Pittsburgh Public Theater (PPT) was founded by Margaret Rieck, Ben Shaktman, and Joan Apt with the goal of reinvigorating the increasingly deteriorating theater scene of 1970s Pittsburgh, following the closings of several prominent theatrical venues. A strong volunteer organization was developed, community outreach programs were created, and 7,100 subscriptions sold before PPT began performances in 1975. Following a highly successful and critically acclaimed inaugural season of three productions, the company expanded to four and later six shows each season.
The Public enjoyed 24 years on the North Side before moving to its current home in the heart of the Downtown Cultural District, the Michael Graves designed O’Reilly Theater, a three-quarter thrust space which seats up to 650. The new performing space, which was built by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, opened with the world premiere of August Wilson’s King Hedley II in December 1999. Today, the Public is Western Pennsylvania’s flagship theater company and a vital force for artistry and economic development in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Much information about Pittsburgh Public Theater, including its Mission Statement, can be found on its website: https://ppt.org.
Located at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers, Pittsburgh is one of America’s most livable cities, and in recent years has become a hotbed of innovation in the healthcare and technology arenas. Some 177,000 people work in Pittsburgh’s tech-related industries, and their ranks continue to grow. Low cost of living, networking opportunities, and an innovative and devoted community make the city appealing to entrepreneurs, corporations, and artists alike. Pittsburgh’s restaurant scene is booming and Zagat’s named Pittsburgh its top food city in 2015. Through the efforts of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and other passionate cultural devotees, the cultural sector has blossomed with thriving venues for music, dance, theater, and performance art in the heart of Downtown.
The Cultural District
Pittsburgh’s Cultural District attracts two million people to over 2000 annual events. Located between the Convention Center and Stanwix Street in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, the 14-square block Cultural District encompasses over 90 retail shops, 50 dining establishments, seven world-class theaters, eight public parks and art installations and a dozen art galleries. In addition to the Pittsburgh Public Theatre, member companies of the Cultural District include Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Civic Light Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and Pittsburgh Symphony. The Cultural District is home to the city’s High School for Creative and Performing Arts. The Public leases the O’Reilly Theater from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
Ted Pappas joined Pittsburgh Public Theater as Artistic Director in 1999, succeeding Edward Gilbert, who stepped down after seven seasons in the role. After ten seasons as Managing Director, Stephen Klein departed in 2004, at which time Pappas assumed the new position of Producing Artistic Director. Prior to joining PPT, Pappas served as President of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, and served as director or choreographer for shows on Broadway, off-Broadway, in regional and international theater, and on television. In March 2017, Pappas announced he would step down as Producing Artistic Director in August 2018. PPT is supported by a 38-member Board of Trustees, primarily comprised of corporate and business leaders, as well as foundation trustees and other civic leaders. The Chair of the Board of Trustees is Michael H. Ginsberg, a partner in the Pittsburgh office of global law firm Jones Day.
Today, PPT is Western Pennsylvania’s flagship theater company (LORT C) and a vital force for artistry and economic development in the Greater Pittsburgh area. PPT remains dedicated to an artistically diverse roster of programming, ranging from Shakespeare and classics to musicals to new and unproduced works. Plays by August Wilson, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Alan Ayckbourn, Naomi Wallace, Lynn Ahrens, and Stephen Flaherty have received their world premieres at PPT. Each season, PPT produces an annual six-play subscription series as well as one or two non-subscription events, with a total of 225-240 live performances for a total audience of over 80,000. PPT also remains committed to employing performers from the rich talent pool in the Greater Pittsburgh region, with over 40% of actors hired in the past ten seasons being from the area.
PPT also remains firmly committed to serving the young and underserved people of Pittsburgh. Longstanding and much-loved programs include “Creative Dramatics,” an annual, free collaborative workshop for 120 4th and 5th graders; “The Shakespeare Monologue and Scene Contest,” where 1,000+ 4th-12th graders have the opportunity to receive coaching from the Public’s staff and perform Shakespeare on the O’Reilly Theater stage; “The Open Stage Student Matinee Series,” in which students receive heavily subsidized tickets to a PPT performance and talkback experience and teachers receive complimentary resource guides for classroom usage and “Free City,” which offers free performances for members of the community not traditionally served through regular programming. PPT is dedicated to making its performances accessible to all audiences and offers an American Sign Language Series, assistive listening, I-Caption© and D-Scriptive© services at many performances.
Opportunities and Challenges
With these successes, of course PPT faces challenges:
- Like many theaters, PPT is confronting the impact of declining subscriptions.
- PPT finds itself needing to increase its proportion of contributed revenue.
- PPT competes for patrons in a mid-sized city that has a surprising number and range of cultural offerings.
- The PPT Board is facing the first artistic leadership transition in nearly two decades and will need to recalibrate its involvement to support a new leadership team, both in terms of governance and fund-raising.
Whatever these challenges, PPT’s next Artistic Director will join a theater that has very important community partnerships, including participation collaboratively in the Cultural District’s Shared Services initiative, which provides opportunities for increased efficiencies and decreased costs in areas such as pooled negotiation of health insurance plans, a shared marketing database, and a joint CRM/ticketing platform (Tessitura).
There are currently 5,500 subscribers. The overall staff is comprised of 35 full time employees. The operating budget is $7 million. PPT’s balance sheet is very strong (no debt), made especially so by its track-record of a dozen consecutive years of operating in the black. PPT has an endowment that exceeds $10,000,000.
Position and Responsibilities
The Artistic Director (AD) will serve in a co-equal partnership with a Managing Director to be named after the AD is selected. Each will report to the Board through its Chair. These two leaders will share the responsibility for institutional leadership. Together they must articulate a vision for PPT’s future that fully aligns with its mission; motivate staff, Board, and others to move collectively toward that vision; and build the working culture of this theater, already strong, in a way that facilitates the best work of all stakeholders. Because of the scale of the leadership role, the new Artistic Director will be expected to make the commitment that PPT will be his or her most important professional responsibility.
Within the notion of mutual leadership of the overall organization, there are certain roles in which the incoming Artistic Director will be a key driver:
- Create seasons of plays to continue PPT’s history of artistic excellence; maintain the theatrical breadth from the classic to the new; and remain very attentive to both the current loyal subscribers and the desired larger audiences, especially including the young and diverse.
- If a stage director, direct two or more productions per year.
- Gather together the finest creative teams possible, including those from Pittsburgh’s artistic community.
- Shepherd the productions, with thorough oversight of artistic and production staff, and work closely with the new Managing Director to ensure that the shows are being produced within mutually agreed upon budget parameters.
- Be an active participant in major gift cultivation and solicitation, in concert with the Board and the Managing and Development Directors.
- Engage collegially with the Board to inspire them with the work of the theater and to expand their efforts on the PPT’s behalf.
- Support philosophically and visibly the theater’s educational and community programs.
- Be the public face for PPT to the Pittsburgh region, including current and potential donors and audiences, and to the national and regional theater industry.
- Embrace or create opportunities for collaboration with other cultural, artistic, and educational organizations.
- Over time assume a leadership role in Pittsburgh’s cultural, artistic, and educational communities.
It may be that no one person will fully meet all these qualifications. The Search Committee will be assessing to what degree each individual come close to their expectations by evaluating the following factors:
- Proven artistic leadership capacity as demonstrated by prior roles in theater companies.
- A successful track record as a theater Artistic Director is preferred, but not required.
- Notable accomplishments as a stage director (highly preferred, although candidates with extraordinary producing skill may be considered).
- Demonstrated ability to inspire others through articulation of an artistic vision and the decisions made about art and artists.
- Demonstrated belief in education and community engagement activities.
- Demonstrated commitment to diversity in all its dimensions
- Ability to form a strong and enduring partnership with the new Managing Director.
- Demonstrated success in working collaboratively and collegially with staff.
- Recognized and respected in the field of professional theater and known to be artist-friendly and supportive.
- Drive, tenacity, and fresh thinking.
- A real appetite for growing audiences.
- A personal commitment to accessibility.
Compensation Application Procedure and Start Date
The Search Committee and full Board hope to make its final decision by the late fall/early winter of this year. While the start date will not be until 9/1/18, it would be ideal if the new AD could be engaged in the planning for the 18/19 season. The salary and benefits package will be competitive with other companies of comparable stature and size. Interested and qualified candidates, and recommendations of such individuals, are encouraged to submit a cover letter, résumé, four professional references (name, email, phone) and salary history/ requirements by email to the consulting firm retained to conduct the search:
Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc.
Attn: David Mallette and Stephen Richard
By email: MgtConArts@gmail.com
Subject Line: Pittsburgh Public Theater Artistic Director Search