West Side Story

JUNE 16-25
Buskirk-Chumley Theater

Cardinal After West Side Story


Cardinal founder confident theater will move forward without him

By Marcela Creps 
June 11, 2017

Randy White, artistic director of the then-newly-forming Cardinal Stage Company, is seen in 2005 while promoting the company’s showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Photo by David Snodgress | Herald-Times

As Cardinal Stage Company prepares the last show for the 2016-17 season, it is also looking ahead to the impending departure of founding director Randy White.

While White’s departure was made public in October 2016, board members weren’t surprised. “We knew that the day would come, so it wasn’t a total surprise. And we had been talking about it and preparing for it for a couple of years,” said Sandi Clark, board president for Cardinal Stage.

White said it took three months for him to make the decision to leave — a move that came about when his wife, Ellen MacKay, was given an opportunity the family couldn’t pass up in Chicago. Clark said the board knew MacKay was an asset that Bloomington wouldn’t keep forever, so when White announced his departure, the board knew what work was ahead.

The decision was made to separate the two jobs White did, and Gabe Gloden was hired as managing director. Gloden has been at Cardinal since December, working with White to ease the transition. “He’s been great mentor to me over the last six months, and I’ve learned so much from him.”

Clark said the board has been reaching out to major supporters to keep them aware of what is happening. The board also has been positive about how the change may help move Cardinal forward.

While the birth of the company probably felt like true labor, White is comfortable with his decision to move. It was a good decision for his family. “Once I make a decision, I try to sort of live in the present and keep moving forward with what I have to accomplish in my own world,” he said.

Not that he hasn’t had moments of sadness, but they mix with moments of pride. He’s delighted with Cardinal’s programs that have brought students into the theater.

Randy White, left, and Scott Russell Sanders talk during rehearsals for “The Birthday Feast” in 2014. Cardinal Stage Company commissioned the original musical comedy from Sanders. Photo by Rebecca Townsend | Special to the H-T

“Those are the moments that come to me when I think what is going to be a special memory of Cardinal. I’ll be sitting in the theater with hundreds of kids, riveted to the stage, just absolutely rapt in the storytelling. To be able to be the person who’s in charge of that and in charge of meeting those kids and sharing with those kids, that’s what I think about when I think about what are you going to take away from this,” he said.

White also emphasizes that starting Cardinal came about because he felt the community wanted a professional theater company.

“There were just so many people who cared about it and wanted it to happen,” White said, adding Cardinal wasn’t his accomplishment but was the passion of many who helped him start it and keep it going.

What’s less certain is White’s future. While Chicago has a booming theater community, he still needs to figure out how he’ll fit in. But he also knows Cardinal gave him opportunities he’d never have had anywhere else.

White learned and grew as a director. He learned the community didn’t care for certain productions, including “A Christmas Carol” and Neil Simon plays. Artistically, he felt the “Les Miserables” production was the one show where everything clicked. “I was enormously proud of that show,” he said.

While White did a lot, he wishes he’d fulfilled the dream of finding Cardinal a permanent home. But he hopes that still will be in the theater company’s future.

“I think there’s a lot of stuff to be worked out, but I think I’m leaving it in good hands, in very good hands,” he said.