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Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Executive Exits

The chief executive officer and executive producer of The Old Globe in San Diego, Calif., Louis G. Spisto, announced this week that he is leaving his post to pursue work as an independent producer.

The news comes a month after the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland announced the retirement of Executive Director Paul Nicholson after 32 yeas with the OSF, the last 16 as its executive director.

Spisto was responsible for both the artistic and administrative activities of The Old Globe. During his tenure, the Globe produced 27 world premieres, launched a new play development program, oversaw the return of the Shakespeare Repertory Season and three years ago brought aboard former Royal Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Adrian Noble. A strong advocate of arts education, Mr. Spisto initiated several new programs including an innovative cross-border project and a new play development program. He also launched a free matinee series that brings thousands of students to the Globe's productions annually.

“Now is the time to work on my other passions,” Spisto said in a statement released by The Old Globe. “Over the past three years there have been significant projects that were offered, apart from the Globe, that I would now like to pursue. I remain a part of the Globe family and offer to be of service throughout all my days.”

“We are saddened by Lou's decision to leave after nine years of tremendous leadership and service,” Old Globe Board Chairman Harold W. Fuson Jr. said in the theater's release. “During Lou's nine years The Old Globe grew to new heights, both financially and artistically. He produced nearly 150 plays and musicals, bringing San Diego audiences some of the most successful shows in Globe history.” 

In Ashland, Ore., Nicholson helped turn the Oregon Shakespeare Festival into one of the premier professional theaters in North America. He joined OSF in 1980 as general manager before assuming the executive director position in 1995. In 1984, after collaborating with then artistic and executive directors, Jerry Turner and Bill Patton, he worked with Actors Equity Association to develop OSF's first Equity contract. As he has noted, this moved OSF from being a pre-professional theater and a place where people could begin their careers to a professional theater where people could have a career. He saw the Festival grow membership from 2,000 to 18,000, expand audiences from 240,000 to 410,000 and increase the budget from $2.6 million to more than $30 million.

“I have been blessed to work for more than 30 years with an extraordinary group of professional artists, artisans, and administrators at the Festival,” Nicholson said in an OSF release. “Their fierce commitment to putting the best possible work on stage and to creating a company that ranks as one of the premier theatres in the United States has been a constant inspiration to me. But it's now time to step back and hand the reins over to someone who can forge a new partnership with Bill (Rauch, artistic director), the leadership team, and the company.”

Said Rauch in the OSF release: “I am so fortunate that my first five years as artistic director have been in partnership with Paul Nicholson. As one of the giants of the American theatre, Paul is hugely responsible for the stability and growth of the Festival over the last three decades. He is unflappably professional, committed to fairness, and full of good humor, and we move forward into a brighter future thanks to his leadership.”

October 21, 2011

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