George C. Wolfe, producer of The Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, has a new partner at his nonprofit organization — executive director Fran Reiter, who will be responsible for finance, development and fundraising, among other duties.
The appointment to this new position was announced Nov. 14, ending a year-long search for the right person to oversee marketing, capital project and board relations at the institution that embraces multicultural new works and revives Shakespeare, international and American classics in both its multi-venue East Village location and Central Park.
The need for the position arose as goals for the organization were solidified over the years, after Wolfe joined The Public as producer and artistic director in March 1993, according to a spokesperson. Discussions between Wolfe and the Public's board have been ongoing for some time. Wolfe has been overseeing all aspects of the theatre, with department heads reporting to him, and it is thought the hiring of an executive director will free Wolfe up to focus on artistic issues, although he and Reiter will be working in tandem.
The position has been part of the long range plan of The Public. The executive director will help The Public Theater "expand its audience and donor base, enhance its ongoing relationship with the City of New York and oversee the institution's Capital Campaign," according to a statement.
Reiter's appointment comes at a time when some have questioned the costly choices made by Wolfe, including the Broadway mounting of the multi-million dollar flops, On the Town and The Wild Party. Others have said that risk is part of the nature of an adventurous theatre and that The Public has enough money — a $33 million endowment — in its reserves to go out on a limb. Recent initiatives and goals of the "Long-Range Plan" are the creation of Joe's Pub as part of The Public Theater, the creation of a 499-seat theater in the 425 Lafayette Street building, the upgrade of the Delacorte Theater facility in Central Park, as well as the current construction of new administrative offices and production facilities, renovation of the lobby, and a historic restoration of the building's exterior.
Reiter previously served as Deputy Mayor for Economic Development & Planning and Community Relations & Planning in Manhattan, as well as President and Chief Executive Officer of NYC & Company (The New York Convention & Visitors Bureau). She will be elected to The Public's board of directors.
In a statement, Wolfe said, "Bringing Fran Reiter to The Public Theater marks an invigorating moment for us, our supporters, and the theatre community, as we aggressively move forward into the 21st Century. Together, we will continue to increase the level of giving, establish a broader and deeper range of government relationships, and expand our initiatives to reach out to new communities. To me, it's a perfect union, full of extraordinary possibilities. I couldn't be more pleased."
Reiter said, "It certainly will be an honor to work in partnership with George, who has brilliantly led this institution for the past seven years and always remained faithful to its founding mission. I am truly excited about this opportunity to expand the resources and support to grow this world-famous institution, and to ensure that George and the artists he brings to The Public have the largest possible audience for their work."
She added, "This opportunity to return to my first love and my first career — the theatre — is extraordinary for me, and what makes it extra special is coming to The Public Theater. For those of us who grew up in the theatre in the 1960's and '70's, Joe Papp and The Public defined New York theatre. What is amazing to me is how The Public Theater continues to fulfill its historic mission to discover, nurture and produce new works from across the spectrum, in a first class artistic environment."
Reiter joins The Public Theater with over 20 years experience in the non-profit world and the entertainment industry. She is president of her own business consulting firm, Fran Reiter Communications.
As 19-month president and CEO of NYC & Company (the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau), the non-profit whose mission is to enhance New York's economy by marketing the city as a premier destination for leisure, business and convention visitors, she virtually doubled their annual operating budget, opened a state of the art visitors center in Midtown and marketing offices in Munich and London, and entered into sponsorship agreements with American Express, Continental Airlines, Citysearch.com and Kodak.
She also served as NYC Deputy Mayor for Economic Development & Planning and Deputy Mayor for Community Relations & Planning (from 1994 to 1997), responsible for advising the Mayor on economic development and land use issues, as well as cultural affairs, landmark preservation and community issues.
Reiter is a graduate of New York's renowned High School of Performing Arts (drama major) and attended Boston University School of Fine Arts as a directing major. During her earlier theatre career, she worked as a director and production stage manager at a variety of regional, summer stock, Off-Off Broadway and dinner theatres, including two seasons on the production staff of Wolf Trap for the Performing Arts.
— By Kenneth Jones