After five years at American Stage, CEO and Producing Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte is leaving St. Petersburg’s longest-lived professional theater company due to a health issue.
Gularte announced her departure in an email to American Stage subscribers Tuesday.
“In February of this year, I was diagnosed with a rare, inherited retinal disease that causes progressive vision loss with no current treatment or cure available,” Gularte wrote. “While I am resolved to remain optimistic that my progression will be slow and that eventually, there will be advances in treatment options, after much soul searching, I have determined that it is best for me to step down from my position at American Stage to make space for new leadership who can guide this incredible organization into its post-COVID future, as I take time to focus on my health and future.”
She elaborated further in a Facebook message: “It turns out that the night blindness that I’ve experienced since I was in my 20s is a symptom of a rare, progressive genetic condition that evolves from night blindness to peripheral vision loss and eventually, loss of direct vision.”
The California native was chosen to head up American Stage in February 2015, following a nationwide search. Gularte’s initiatives, which included offering free tickets to young people under 20, have helped the organization grow and prosper. Her directorial efforts included the successful outdoor run of Mamma Mia!, along with Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley, Good People, The Invisible Hand and others.
Gularte will leave her American Stage role in the first quarter of 2021, and will continue to provide consulting to the company through the leadership transition.
On an April edition of The Catalyst Sessions, Gularte talked about the then-new Covid-19 issue, and how it was affecting the theater, and her, too:
“I will say there were a lot of strengths to the organization going into this, and my main job right now is to shore up relationships, make sure we’re maintaining our relationships with the community everywhere we can, and planning for a lot of different eventualities. Getting into planning mode is just a different gear for me, that I’m comfortable in, and the lack of control, I only ever once in a while let myself think about that.”