrative demands were keeping him away from his first love -- directing.

"I felt the burdens of artistic director were compromising my ability to work effectively as a stage director," said Cameron-Webb, who is directing Studio Arena's current production, "Murder in Green Meadows."

"I realized it was time for me to go back to just directing, not trying to run a theater."

Though most managerial duties fall to Executive Director Ken Neufeld, Cameron-Webb said his office workload is daunting. It involves play selection, "an ongoing process that never really stops"; finding directors, designers and actors for upcoming productions; lining up cast replacements; appearing at fund-raising events; keeping other departments up to speed on artistic matters; helping with the marketing of plays; making budget decisions; corresponding with artists, agents and writers; reading scripts; and communicating with other theaters locally and nationally.

"And that doesn't begin to scratch the surface," he said.

One of only three men to have held the title of Studio Arena artistic director over the last 31 years -- the others were Neal DuBrock and David Frank -- Cameron-Webb previously was artistic director of Boston Shakespeare Company, a director and lecturer at the Juilliard School and an associate professor of theater at the State University of New York at Purchase.

He has not lined up his next job, he said, but elected to resign now to give Studio Arena ample time before the 2005-06 season to find his successor. Board President Richard Shick, who described Cameron-Webb's departure as "a normal career shift," said the board will begin a search process at its Nov. 17 meeting.

"Any decision like this is bittersweet," Cameron-Webb said. "This is a phenomenal staff, and I will miss the community."


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