A.C.T. Appoints Ellen Richard Executive Director

by Jacob Coakley

Ellen Richard, the new executive director of American Conservatory Theater
SAN FRANCISCO—The American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) has appointed Ellen Richard as executive director following an international search. Richard’s career has included such positions as executive director of Second Stage Theatre and managing director of Roundabout Theatre Company. She oversaw complete financial overhauls of both institutions, developing Roundabout from a small nonprofit organization into one of the leading performing arts institutions in the country, with three performing spaces and net assets of more than $67 million. During her tenure at Second Stage, she helped grow the institution (48% increase in subscription income and 75% increase in individual giving) and brokered the purchase of the Helen Hayes Theatre, a Broadway performance space for the company. She holds six Tony Awards as a producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). A.C.T.’s executive director search was managed by the Korn/Ferry International search firm with generous support from The James Irvine Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Richard will start her tenure at A.C.T. on August 17, 2010.

“A.C.T. is a leader nationally, both as a producer of big, bold, and intelligent theatre and as a center for exceptional actor training,” said Richard. “I am very happy that I get this incredible opportunity to call A.C.T. and San Francisco my home.”

“After a thorough international search process, we are excited to have Ellen join A.C.T. in this important leadership role,” said Nancy Livingston, chair of the A.C.T. Board of Trustees. For the past year, the A.C.T. Board of Trustees and staff have been engaged in the first phase of a 10-year strategic plan that lays out an ambitious vision to increase A.C.T.’s capacity in relation to education, facilities and audience engagement.

Artistic Director Carey Perloff added: “I am absolutely thrilled that the A.C.T. Board of Trustees unanimously selected Ellen as our new executive director, whose vast accomplishments and deep knowledge of the field have made her something of a legend in theatre circles around the country. I believe that Ellen’s expertise in marketing, facilities development, financial planning, and organizational change will serve A.C.T. beautifully as we begin to implement our exciting new long-range plan. Most of all, Ellen is a champion of artists and a passionate believer in the central role theatre can play in a community. I look forward to working with her enormously.”

“I am amazed at how committed the board is to the company and how each and every trustee feels like a champion of the institution and its future,” continued Richard. “I am very impressed by the level of strategic planning already in place, and I look forward to working with the board and Carey.”

Richard was most recently executive director of off-Broadway’s nonprofit Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006, she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theatre. Under Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005 with the Roundabout Theatre Company Richard took an organization in bankruptcy and built it into one of the country’s largest and most successful theatre companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars.

While at Roundabout, Richard was the lead negotiator for more than 50 collective bargaining agreements, served on the primary LORT negotiating committees, and oversaw all legal aspects of the theatre’s operations, including real estate purchase and lease, labor, employment, tax, entertainment, and sponsorship matters.

Richard had direct supervision of all earned income of the theatre, including subscriptions, single ticket sales, rentals, and subsidiary rights. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early             Curtain” series, which represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theatre construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages—Studio 54, the American Airlines Theatre, and the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre—and had final approval of the design and finishes. She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub.

Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theatre manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.

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