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

The announcement from the executive producer and artistic director leaves a void in the artistic direction of one of the titans of musical theater in the region.

James’ 40-year association with the Lincolnshire theater began as an actor in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ in 1982. In the early 1990s he became resident musical director and then associate producer. He took over as executive producer in 2000.

“It was a glorious ride. However, it is time for me to leave the stage (or step into an aisle of our theater),” the Joseph Jefferson Prize winner wrote in a statement in which he paid tribute to his long-standing creative team. members, including conductor Patti Garwood and the rest of the staff.

“I have to do more than I could have ever imagined, so I’m leaving with a full heart,” James wrote. “Having lived with multiple sclerosis, now is the time to put my health first.” He congratulated Thielen as well as former art directors Dyanne Early, Rick Boynton and Andy Hite.

Marriott’s current pandemic-delayed season — which is set to conclude in June with “The Sound of Music” — will be the last for James and fellow Jeff Award winner Thielen.


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

“I had the honor and privilege of working alongside Terry James to guide the artistic vision for the theater,” Thielen wrote in his statement. “With his retirement announced, it’s a good time for me to step down as well to make way for new artistic voices and a new management team.”

Leaving Marriott, Thielen will focus on nonprofit Broadway Across Borders, which he and resident music director Ryan Nelson created during the COVID-19 pandemic to expand opportunities for emerging artists around the world through cultural collaborations.

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

“I am eternally grateful,” he said.

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