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Bernie Griffin Announces Retirement and Leadership Transition at The 5th Avenue Theatre

Bernie Griffin Announces Retirement and Leadership Transition at The 5th Avenue Theatre

Since Griffin assumed a leadership role at The 5th in 2002, approximately 6 million patrons have enjoyed 142 musicals produced on the theater’s mainstage.

Bernadine (Bernie) Griffin, Managing Director of The 5th Avenue Theatre will retire at the end of the 2022/23 Season, after serving 21 years in leadership roles at The 5th and almost four decades of involvement in Seattle's arts and cultural sector.

"It has been my honor and privilege to work alongside Producing Artistic Director Bill Berry and the talented team of artists, staff and technicians in helping to build and guide one of the most influential musical theater companies in our country," Griffin said. "What I have loved most about this job is being a part of a community asset that creates memories through spectacular musical theater, an art form that literally transports us worlds away from the everyday."

Since Griffin assumed a leadership role at The 5th in 2002, approximately 6 million patrons have enjoyed 142 musicals produced on the theater's mainstage and in co-production with ACT Theatre, including 25 new musicals, 10 of which went on to Broadway and garnered 14 Tony Awards. As the result of The 5th's Education and Engagement programs, over 1 million students in Washington state have been positively impacted and inspired by the magic of musical theater.

"Bernie's contributions to this organization and to the larger arts and cultural sector in our city cannot be overstated," said Les Biller, The 5th's Board Chair. "Her professionalism, expertise, persistence, and warmth have become synonymous with The 5th. We look forward to finding a successor who will build on Bernie's foundation of success. Bernie, you have been a great colleague and friend. On behalf of your entire 5th Avenue Theatre family, you will be greatly missed."

In 2017, following the retirement of Executive Producer and Artistic Director David Armstrong, Griffin was promoted to co-lead the theater with Producing Artistic Director Bill Berry.

"I have enjoyed a successful and rewarding partnership with Bill in managing all areas of the operation," Griffin said. They effectively divided responsibilities with board governance, philanthropy, marketing and earned income, facility management, IT, finance, and human resources reporting to Griffin.

Berry said, "Bernie has been an amazing partner, colleague, and friend. Her passion for musical theater, education, and The 5th Avenue Theatre knows no bounds. She has been a tireless advocate for making live musical theater a part of downtown since she arrived at The 5th 21 years ago."

Berry and members of the board will engage a specialized recruiting firm to conduct a nationwide search for Griffin's replacement. The search process will consider a diverse group of candidates. Griffin will continue to be involved with the theater as an adviser following her retirement.

Ellen Walker, Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet, said, "Bernie is a community builder like no other, inspiring all of us with her creativity, transparency, wise perspective, and optimism. She has been an indispensable thought partner and source of support for me personally and professionally. Joy, inclusion, and excellence are all hallmarks of The 5th Avenue Theatre's brand. For me, these qualities lead back to Bernie and her extraordinary partnership with Bill."

Arts organizations such as The 5th are just beginning to recover from impacts of the pandemic. Collaboration among Seattle's arts institutions has made a big difference.

"One of the most wonderful aspects of working in Seattle is the collaborative spirit among the arts and cultural organizations," Griffin said. "During the pandemic, we were all joined at the hip in our decision-making processes. And that continues to be true today. Seattle is truly unique in this regard."

"I leave The 5th with gratitude and appreciation for the many contributions it has made to my life," she said. "I want to recognize our wonderful board, subscribers, patrons, donors, and volunteers for their belief in and commitment to the work that we do on our stage and in our communities. I also want to acknowledge our predecessors Marilynn Sheldon and David Armstrong who brought Bill and me to The 5th. Thank you for letting me be a part of this wonderful experience."

In addition to her theatre responsibilities, Griffin has been the face of The 5th in the community, a vital part of her role. She has been an active member of the boards of Downtown Seattle Association; Visit Seattle; Seattle Rotary; Seattle Metropolitan Chamber; King County Arts, Cultural, and Science Roundtable; and Cultural Access Washington/Inspire Washington. Nationally, she was a member of National Alliance of Musical Theatre, League of Resident Theatres, and Theatre Communications Group, and a peer reviewer of the National Endowment for the Arts.

During her tenure, Griffin held key leadership positions at The 5th, including as the theatre's first Director of Institutional Advancement and Development, creating and developing its successful fundraising initiative. She assumed the role of Managing Director when Founding Managing Director Marilynn Sheldon's retired in 2010.

About The 5th Avenue Theatre

The 5th Avenue Theatre is one of America's leading musical theater companies. We enrich the community we love with the art form we love-giving the Pacific Northwest a front-row seat to original powerhouse productions that go on to light up marquees and audiences all the way to Broadway. From the page to the stage, we bring passion and epic scale to every musical we create with big talent and bigger-than-life productions. As a nonprofit theater company and our region's largest performing arts employer, we spread the joy of great musicals with people of all ages across our region and state. Each year, we reach 75,000 young people through our nationally acclaimed education programs. Programs designed to develop new musicals ensure that the next generation of great musicals will be there to tell the stories that captivate tomorrow's audiences. On the national stage, we are a leading voice for the power of this art form to lift the human spirit.

For more information about The 5th Avenue Theatre, its season and its programs, please visit


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