SCR Founders Emmes and Benson Stage Their Exits to Ensure Sound Future

News   SCR Founders Emmes and Benson Stage Their Exits to Ensure Sound Future
David Emmes and Martin Benson, the founders and respective producing artistic director and artistic director of South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, CA, will, after 46 years, begin a search for their successor, they said.

According to a Feb. 4 SCR announcement, "They have greenlighted a detailed leadership transition plan that is set to culminate later in the year with the naming of a new artistic director to join the leadership team."

The men are not retiring from the Orange County not-for-profit company devoted to classics, contemporary works and world premieres. They will continue to serve in their current capacities until a new artistic director is in place, at which point they will assume the titles of founding directors.

In their new roles "they will serve as counselors and advisers to their successor….[and] will continue to play an active role in assisting the new artistic director in the finding and development of plays, and they will continue to direct productions."

"We're stepping back, but not away," stated Emmes. "We think it's incredibly important that SCR not lose artistic momentum. We believe we can help the next leader through the transition period as he or she becomes familiar with the particular needs of such a large and complex organization."

The directors were quick to point out that the theatre is healthy, financially, and so are they. In a joint statement, they said, "Nothing's wrong. We're both healthy, and the theatre is doing well artistically and financially. But we're both in our 70s now, and we know inevitably there comes a time for change. We wanted to begin this process before anything went wrong, so that we can help to ensure the smoothest possible leadership transition to support SCR's continued success well into the future. Our succession plan is built to suit SCR's unique needs, but it was inspired in part by the example of other artistic directors who remained at their theatres for a period of time to facilitate an effective transition with minimal disruption."

Though Benson and Emmes will be involved in the hiring process, SCR's board of trustees will choose the new leader: "We know that in order to keep growing, the theatre needs new ideas, new blood, new chemistry," Benson stated. "SCR will need someone who is responsive to changing times and circumstances."

They added, "We started the theatre together, and we think it only makes sense for us to go out together."

"David and Martin are visionaries," said Wylie Aitken, president of SCR's board of trustees. "They transformed SCR from a company with $17 and a station wagon into a three-theatre complex with a $9 million annual budget and numerous awards, including a Tony. Together with the Orange County community, they've created one of the most successful and stable arts institutions in the country. We consider ourselves incredibly fortunate that they have led a process to ensure the continuity of SCR's future artistic leadership. We are also grateful that they are willing to stay on to share their wisdom and insight as we identify a strong artistic leader to partner with our managing director, Paula Tomei, to carry on SCR's long history of service to Orange County and the national theatre community."

With the hiring of a new artistic director, managing director Paula Tomei's role will change.

Emmes and Benson stated, "Once the new artistic director starts, Paula will rise to the level of co-CEO, reporting directly to the board. Working in conjunction with the artistic director, she will continue to set programmatic assumptions to ensure that artistic and other programming is aligned with the mission and operating goals and meets board-approved budgetary guidelines. She will also continue to have primary responsibility for the production, marketing, development and business departments and will work with the board on major campaign fundraising, planning and recruitment of future leadership."

Emmes and Benson will plan the 2010-11 season. Visit

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