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Pioneer Theatre Company Managing Director Announces Retirement In 2019

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Pioneer Theatre Company Managing Director Announces Retirement In 2019

Long-time Pioneer Theatre Company Managing Director Chris Lino has announced that he will retire at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, after 28 years at the theatre.

Lino assumed the managing director position at the professional theatre in residence at the University of Utah in 1991. At that time, the theatre had an accumulated debt of $1.4 million and had been incurring operating deficits for the previous decade. During Lino's tenure, the theatre secured balanced or surplus operating budgets in 23 of 26 fiscal years, eliminated its accumulated debt, and built its endowments to over $4.5 million. The theatre also conducted two successful capital campaigns, first in 1998 to expand and renovate what became the Roy W. and Elizabeth E. Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, and second in 2010 to create Meldrum House, the theatre's artist housing project.

"I always told our board that when Colleen [Lindstrom, PTC's long-time patron services manager and Lino's wife] retired, I would be exposed as the managing fraud I am," Lino said. "She retired last year, and I figured I better follow suit before that joke proved true."

Lino is announcing his retirement 15 months before the actual date to give the theatre's board and university time to conduct a national search for his successor. At his retirement, he will have led the theatre for half of its 56 year existence.

Speaking about his tenure, Lino said "the best part of the job for 28 years is the people I got to work with. I've had the benefit of two fantastic partners - Charles Morey for the first 21 years and Karen Azenberg for the last six - who routinely put up Broadway-caliber work on our stage. For many years I've worked with a talented staff that has been making great theatre together for decades, well before I arrived on the scene."

Pioneer Theatre Company Board Chairman Dan Lofgren, president of Cowboy Partners, praised Lino's tenure.

"I have been closely associated with Pioneer Theatre Company for something like 20 years," he said, "and I don't recall a time when Chris didn't have a plan for whatever challenge might lay ahead. He has somehow married an artist's sensitivity with a rock-solid business sense. The theatre will sorely miss his savvy, and we will all miss his company."

Artistic Director Karen Azenberg, who has partnered with Lino for the last six years, said, "Chris is the business bedrock at PTC. When I arrived in 2012, he gave me a solid footing - through his brilliance with numbers, his connections and his willingness to listen to a new artistic voice. His passionate one-on-one meetings with patrons and newcomers have been vital to growing our audience. We're a multi-million organization, but Chris never loses sight of wanting to talk to folks as if PTC is a small boutique.

"Together, we've created a new play reading series, Play-by-Play, and have begun our Musicals-in-Concert program. We've launched several world premieres, have found new audiences and have brought wider national attention to Pioneer Theatre Company. Chris never says 'No.' He says 'Let me see how I can make it happen.' Pioneer Theatre Company is richer because of him."

Charles Morey, PTC's artistic director from 1984 to 2012, had this to say about Lino, "When Chris arrived in Salt Lake City in 1991, PTC was in pretty dire financial straits. We were in the process of re-structuring our relationship with the university and simultaneously professionalizing the theatre and re-focusing the repertoire, all of which had financial ramifications. Chris immediately threw himself into the work. Within three years the financial situation had been turned around and PTC began a long run as one of the most successful and financially stable regional theatres in the country. I know all connected with PTC are deeply grateful for his years of commitment and recognize the importance of his unparalleled contribution."

The theatre's board has formed a search committee to look for Lino's successor. The committee will be co-chaired by former PTC Board Chairmen Paul M. Durham, a partner in the law firm of Durham Jones & Pinegar, and David E. Gee, a partner in the law firm of Parr Brown Gee & Loveless.

Durham said, "The search committee will have big shoes to fill, because of Chris Lino's extensive experience and track record in managing the theatre over the past 28 years. The financial condition of PTC is the envy of regional theatres throughout the country."

Gee indicated that the theatre would be engaging the services of a national executive search firm to assist with the search and expressed the hope that the committee could identify a new managing director by March 2019, in time for that person to collaborate with Azenberg and Lino on the 2019-20 season before assuming the position full-time in July 2019.

Photo: PTC Managing Director Chris Lino at opening of Meldrum House, PTC's artists' housing (2010)


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