Word just landed that Portland Center Stage, our fair city's largest regional theater company, just surprised its staff with a round of sharp staff cuts, including unceremoniously dumping its entire Literary Department. Yikes.

Among the noteworthy staff to be given the ax: artistic/literary assistant Megan Ward, and literary director Mead Hunter, one of the Portland theatre scene's unsung heroes as dramaturgue, brilliant mind and all-around self-described "literary czar." In a blog posting today, Hunter chalked up his dismissal to "a series of disastrous budgeting miscalculations paired with the moribund global economy." He adds that he was but "one of a whole gaggle getting 'let go'" at the company.

We're still fishing for deets on exactly how many other PCS staff got set free cut, and we'll update you with comment from PCS and the latest on how the staff cuts will affect the theater company's work moving forward once we get someone on the line.

UPDATED, 6:42 pm: PCS public relations gal Trisha Pancio released a statement just shortly ago, defending the company's cuts. It's after the jump...

[that's Hunter pictured above, in a portrait by Gwenn Seemel]

... from Pancio's missive to select members of the Portland arts media (bolds are mine):

"As part of our ongoing struggle (shared by all the arts institutions nationally) to pull our expenses in closer to what our revenue can realistically be in this economy, we’ve ended up making a few more layoffs than the ones we did earlier this year. Some positions in box office, one in IT. The one that is most noteworthy is that it has just been announced that we have had to eliminate our literary management department. This means that I must tell you with HUGE regret that Mead Hunter and Megan Ward are no longer staff members at Portland Center Stage.

I know that Chris looked at absolutely everything he possibly could to prevent that from taking place - the literary department is hugely important to helping find fresh voices and develop the relationships that move our profession forward. I will say, however, that every corner of the organization has looked for and found places we could trim, and we have all lost members of our department as the economy has worsened. I’m sure that no loss will be felt as deeply as the loss of the insight, intelligence and diplomacy that Mead brought to our work environment.

... Our current situation is not dire - it is in fact better than most of our colleagues across the country. But Chris and Greg are absolutely determined to make sure that we can make the hard cuts now so that we do not end up having to make truly damaging cuts later if the economy takes longer to recover than we all hope."