South Camden Theatre Company ousts founder

(Image via GoogleMaps)

(Image via GoogleMaps)

The South Camden Theatre Company has ushered out its founder after months of friction between the board and the artistic director of the theater in Camden.

The company is a pioneering experiment to establish theater in a troubled section of a troubled city. Artistic director Joseph Paprzycki started it 12 years ago in the basement of a Catholic church, later renovating a bar into a dedicated performance venue.

The plays were often about working-class stories, a mixture of established playwrights including Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neil, and Paprzycki’s own work.

Last spring, the board of the struggling company would not allow him to premiere his latest play, “Visions of Beatitude.”

“I was told at the board meeting in April that I had to withdraw it,” said Paprzycki. “My board would not allow me to do my own work.”

Paprzycki said the board also notified him that it would have to review and approve all his programming decisions, pushing for lighter fare and comedies.

“So that’s serious stuff for a guy who has been doing this for 22 years,” said Paprzycki. “I’m answering to a board of carpenters, salespeople, and people with zero theater background.”

On Monday, Paprzycki was notified through email that the board voted to let him go as artistic director. It was an unpaid position.

Board president Robert Bingaman released a statement saying the company is dedicated to remaining a cultural asset to the neighborhood.

“Taking this duty into account along with the current state of the company’s finances, the declining attendance at our shows, and the many challenges facing the company, the board decided that it was in the company’s best interest to move in a new direction,” he wrote.

The theater company will present a four-play season in 2016-2017, some details of which are still to be determined.

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