Bari Newport is leaving Bangor at the end of May after 9½ years at the helm of the Penobscot Theatre Company, Bangor’s only professional theater group.
The Board of Directors has appointed longtime production manager Tricia Hobbs to serve as acting artistic director and has promoted Jennifer Shepard from interim managing director to executive director, according to information released Friday.
Information about Newport’s next job was not released by the board, but in a letter to supporters, she said that she and her husband, Magnus Stark are moving to South Florida. Newport will helm GableStage, located in the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. She said the company is “known for its risky, edgy work.”
“My years here in Bangor have been some of the most extraordinary and fulfilling of my life and this will always feel like a true home,” she said. “Penobscot Theatre Company is deeply rooted in my heart and in leaving I do feel a ripping sensation but I feel compelled to meet this next challenge.”
During Newport’s tenure, the theater company made a number of upgrades, including new seats and a new facade, to the Bangor Opera House, where it performs. She also oversaw the purchase of the former firehouse at the corner of Kenduskeag Avenue and Griffin Road for a scene shop where sets and costumes are constructed, and a home in Bangor to house visiting actors and crew members.
This year, Newport has been involved in the production of Penobscot Theatre’s all-digital season for the pandemic, a series of offerings that has made the Bangor organization stand out among theaters across the country.
Board President Rob Prybylo praised Newport’s contributions, especially the sudden switch from live to remote performances because of the pandemic.
“Under her leadership we’ve grown tremendously, but of all her successes here she may have saved her greatest feat for last,” he said, referring to the organization’s continued productions as COVID-19 forced physical theaters to close.
“She’s leaving us in a strong position,” Prybylo said.
Hobbs has worked full-time as the production manager and resident scenic designer since 2015. In recent years, she’s directed “Wait Until Dark”, “Fun Home,” and “Safety Net,” the last live show before COVID-19 shut down live performances last year.
Shepard is the co-owner of ImprovAcadia and has been a part of the company since 2015, appearing in “Beauty and the Beast,” “Elf” and “Don’t Dress for Dinner.”
Information about a search for Newport’s permanent replacement was not released Friday.