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BWW Interview: GEORGE GREEN, New CEO and Artistic Director at the Playhouse

BWW talks to George Green, the new CEO and Artistic Director of the San Antonio Playhouse.

BWW: You have most recently been executive artistic director at the Modern Theater based in Spokane Washington. What were the major challenges you faced when you assumed that position?

George Green: Upon my arrival at The Modern Theater (what was then called Lake City Playhouse) in North Idaho, we faced several facility and financial challenges. There was little to no corporate sponsorship nor support. The production quality was good but inconsistent and therefore the subscription base was very low. From 2010 to 2016, the team turned a community theater with an $80,000 budget and 90 person subscriber base into a thriving semi-professional theatre that now has a budget nearing $800,000 with over 1000 subscribers. The company operates in North Idaho and Spokane Washington with two venues and three stages.

BWW: You were born and raised in San Antonio. What feelings are you experiencing about returning?

George Green: Yes, I was born and raised in San Antonio. Growing up on the outer edges of the Southside, I learned the importance of working hard and being earnest and forthright in my approach.

I am thrilled to be back home full time. While I have had frequent visits during my time away, I am eager to see (as a permanent resident) more of the growth and changes that have taken place.

I am excited to be with family and old friends as well as meet new ones. To be perfectly honest, there are several mixed emotions. My wife and children will be staying behind in Spokane for an undetermined time. We want to keep an open mind as family about our function and residency as a unit. That stirs so many feelings. I am extremely enthusiastic about what the future holds for my tenure at The Playhouse. That creates guilt and heartbreak combined with worry for my wife and kids since we will be apart for such an extensive time. With that said, we are a motivated family and are dedicated to seeing the arts thrive. We see the potential impact that this can have on so many individuals and we are willing to make sacrifices to better various communities.

BWW: What are the passions that drive your theatrical focus?

George Green: Seeing the results of what quality theater can create is what drives me. Presenting a mirror to a community and witnessing the conversations spark- being a catalyst of that is so invigorating. Helping a region see its challenges and advocating (through art) for progressive and healthy discussions regarding the connection to those challenges is my goal. I do not present art with political agenda or to incite rage or offense. I hope simply for the human spirit to be inspired and to reflect upon its desire, morality, and conditioning. Knowing that I am a small part of a team that includes performers, technicians, administrators, volunteers, donors, and patrons is humbling.

BWW: What do you hope to bring to the Playhouse?

George Green: I have a long-term plan and vision but I will save for a later time. I can say that I will bring a path for success that is coupled with passion and energy. The ultimate goal is to establish The Playhouse as a regional professional theater with national reach. That takes open mindedness, diligence, and patience. The patrons and team will soon see that I am tenacious while collaborative. It has been my experience that as artists and art supporters deferred gratification is an unpleasant term - perhaps that may be a national trait as well. Investing in something emotionally and monetarily can be a bumpy road to travel. Ultimately what I hope to bring and establish within and beyond the walls of The Playhouse is trust. When we think about what that one accomplishment can achieve... we as a community can achieve any goal.

BWW: I noted that the Modern Theater has tended to be more adventurous than some regional theatres by including lesser-known musicals (like New Brain, about a composer struck down by a vascular malfunction) alongside plays that originated off-Broadway, like Stop Kiss (about a lesbian couple attacked in the street after heir first kiss). Do you think such selections could work at the Playhouse or do you think San Antonio might be too theatrically conservative?

George Green: Let me first address the classics. What we have to remember is that, although some may now see them as conservative, many were quite the barrier breakers in their time. I do not consider them 'conservative'. I consider them an important reflection of a society of that time- a history lesson if you will. A lesson that our youth needs to see. For example, Oklahoma! dealt with some situations such as monogamy and violence. South Pacific discussed inter-racial, feminism, and cultural boundaries. Looking at those shows now it may seem that they barely scratched the surface compared to today's approach; however, they did receive their share of backlash. Young people need to see the classics to have an understanding that the mentors before them dealt with some of the same problems they face today. Equally importantly, the older generations need to support the up and coming productions for that exact same reason. We need to better understand what our younger society is trying to tell us and at minimum listen to it and talk about out them. I never present art to offend someone. That is arrogant and a bad business practice. All I hope is that our patrons witness things with an open mind and a kind spirit. The Playhouse will feature a wide range of shows and content. It will also look to increase its programming in the 2017-18 season.

BWW: Any other thoughts or observations you would like to add?

George Green: I anticipate my first year being one of modest change and evaluation. It is, after all, one that I am inheriting and yet excited about. Soon there will be new corporate sponsorship and donor programs implemented.

I will be arriving at a time that The Playhouse is dealing with some minor logistical needs. I am thankful for the work that other Playhouse directors have accomplished. Most importantly, I am extremely grateful for the support of my family, friends and The Modern Board during this transition. I am thrilled to join the Playhouse Team and send my gratitude to the board as well as the SA Community for welcoming me to the area.

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