Your appointment in August came a full year after Tania Castroverde Moskalenko’s departure. In June, more than a third of the board members resigned, saying they were “deeply discouraged” that two CEO candidates walked away from the job after meeting with the president of Roosevelt University, the theater’s landlord. Those reports didn’t deter you?
No, not at all. I followed that along with everybody else, but I didn’t really focus on it, because I had such a history with the building. When they reached out to me, I was really excited. There’s such amazing opportunity there.
Your previous tenure at the Auditorium, as general manager from 1999 to 2006, came at the tail end of the long legal battle between Roosevelt and the old Auditorium Theatre Council over control. Roosevelt doesn’t have a hand in day-to-day operations, but it does have financial oversight. Were you satisfied with what you heard in your meeting with the university’s president, Ali Malekzadeh?
President Malekzadeh is going to support what the theater’s goals need to be: presenting all forms of art to every Chicagoan, to be the theater for all of Chicago. And he has indicated he is going to be nothing but supportive of that mission. There’s no doubt in my mind this is going to be a great relationship.
You’ve described the Auditorium as “the place that ignited my passion for historic restoration.” Is renovation a priority?
When I was with the Auditorium previously, we concentrated on back of house, and we were able to return the original finishes on those beautiful, iconic arches throughout the house. We wanted to continue toward the remaining public spaces, but we just didn’t have the money. Some of those things we wish we could have done earlier still remain.
The Auditorium is losing a major partner after this season, when the Joffrey Ballet moves its performances — upward of 60 nights a year — to Lyric Opera, where you spent the last 13 years as vice president. What’s your vision for filling that programming hole at the Auditorium?
I’ll tell you this: I know better than anybody what a gap the Joffrey leaving creates, because I booked the Joffrey at the Lyric Opera. But we’ve got the Bolshoi Ballet, we’ve got Chicago Celebrates Sondheim, we’ve got our Nat Geo series, and we have a really strong international dance series with Ensemble Español, Alvin Ailey. The other opportunities we’re exploring, I can’t tell you exactly how that’s going to take color and shape yet; come back to me in a few months.