Artistic Director - Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles, CA

Applications are now closed for this position. 

Geffen Playhouse was founded in 1995 by Gil Cates, a man whose impact and influence reached across the worlds of film, television, theatre, and higher education. Those intersections remain very much alive today. This theatre has consistently brought together artists from the film, television, and theatre industries, and its most significant partner is UCLA, located across the street from the Geffen.   The company’s growth and impact makes it today one of the largest producing theatres in Los Angeles.

The Geffen’s mission is “to develop and produce a diverse mix of premiere, contemporary, and classic plays, the Geffen Playhouse is committed to four primary goals: entertain, inspire, enlighten, and educate.  Within our artistic mission is a desire to create innovative, deeply impactful education and community engagement programming.  

The Executive Director Gil Cates, Jr. has worked closely in partnership with Artistic Director Randall Arney, who will be stepping down at the end of this season after 17 years of distinguished artistic accomplishment.  Indeed, the Geffen has been awarded more than 40 regional theatre awards.  Several of its commissioned plays have gone on to lives both on Broadway and in other regional theatres.  Many significant artists have graced its stages.

Innovation has been a constant theme for this theatre. This year the Geffen, in partnership with BroadwayHD, offered the first live stream from an American regional theatre with its production of a contemporary classic, Long Day’s Journey into Night.  The Geffen this year also inaugurated a podcast series. As a third initiative, the Geffen has been creating new approaches to attract a younger and more diverse audience. 

With these successes, of course the Geffen faces challenges:

• Like many theatres, it is confronting the impact of declining subscriptions.

• The Geffen finds itself needing to increase its proportion of contributed revenue.

• The Geffen competes for patrons in a huge city that has traditionally been a leader in film and television and music entertainment.

Whatever these challenges, the Geffen’s next Artistic Director will join a theatre that has very important community partnerships (most notably a vital and mutually productive one with UCLA which underwrites the physical building); a staff that is truly devoted to this theatre and has maintained a highly supportive work culture; and a Board that has leaders from the entertainment industry, business and philanthropic communities.

The Geffen Playhouse itself is very much part of the appeal of this theatre to audiences. It is a beautiful space that was built in 1929 as a Masonic clubhouse. Subsequently it was converted into the Westwood Playhouse and was donated to UCLA in 1994. David Geffen gave a founding gift and the Playhouse bears his name since 1995. The building was renovated in 2005 with the addition of a second, smaller theater. There are thus two theatres of 512 and 125 seats (the latter a flexible space), a gracious large lobby, a bar, and a lovely outdoor courtyard.  It is a building and setting in which people easily engage with one another, and the spaces are intimate enough for them to feel a real connection with the artists on stage.  There are currently 11,000 subscribers across the two theatres.  The overall staff is comprised of 36 full time and 165 part time and seasonal employees.  The operating budget is $10 million.  Its balance sheet is very strong (no debt), made especially so by its Innovation Fund and the Legacy Fund.  The Board is composed of 36 members and has been highly supportive of the fund-raising efforts of the staff.

Much more information about the Geffen, including a list of its past productions, can be found at


The Artistic Director will serve in a co-equal partnership with Gil Cates, Jr.  Each will report to the Board through its chair (or co-chairs) and will have a seat on the Board.   These two leaders share the responsibility for institutional leadership.  Together they must articulate a vision for the Geffen’s future that fully aligns with its mission; motivate staff, Board, and others to move collectively toward that vision; and, of course, build the working culture of this theatre, already very strong, in a way that facilitates the best work of both staff and Board.

Because of the scale of the leadership role, the new Artistic Director will be expected to make the commitment that the Geffen will be his or her most important professional responsibility. 

Within the notion of mutual leadership of the overall organization, there are certain roles in which the incoming Artistic Director will be a key driver:

• Create seasons of plays that cohere and continue the Geffen’s history of provoking conversation and even change; maintain the theatrical breadth from the classic to the new; and remain very attentive to both the current loyal subscribers and the desired larger audiences, especially including the young and diverse.>

• Gather together the finest creative teams possible from LA’s large artist community (across its major industries), as well as, when needed, from elsewhere.

• Shepherd the productions, including by thorough oversight of artistic and production staff, and work closely with Gil Cates, Jr. to assure that the shows are being produced within mutually agreed upon budget parameters.

• Be an active participant in major gift cultivation and solicitation, in concert with the Board and Executive Director.

• Engage collegially with the Board to inspire them with the work of the theatre and to support their efforts on the Geffen’s behalf.

• Support philosophically and visibly the theatre’s educational and community programs and their impact on the lives of many in L.A.

• Be a most important public face for the Geffen to the Los Angeles television, film, and live theatre communities and to the larger Southern California community.


No one person will fully meet all these qualifications.  The Search Committee will be assessing to what degree each individual come close to their expectations by evaluating the following factors:

Professional Experience

• Proven artistic leadership capacity as demonstrated by prior roles in theatre companies; a successful track record as a theatre Artistic Director is preferred, but not required. 

• Demonstrated ability to inspire others through articulation of an artistic vision, the decisions made about art and artists, and the ability to break the mold. 

• An aesthetic approach that makes clear that he or she can produce work that meets the Geffen’s desire for the traditional classics as re-imagined, contemporary plays that have important truths today, and brand new plays and commissions.

• Accomplishments as a stage director; this is preferred, but not required. 

• The capacity to build relationships across the three-pronged arts industry in Los Angeles, with prior experience in doing so being helpful.

• Demonstrated belief in, if not also participation in, education and community engagement activities.

• A passion for, and track record of, developing new works of drama, from commissioning, to workshops, to full-scale productions.

• A commitment to re-imagining classic works of dramas for today’s audiences.

Personal Qualities and Values

• Ability to form a strong and enduring partnership with the Executive Director.

• Recognized and respected in the field of professional theatre, and known to be artist friendly and supportive.

• Enormous drive, tenacity, and fresh thinking.

• A real appetite for growing audiences.

• A personal commitment to diversity.

• A desire for collaboration, feedback, and general engagement with others.


The Search Committee, with full participation by the Executive Director, hopes to make its final decision no later than early fall this year, and hopefully sooner than that.  The start date for full time employment will be as soon as possible thereafter.  The 2017-18 Season will be planned prior to the choice of the new Artistic Director being made.


Interested and qualified candidates are encouraged to submit in complete confidence a cover letter and resume to the consulting firm retained to conduct the search. Applications will close on May 1, 2017.  The letter of no more than 1 & ½ pages should describe why this post and theatre is attractive to the applicant, and what about them and their work makes them a potentially strong contributor as a leader of the Geffen Playhouse:

Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc.
Attn:  Greg Kandel and Stephen Richard

Email only: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Subject line:Geffen ED Search

Last modified on Friday, 28 April 2017 08:16