Leila Ibrahim, executive director of Columbia’s Trustus Theatre, has resigned her post, effective immediately. Following the exit of her predecessor, Larry Hembree, Ibrahim took the job in January, having previously worked as executive director for the Florence Little Theatre.
The theater won't name an immediate successor, instead taking the opportunity to reconsider its internal structure — a different route from the one Trustus took following Hembree's 2015 departure, when artistic director Chad Henderson took on the role in an acting capacity
Trustus' Friday press release establishes no clear reason for Ibrahim’s departure. Trustus, Columbia’s only professional theater company, recently entered its 32nd season having made some big splashes with last season’s programing — receiving a New York Times writeup for its 2016 production of The Flick; taking part in Charleston’s Piccolo Spoleto festival for the first time in 10 years. Tail! Spin!, which is currently kicking off Trustus’ new season in its smaller Side Door theater, is sold out for its second week of shows.
Though Ibrahim didn’t have any role in programing the previous season, she was involved in planning the theater’s upcoming slate. She also helped oversee the launch of a new website and the implementation of a new ticketing system.
Harrison Saunders, president of Trustus’ board of directors, tells Free Times that while the board wasn’t surprised by Ibrahim’s decision, the move didn’t stem from any kind of internal conflict or problem.
“This is her career, she wants to work in the theater industry, and she just decided that she needed to seek new employment and go elsewhere for that,” Saunders says. “And we wish her well with that.”
“[Her] decision was made after a lot of thought,” he continues, “It’s just something that happened. ... I wouldn’t say that the board was shocked. When you have a young person who is building her career, sometimes people just make decisions that maybe one place is not right for them, they want to go pursue some other avenue.”
Free Times hasn’t yet been able to reach Ibrahim for comment, but she was quoted in Trustus’ release: “I'm thankful for my time working with Trustus Theatre and am glad I was able to further develop their operations to support the mission of the theatre.”
Saunders says that the theater has no immediate plans to name an interim executive director, and has instead appointed a committee to consider whether Trustus should continue with its current internal structure.
“We want to consider, obviously, who do we put into the position [of executive director]?” Saunders explains. “If we’re going to appoint an interim director, or if we’re just going to seek someone for a permanent position, or do we need to restructure the theater in a different way?”
“There’s been talk of how other theaters do things,” he continues, adding that because Ibrahim’s resignation came at the beginning of the season, with much of the work for the theater’s upcoming shows already in motion, it gives Trustus time to consider its options.
“Do you have an artistic director working hand in hand with a managing director? There’s also the model that you have a producing artistic director. What the committee's going to do is figure out what the structure’s going to be and how we go forward. We're real comfortable with the staff that’s there right now, and we don’t have any concerns about the day-to-day operations of the theatre, nor do we have any concerns about the artistic product.”