Photo by Johan VogelLet's say Gary Christensen and Pat Terry couldn't abide a Faustian bargain.

For 13 years, the couple ran Artistic Repertory Theatre (ART), one of the best theaters in Orange County, producing plays from Albee to O'Neill. Last year, they moved into a beautiful new space in Santa Ana's downtown Artists Village; last month, they won a huge $50,000 grant to keep the theater going.

And last week, they quit.

In the bureaucratic language common to press releases, the pair explained that the business of ART had become business. "Moving ART toward institutionalization" had taken its toll, they wrote. "Simply, the challenges facing ART are not the challenges for which we have a 'passion.'"

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As artistic director, Terry was most responsible for ART's sophisticated taste. In her absence, responsibility for planning ART's season falls to a six-person board of directors, all of whom are business professionals, none of whom participated in the creative side of ART's business.

"There's a fair amount of sadness connected to it, but it's really not like there's some major thing going on behind the scenes or animosity building toward the board," said Christensen, who served as the company's producer. "We were behind the movement to turn this theater from a mom-and-pop outfit into an institution, but it took 90 percent of the joy of doing theater out of it."

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