Arts Management Veteran Marcus L. Overton Passes Away At Age 75
Marcus L. Overton, a passionate and colorful 54-year veteran of the performing arts management world as well as an actor, director, writer, teacher, scholar, linguist and Emmy-award winning radio and TV host, died at age 75 on June 9 in San Diego after a long battle with kidney failure. He is survived by his husband Raymond A. Fluta. Overton left instructions that his ashes were to be taken to Paris, a city he visited yearly, and scattered on the graves of Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Marcel Proust and Francois Poulenc.
Overton left a barely-audible voicemail greeting in French on his phone because, he said, that would keep away the telemarketers, even those who spoke French.
Overton's career encompassed theatre, opera, chamber music, dance, academia, serving as an advisory panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, and broadcasting. His many management credits included production stage manager at Chicago Lyric Opera, where he was a colleague of William Mason, later the company's general director; general manager of the Ravinia Festival; director of performing arts at the Smithsonian Institution; executive director and then producing director of Spoleto Festival USA; and artistic administrator at La Jolla Music Society.
"Marc was a person of great vitality and intelligence; interested and interesting," said Mason. "He was my friend for over 50 years and I owe him a great deal. I will miss him."
Overton had lived in San Diego since 1997 and enjoyed a 20-year association with La Jolla Music Society, serving at various times as its program annotator, pre-concert lecturer and consultant for special projects as well as artistic administrator in 2006-07. He was also Board Chairman of the Actors Alliance of San Diego, a classical music reviewer for San Diego Story and the San Diego Union-Tribune, and an actor with New Fortune Theater and other San Diego companies. Prior to La Jolla, he had been a consultant to the San Diego Opera and also created supertitles for several of the company's productions.
In 1992, at the invitation of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and founding director Gian Carlo Menotti, Overton became executive director of Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina. Stepping down in 1995, while continuing to teach theatre at the College of Charleston, he began a 20-year association with South Carolina ETV Radio as host and producer of "Spoleto Today." He also produced and hosted six television specials about the Festival, one of which won an Emmy Award.
"Whenever I think of Marcus, I always smile," said Shari Hutchinson, recently retired VP for radio and TV programming at SCETV and a colleague of Overton's for 20 years. "He was such a source of boundless joy and energy and enthusiasm for life; curious about everything and equally knowledgeable, at once a student and a teacher of life and art and soul. I will miss him deeply... and, of course, smile."
Following his move to San Diego, Overton would ride his Honda Goldwing motorcycle cross-country each spring to fulfill his commitment to SCETV. He described the motorcycle and his purplish blue Mercedes SL 320 as "testaments to my hillbilly splendor." The Mercedes enjoyed only a short run as maintenance costs soon outstripped the original purchase price.
Born August 13, 1943 in Calhoun, Georgia, Overton was trained as an actor by Alvina Krause at Northwestern University, from which he graduated in 1965 with a B.S. in speech and theatre. He first pursued an acting career with the Southeastern Shakespeare Festival in Atlanta and Eagles Mere Repertory Company in Chicago, and also began managing supernumeraries at Lyric Opera of Chicago. He was the company's production stage manager from 1966-1972 before leaving to become general manager at Ravinia under executive director Edward Gordon from 1973-77.
From 1978-83 Overton freelanced as a producer, including engagements with the Washington National Opera and fully staged productions of "Otello" and "Falstaff" for Carlo Maria Giulini and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in association with the Music Center Operating Company of Los Angeles. He also served as an advisory panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, conducting more than 110 on-site evaluations over the next ten years, and consulted to other arts organizations in the USA and overseas.
In 1983 he accepted the position of director of performing arts at the Smithsonian, producing as many as 120 folk, chamber music, dance and theater offerings a year, and served in that capacity for nine years before taking on the Spoleto engagement at Menotti's invitation.
Overton was an inveterate traveler with a particular interest in prehistoric cave art, visiting France each year while also making trips to Italy, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Spain, London, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Peru and Hong Kong - not to mention annual motorcycle excursions with Mr. Fluta throughout the American Southwest. The ultimate destination of his black leather motorcycle jacket has yet to be determined, although it is rumored that the Smithsonian has first dibs.