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TheatreWorks Announces Transition For Executive Director Phil Santora


Veteran arts leader to step down in June 2022.

TheatreWorks Announces Transition For Executive Director Phil Santora

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley announced today that Executive Director Phil Santora will step down from TheatreWorks in June 2022, concluding a tenure of fifteen years.

Since joining the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley team in 2007, Santora has led the administration of the nationally respected Palo Alto-based LORT (League of Resident Theatres) company, solidifying TheatreWorks' reputation as one of California's largest and most prolific professional regional theatres and as one of American theatre's leading developers of new works. Under his leadership, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has been singled out for many local and national awards, including the 2019 Regional Theatre Tony Award, the American theatre's highest honor. A national search for Santora's replacement will begin shortly, with his replacement expected to be in place by his departure next summer.

Among his many accomplishments, Santora has been instrumental in establishing TheatreWorks as one of the nation's leading voices in cultivating and producing new musicals and plays. During Santora's tenure, TheatreWorks premiered new works, both on its mainstage and in its acclaimed annual New Works Festival, that have gone on to productions in acclaimed theatres across the country, off-Broadway, on Broadway, and in London's West End. Through his work on the Board of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, including as Vice President, Santora built connections with peer organizations, as well as nationally acclaimed composers, lyricists, and playwrights, attracting high profile projects and lauded artists to TheatreWorks' New Works and Writers' Retreat programs, and to its mainstage. Among his signature achievements was creating a partnership with Universal Theatrical Group/Universal Pictures to produce the World Premiere of the Stephen Schwartz musical The Prince of Egypt, based on Schwartz' record-setting DreamWorks animated film, a production that went on to international productions including London's West End.

Fiscally, Santora led the company from a structural deficit to eight consecutive years of balanced operational budgets and grew its endowment from $2.1 million to more than $5 million. A tireless fundraiser, he led the creation of three separate capital campaigns, generating almost $10 million over annual fundraising goals. He and his husband Cristian Asher also conceived and created the organization's highly anticipated less formal annual "Not-a-Gala" event, which nets a 550% return for the company's operational funds.

More recently, in response to the nationwide calls for racial justice and increased equity, diversity, and inclusion in American Theatre, Santora worked diligently in partnership with TheatreWorks Artistic Director Tim Bond to engage the company in the work of becoming a more equitable, diverse, anti-racist, and inclusive organization.

Santora also skillfully led TheatreWorks through the retirement of Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley, who stepped down from the company in June 2020. In the spring of 2020, following a national search, Santora and TheatreWorks welcomed internationally acclaimed director Tim Bond to become its new Artistic Director. Together they navigated the company through the pandemic shutdown, producing more than 20 online shows, and they led TheatreWorks' return to the stage in October 2021.

Says Santora, "When Robert Kelley announced his retirement, I embraced the opportunity to work with the TheatreWorks community as we sought the next leader to take the helm of this incredible organization. Six years later, we've found an amazing artist and remarkable leader in Tim, who is the perfect person to help guide TheatreWorks through the next phase of its remarkable journey. I am thrilled with the work TheatreWorks has accomplished, and excited about the direction ahead." Santora, who departs the theatre to seek new opportunities in Portland, Oregon, where his husband's career is now based, says "Over the last fifteen years, TheatreWorks has been a home for me. I have enjoyed working alongside multitudes of enthusiastic and talented artists, staff, trustees, and supporters to bring powerful and brilliant work to Bay Area audiences. TheatreWorks is poised to leap into this next phase-one I am sure will be bold, exciting, and joyous."

Says Tim Bond, "Phil's brilliant mind, passion for theatre, and tireless work have helped TheatreWorks grow into a celebrated leader in the American theatre world. He was a fierce partner as I began my time at TheatreWorks and has continued to work alongside me paving the path for a bright new future for this theatre, one committed to furthering its artistic excellence, innovation, diversity, and integrity. I wish Phil well as he starts his new chapter in the Northwest."

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Board of Trustees Chair Holly Ward adds, "The Board fully appreciates Phil's hard work and dedication to TheatreWorks and has witnessed firsthand his active role in TheatreWorks' myriad accomplishments. Phil's business acumen as well as his artistic insight have helped shape our esteemed theatre into the respected organization it is today. After 18 months without live performances on our stages, it is thanks to Phil and Tim's robust leadership and the support of our loyal donors and devoted audiences that TheatreWorks has come out of this uncertain period strong and ready to share remarkable new work with our diverse Silicon Valley audiences. With our national reputation for artistic quality, our strong financial position, and the outstanding organizational leadership of our Board and staff, we are in an excellent position to seek out and retain a new leader to work alongside Tim Bond to continue our growth into the future." The Board will begin a national search for a successor, with plans to have new leadership in place by Santora's departure in June 2022.

Under the direction of Tim Bond the company is on firm financial footing with a committed subscription and donor base, and a substantial endowment. TheatreWorks continues to enjoy the support of the City of Mountain View, where it produces five productions each season, and the City of Palo Alto, where it produces three productions and a nationally acclaimed New Works Festival.

Santora came to TheatreWorks after serving as the Managing Director of Northlight Theatre (Chicago). He also worked as the Managing Director of Georgia Shakespeare Festival (Atlanta), the Development Director for Great Lakes Theatre Festival (Cleveland) and George Street Playhouse (New Brunswick). In addition, he held multiple positions at the Yale Repertory Theatre and worked on the Broadway opening of the musical Black and Blue. Santora holds an MFA in Theatre Administration from the Yale School of Drama and a BA in Drama from Duke University. He was the Vice President of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Board. Prior board service includes the League of Chicago Theatres, Atlanta Coalition of Theatres, and the executive committee of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT). He was named 2000's Best Arts Administrator by Atlanta Magazine and received the Atlanta Arts and Business Council's 1998 ABBY Award for Arts Administrator.

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