Veanne Cox. (Steve Mack/Getty Images)

It’s rare for an actress to leave a big role, especially close to opening night. But Veanne Cox — scheduled to star in Shakespeare Theatre’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing” opening Friday —abruptly dropped out last week.

Why? The vague, all-purpose trope: “Artistic differences.” Which is the theatrical equivalent of that other D.C. fiction: “I want to spend more time with my family.”

The Tony-nominated actress was cast as Beatrice to Derek Smith’s Benedick in a modern version set on a sugar plantation in 1930’s Cuba. She’s a veteran with the company and Washington: training at Washington Ballet, Studio Theatre, and Catholic University before moving on to Broadway and Hollywood. (She has a small part in “Pan Am” this season.)

Arena Stage Director Ethan McSweeny. (Alexander Berg/Courtesy Arena Stage)

But what does that mean?

“Artistic differences” is a euphemism for “there was a big fight and someone lost.” Sometime it’s about money, sometimes about personality, rarely about actual artistic vision. But the outcome of a battle between director and actors almost always ends with the actor leaving the production — and a press release blaming artistic or “creative difference.” As Harry Shearer quipped when he left Saturday Night Live in 1984: “Yeah, I was creative, and they were different.”

Kathryn Meisle, who just played Beatrice in a New Jersey production of “Much Ado”, takes over the role here. But it looks like Cox has not burned her bridges with the company, according to the STC press release: “We do look forward to working with her again in the future as her work on our stages has been tremendous.”

Read also: “ Veanne Cox, time traveler ,” 11/22/2006.