THEATREWORKS Silicon Valley (TWSV) in Palo Alto, CA invites qualified candidates to submit applications to become its second Artistic Director. Founding AD Robert Kelly will retire at the end of the 2019/20 season after 50 years in leadership. TWSV seeks a dynamic visionary leader who will bring a variety of theatre interests to TWSV. THEATREWORKS embraces a wide repertoire from the American cannon to new plays to musicals. TWSV is solid financially, well-managed with a board that is active and committed. With a budget approaching $9 million TWSV is the third largest theater in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to its main stage season, the theater presents an annual new play festival each summer.
TheatreWorks was founded in 1970 by San Francisco Bay Area native Robert Kelley, known to all as “Kelley,” as a theatre arts workshop for teenage and college students. In its early days, TheatreWorks was itinerant, making use of warehouses, basements, and parking garages for its performance stages. Even from the beginning, new and original work has been part of the organizational DNA. In its first three years, the company produced 13 wholly original works for the stage, thanks to a charter from the City of Palo Alto – a relationship that remains important to this day. The company soon became known for two other distinctive qualities: its high production values and reflecting the demographic diversity of the community through casting choices on the stage. Throughout the years, TheatreWorks has sought a balance of plays, musicals, and shows with music.
By the late 1980s, as the annual operating budget grew past $1 million, TheatreWorks established itself as a major regional theatre, including signing its first AEA contract. TheatreWorks’ commitment to diversity and innovation continued. The productions featured plays and musicals about minority experiences and cultures, from The Great White Hope and Eubie to Pacific Overtures and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. In addition to such shows, non- traditional casting of traditional works and roles drew Asian and Latino as well as African- American performers from the Bay Area and beyond. As the budget grew, so too did TheatreWorks’ determination to introduce Silicon Valley audiences to material not previously seen on Bay Area stages, including the work of emerging playwrights from around the country. The company established a Stage II series, where smaller productions of such works were produced in parallel with the company’s main stage season.
When the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts (MVCPA) opened in 1991, it became a “home company” and TheatreWorks began producing five main stage productions there each season as well as three shows at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. The 1990s also saw the launch of TheatreWorks’ award-winning education program.
In the early 2000s, the company focused even more energy on the discovery of new voices and the development of new works. TheatreWorks launched its New Works Initiative, featuring an annual Writers’ Retreat and New Works Festival, developmental workshops and readings, commissions of new work, and main stage world premieres. The New Works Initiative is now central to TheatreWorks’ mission and stature. In 2005 TheatreWorks became a member of LORT (League of Resident Theatres).
In 2006, Executive Director Phil Santora joined the company, bringing years of award-winning experience in regional theatre management and development. Phil has been instrumental in growing the company, including the New Works Initiative, in both size and stature. He has taken a leadership role in LORT while forging relationships between TheatreWorks and other regional theatres. Given the company’s growth and impact across the region, the company officially adopted the name TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (TWSV).
Leadership and Transition
As noted above, Robert Kelley founded TheatreWorks and has served as its only Artistic Director over the ensuing 49 years. He will retire at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season having completed a remarkable 50-year tenure.
Phil Santora has served as TWSV’s’ Executive Director for the past twelve seasons. Full bios on Robert Kelley and Phil Santora may be found here: https://theatreworks.org/about-us/
TWSV is governed by an active and engaged 28-member Board of Trustees. Both the Artistic Director and Executive Director hold positions on the Board.
As TWSV celebrates its 49th season, it is one of California’s largest theatre companies, with 40 permanent staff members, a 28-member Board of Trustees, more than 8000 subscribers, and an annual budget of around $9 million. It is a LORT B and C theatre currently composed of an eight-production subscription season. TWSV presents in the following venues:
- The Lucie Stern Theatre, a 400-seat proscenium venue in Palo Alto, is the company’s historic home. Three productions are staged there annually, in addition to the New Works Festival of contemporary work in development, which is presented each summer.
- The Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, a 650-seat proscenium venue in Mountain View serves as home for five productions annually.
- The Lohman Theatre in Los Altos Hills, a 210-seat thrust theatre is a third venue for TWSV, which allows experimentation with occasional non-subscription productions.
TWSV is a primary tenant in Palo Alto and has recently secured a three-year contract with the city. The company is working with Mountain View city management to finalize a favorable long-term contract at MVCPA. The company leases approximately 58,000 square feet of space for its offices, costume shop, and rehearsal halls in Redwood City and scenic/props shops in Newark, CA.
Opportunities and Challenges
The next Artistic Director will join an organization with a remarkable foundation and credibility based on its hard-earned artistic bona fides. Among the opportunities are the following:
- Expanding and enhancing its original programming, high production quality, and diverse storytelling and casting.
- Leveraging the institution’s position as an arts leader in Silicon Valley and continuing to assert the importance of performing arts to the communities of the region.
- Furthering TWSV’s leadership in new work development and exploring the potential for expanded / new partnerships.
- Building on its highly successful education and community engagement efforts to even more fully reach into its many communities and inspire a new generation of theatregoers.
- Programming in a way that will build on the diversity and innovation of the Silicon Valley residents.
Along with these opportunities, there are notable challenges that the next AD must embrace:
- Creating programming that expands audience while continuing to delight and inspire current subscriber base.
- Nurturing the audience through the transition of artistic leadership.
- Responding to the organization’s needs around performance space and artist housing in an increasingly expensive real estate market.
- Continuing to deliver important storytelling and high production values within the constraints of a regional theater budget.
- Ensuring that all voices in the community are represented through the art and in the organization.
- Maintaining the company’s positive operating status.
- Participating in deficit-management strategies. The company has closed the past five seasons with balanced budgets and recently retired $1.8 million in deficits. TWSV leadership team will need to make a determination on how and when to retire the remaining $1.5 million in long-term, accumulated deficits.
- Building the TWSV brand while exploring a possible permanent home. More information can be found on TWSV’s website: https://theatreworks.org
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