Pittsburgh CLO's Van Kaplan Will Step Down After 24 Years

The Executive Committee of Pittsburgh CLO's Board of Directors unanimously voted to elect Mark Fleischer as the next Executive Producer.

By: May. 21, 2021
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Pittsburgh CLO announced today that Van Kaplan, CEO, will be retiring from his position as the head of the 75-year-old arts organization in September 2021. Mr. Kaplan will remain as a consultant helping to oversee new projects and development opportunities.

The Executive Committee of Pittsburgh CLO's Board of Directors unanimously voted to elect Mark Fleischer as the next Executive Producer.

Board Chairman Helen Hanna Casey said, "Van has made an everlasting impact on the CLO. And he has held the longest tenure of any of our Executive Producers in the history of the organization. As we plan for our reopening and our 75th Anniversary Celebration in July, he leaves us well positioned for the future."

"It has been an honor serving as CLO's Executive Producer and CEO for the last 24 years," Kaplan said. "When I arrived here, the organization was a force of nature, and together with our staff, board, volunteers and widespread circle of supporters, we ran with that energy and dreamed up new ways to create. The arts express who we are and who we aspire to be. In all of our efforts I wanted to support opportunities for new talent and ignite new audiences, especially young people, and we have done that."

"This announcement is the successful culmination of a multiyear succession plan to select the next leader for this organization," said Casey. "Mark was hired in 2014 after a national search and has been co-leading the organization with his team and Van since the fall of 2019. He has worked closely with the Board over the last several years, and we look forward to what he will bring to the Pittsburgh CLO as our next Executive Producer."

Kaplan continued, "Over the past few years, and particularly in our partnership through the pandemic, it became clear that Mark was the right person to lead CLO into its next phase. With his leadership, we will put on a spectacular Summer Season this July at Heinz Field and a most celebratory Gala for CLO's 75th Anniversary."

In his 24 years as management and artistic leader, Van Kaplan was responsible for all aspects of the organization, the core of which was producing an annual subscription season of six Broadway musicals in the heart of the Cultural District at the 2,900 seat Benedum Center - Pittsburgh's largest theater. He went on to bring new visibility to the organization from its origins as a leading regional theater to producing involvement in 29 Broadway shows. Most became Pittsburgh Premieres in CLO's Summer Seasons. He also guided the organization's involvement with productions in London's West End, Paris, Tokyo, Toronto and throughout the U.S. In 2004, he initiated and opened a year-round Cabaret theater for small musicals in downtown Pittsburgh in partnership with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. The same year, actor Jeff Goldblum starred in CLO's production of The Music Man, and Kaplan oversaw the making of a movie about Goldblum's experience, titled "Pittsburgh." The film debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006. In 2007, Kaplan assisted Disney Theatrical Productions in launching the National Tour of Disney's High School Musical in CLO's Summer Season.

Kaplan oversaw the organization's extensive educational programming at the CLO Academy of Musical Theater, and in 2009, in partnership with The Nederlander Organization, created the National High School Musical Theatre Awards/Jimmy Awards, based on the CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater (founded by his predecessor at CLO). This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Gene Kelly Awards and 12th anniversary of the Jimmy Awards. Both programs will celebrate their milestones with upcoming virtual ceremonies. Kaplan produced a documentary series about the Jimmy Awards titled "Broadway or Bust," which premiered on hundreds of PBS member stations and is still popular viewing under Arts & Music on PBS.org. The series explores the off-stage lives of America's top high school musical performers, including a student from the Gene Kelly Awards, on their quest for artistic excellence.

In 2015, Kaplan co-produced the Tony Award-nominated Broadway production of An American in Paris. The musical had its world premiere at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, and following Broadway, debuted in London, Tokyo, Pittsburgh and throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Initially hired in 2014 as Associate Artistic Director, Mr. Fleischer launched the Spark New Small Musicals Initiative funded by the organization's Next Generation Capital Campaign. The effort has resulted so far in the development of more than 15 new shows during the Spark Festival and New Musical Weekends including four World Premieres. In 2016, as part of Pittsburgh CLO's overall succession plan he was promoted to the position of Producing Director and more recently Executive Producer. He has since served as the line producer for all productions including oversight of the creation of new sets and costumes for the annual presentation of A Musical Christmas Carol. Fleischer has also played a substantial role with the organization's marketing and development efforts, helping to craft messaging about new initiatives and secure their funding. Fleischer hosts several community programs including Show Tune Saturday Night (open mic night at the Greer Cabaret) and Close Ups (streaming talk show). He serves on the Board of Directors and Educational Resources Committee of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) and is a member of the Independent Presenter's Network (IPN).