Two Marriott Theatre artistic leaders announce retirements

Joining the list of theater artists announcing departures from their Chicago-area artistic homes are Marriott Theatre stalwarts Terry James and Aaron Thielen.

The announcement from the executive producer and artistic director leaves a void in the artistic leadership of one of the area's musical theater titans.

James' 40-year association with the Lincolnshire theater began as an actor in 1982's "Fiddler on the Roof." During the early 1990s he became resident music director and later associate producer. He took over as executive producer in 2000.

"It has been a glorious ride. However, it is time for me to exit stage left (or up an aisle in our theater)," the Joseph Jefferson Award winner wrote in a statement in which he paid tribute to his fellow longtime creative team members, including conductor Patti Garwood, and the rest of the staff.

"I've gotten to do more than I could have ever dreamed possible, so I leave with a full heart," James wrote. "Having been living with Multiple Sclerosis, it is now time to prioritize my health." He praised Thielen as well as former artistic directors Dyanne Early, Rick Boynton and Andy Hite.

Marriott's current, pandemic-delayed season - set to conclude in June with "The Sound of Music" - will be the last for James and for fellow Jeff Award-winner Thielen.

Thielen, a 27-year-Marriott veteran, thanked his artistic home for affording him the opportunity to "listen, learn, grow, evolve and develop not only as an artist but as a human."

"I have had the honor and privilege to work side-by-side with Terry James guiding the artistic vision of the theater," Thielen wrote in his statement. "With his announced retirement, it is the right time for me to also step aside to make room for new artistic voices and a new leadership team."

Leaving Marriott, Thielen will focus on the not-for-profit organization Broadway Across Borders, which he and resident music director Ryan Nelson established during the COVID-19 pandemic to expand opportunities for emerging artists around the world through cultural collaborations.

"I deeply respect this art form," Thielen wrote, expressing pride in the hundreds of productions on which he worked as an actor, choreographer, director, writer and artistic director.

"I am forever grateful," he said.

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