Atlantic Canada’s largest theatre company is changing its cast.
After six years at Neptune Theatre, general manager Lisa Bugden is stepping down from her post, the performing arts company shared in a release this week. In her place, longtime marketing executive Catherine Bagnell Styles will assume an interim general manager role as Neptune seeks a permanent successor.
Bugden joined Neptune in 2016 after serving as interim director of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and before that as president and CEO of Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia. She was with Neptune for the most successful show run in its history, Mamma Mia!, and also brought the Canadian regional premiere of The Color Purple.
“It’s really been quite incredible,” Bugden tells The Coast, adding she’d been thinking about her next chapter “for some time.” She plans to buy into a florist shop in Halifax—but hasn’t specified which one.
“It intrigued me to continue to work in a creative field and take on a new challenge,” she says.
She calls her time with Neptune an “extraordinary experience,” noting the organization has been a part of her life since she was “probably 12 or 13 years old.”
What’s next for Neptune?
Finding a long-term replacement to steer the 60-year-old theatre company won’t be easy. Bugden, who oversaw a $4.5-million theatre renovation upon her arrival, leaves “impossibly large shoes to fill,” according to Neptune Theatre board chair Paul Laberge.
“She was with Neptune during a challenging time,” he tells The Coast, “both in terms of getting the renovations completed and also, of course, through COVID. And she and Jeremy”—artistic director Jeremy Webb—“and the entire team worked tirelessly to ensure that the lights stayed on through the pandemic, and that we are in a position to reopen and move forward successfully.”
Bugden deflects any credit, saying it was “the community that helped us manage the pandemic at every juncture.” She describes the contributions of her colleagues as “nothing short of miraculous.”
“One of the [threatre] guests said to me, ‘How have you managed the pandemic?’ And the truth is, this community has helped us manage the pandemic at every juncture.” - Lisa Bugden, Neptune Theatre
Bagnell Styles steps into the role with a lengthy resume—from directing Travel Alberta’s marketing efforts to serving nearly nine years as Dalhousie’s assistant vice-president of communications and marketing. She’s served on the board of the Neptune Theatre Foundation since 2014. Most recently, Bagnell Styles was responsible for the branding and marketing campaign around the $200-million Queen’s Marque and Muir projects led by the Armour Group—a project that, over six years, has attracted both praise and scorn.
Bugden will remain in her role until Nov. 4. Laberge says Neptune is “moving quickly” to find a replacement with a “nationwide search.”