doubleXposure Presents underXposed: Running an Arts Organization is a Risky Business

In this edition of underXposed, co-host Marcie Sillman talks to Seattle Repertory Theatre Managing Director Jeffrey Herrmann about the financial and emotional toll the pandemic has had on Seattle's flagship nonprofit theater company, and about the gamble they're taking as we head into the third year living with COVID-19. Seattle Repertory Theatre hoped the worst of the pandemic would be behind them when they planned for a January 2022 reopening. When the Omicron surge hit, Herrmann and his staff instituted frequent testing, vaccine requirements for entry, and crossed their fingers.


"You invest in hospitals to help people who are sick. You invest in places like theaters to keep people healthy." -- Jeffrey Herrmann



Seattle Repertory Theatre Managing Director Jeffrey Herrmann poses with a tribute to the late August Wilson



ABOUT THIS EPISODE'S GUEST


In May 2014, Jeffrey Herrmann was appointed as the fifth Managing Director in Seattle Rep’s 58-year history. In this role, Jeff oversees all the administrative functions of this nearly $13 million, nationally-recognized, not-for-profit performing arts organization, including development, finance, marketing, operations, and Board relations.

Since his arrival—which coincided, to the day, with Braden Abraham’s appointment as Artistic Director—activity, attendance, fundraising, and the budget have all shown marked increases. Under Jeff’s management, the theatre also recently completed a significant renovation of the PONCHO Forum, the first major capital project undertaken by the Rep since the construction of the Leo K. Theatre in 1995; saw its world premiere of Come From Away open on Broadway, in Canada, and on national tour; reconfigured the Bagley Wright Theater in order to produce David Byrne’s groundbreaking, immersive musical Here Lies Love, which now stands as the highest-grossing show in the Rep’s history; has committed to an initiative to increase equity, diversity, and inclusion at every level of the theatre; and completed its first strategic plan in more than a decade.


Prior to his arrival in Seattle, Jeff served as Managing Director of Washington D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company for seven seasons and, before that, served as Producing Director at Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, AK for eight seasons. Born in upstate NY and raised in West Hartford, CT, Jeff received his B.A. in English at Vassar College and his M.F.A. in Theatre Management at the Yale School of Drama. Prior to his enrollment at Yale, he served as Managing Director of the Albany Berkshire Ballet in Pittsfield, MA for three seasons. During his time at Yale, he worked at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, CA, and as Associate Managing Director of Yale Repertory Theatre. Jeff has served on the boards of dog & pony dc, the Foraker Group, and the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation. He has served as a panelist for the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Nevada State Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and Theatre Communications Group. Jeff has taught arts administration at the University of Alaska Southeast, George Mason University, and American University. He also worked as a sound designer on multiple productions at Perseverance Theatre, Georgetown University, 1st Stage (Tysons, VA), and Washington Shakespeare Company. Jeff lives in West Seattle with his wife, Sara, their son, Jonah, and their wirehaired miniature dachshund, Jack.


For more on Jeff and the Seattle Rep, visit their website.