Introduction and Background
State Theatre New Jersey (State Theatre NJ) is a vital leader in New Brunswick, NJ’s rich and thriving arts community. State Theatre NJ presents a widely varied offering of touring Broadway productions, world-class musical and dance acts, live comedy, and educational performances. With over 250 annual events on its calendar, State Theatre NJ exists to serve its surrounding community and the greater region by distinguishing itself as a performing arts facility offering a welcoming and warm patron experience.
State Theatre NJ has existed in its current version since 1988, when the 1850-seat historic structure was organized as a 501(c)(3) and staffed to begin offering a diverse roster of eclectic live artistic offerings. Since an inaugural April 24, 1988 performance of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, over 5 million patrons have been drawn to this grand space for highly regarded live performances.
The roots of the building go back to 1921, when State Theatre opened to the public as a silent movie and vaudeville house touted at the time as “the finest theatre in New Jersey.” In the 1930s, the theatre became the RKO State Theatre, a movie palace offering first-run features, concierge approach to service, and visits from such stars of the day as Bob Hope, Barbara Stanwyck, Minnie Pearl, Gary Cooper, Bela Lugosi, Houdini, Hedy Lamar, and Walter Cronkite. By the late 1970s, the building had fallen into great disrepair after having been converted into a rental facility. Neglect and severe water damage took a toll on State Theatre by the early 1980s, and many in the community doubted that the structure could be saved. When the New Brunswick Cultural Center obtained the building in 1986 and made necessary repairs to start to return it to its former glory, State Theatre NJ’s renaissance was confirmed. Building on public pride for State Theatre NJ’s value as a treasured community asset, the theatre underwent a loving historic restoration in 2004 returning its interior spaces and façade to a level of grandeur befitting its prominence as one of the New York metro area’s most esteemed performing arts facilities.
Situated in downtown New Brunswick next to Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, State Theatre NJ plays an important role in the civic life of the city. State Theatre NJ is a cultural landmark in a community whose main employers include Rutgers University, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol Meyers Squib, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
State Theatre NJ operates on an annual budget of approximately $12 Million with nearly 75% of that budget coming from ticket sales and other earned revenue. The organization recently signed a 50-year lease with New Brunswick Cultural Center, the owners of the State Theatre building, allowing it to plan and project deep into the future. To that end, State Theatre NJ completed a five-year strategic plan[LP1] in June 2016, and is currently in the “quiet phase” of a $30 million+ capital campaign intended to make a series of physical improvements to the building over the next four years that will enhance patron experience, increase accessibility, and create a new flexible space for intimate performances and receptions for up to 200 patrons. State Theatre NJ is supported by a 26-member Board of Directors; programming and operations are carried out by a nearly 40-person staff.
Though State Theatre NJ’s primary focus is to offer top-notch live performances for New Jersey audiences, the company also maintains a firm commitment to education for a variety of ages. Education and outreach programming includes performances for area schools, autism-friendly relaxed performances, artist residencies, summer movies for families, and resources such as a podcast series and other learning tools.
More information on State Theatre NJ’s programming and history can be found at https://www.stnj.org.
Current Environment and Opportunity
State Theatre NJ is at a moment of transition in its long and storied history. While the company has soundly built up resources over the last decade, there is a realization amongst Board, staff, and community advocates that new leadership must clarify State Theatre NJ’s vision and purpose and offer a road map for how its programming will continue to evolve to respond to New Brunswick’s and the surrounding area’s shifting audience demographics.
The current capital campaign was launched to address the ability for State Theatre NJ to make long-term fixes and changes to its existing facility which are intended to position it for greater opportunity for engagement, access, and artistic inspiration. The success of the capital campaign is predicated on a private/public partnership[LP2] . It will be important for the next President & CEO to nurture a relationship with Middlesex County government since public sector buy-in is important not only from a resource allocation standpoint, but also as a marker of the greater community’s belief in how the State Theatre NJ vision is important for New Brunswick’s economy. Ensuring the campaign’s success while State Theatre NJ’s operations can continue to flourish will require a deft ability from the next CEO to skillfully manage expectations, schedules, and relationships.
While the capital campaign addresses a host of physical needs for the overall State Theatre NJ experience, including becoming ADA compliant and replacing the hemp-and-sandbag rigging system, the core vision of the institution must be looked at with scrutiny and care by an experienced leader who will clarify and positively convey a sense of purpose and forward thinking through programming and community engagement. Now is a time when State Theatre NJ cannot retreat from bold ideas. It is critical for a charismatic leader to reinvigorate a talented Board and staff looking for an inspired sense of direction.
Over the past two decades, New Brunswick’s population has seen a tidal shift in its ethnic and social diversity. Connecting to New Brunswick’s African American[LP3] community and growing Latinx population is something that new leadership will need to acknowledge as a real opportunity for becoming even more deeply embedded in the contemporary life of the city. Celebrating the historic nature of State Theatre NJ cannot be ignored as the company looks to the future, but addressing the “here and now” needs and desires of the community is a particular focus that can positively transform the ongoing operations of the theatre.
There is also currently great excitement within New Brunswick over the ongoing construction of the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center which will be situated next door to State Theatre NJ. That physical addition to the life of New Brunswick will firmly establish a downtown cultural district. This additional performance space will provide residency for George Street Playhouse, Crossroads Theatre Co., American Repertory Ballet, and Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. The creation of this new $172 Million facility is seen as a positive step towards securing a greater sense of cultural identity for New Brunswick, but at the same time State Theatre NJ’s new leader must understand how to manage the politics of this complementary relationship while always promoting State Theatre NJ as a leading reason for why the city and the region is a true cultural oasis.
Position and Responsibilities
The President & CEO will serve in a highly visible internal and external capacity to promote the best interests of State Theatre NJ. In so doing, the President & CEO will clarify State Theatre NJ’s greater social value to its community and make that vision and purpose abundantly clear to staff, Board, supporters and the region’s cultural enthusiasts. This new leader will have a talent for programming, either honed through practice or oversight, as well as a cunning ability to connect with people and inspire a team to work towards the common shared goal of making State Theatre NJ’s impact deeper and richer within the community. Combining a sense of daring, play, and warmth with an ability to create strong and sustainable systems will be a defining characteristic of the right candidate for this position[LP4] [JW5] . The next President & CEO will be deeply motivated to understand the greater New Brunswick community and to find her or his place as a civic leader.
· Set a crystal-clear vision for State Theatre NJ supported by its current five-year strategic plan as a framework for that approach.
· Lead a team as a leading player, inspiring others through a sense of confidence, openness, warmth, and authenticity.
· Establish and constantly tend to a great working relationship with State Theatre NJ’s Board of Directors.
· Guide the annual organizational budgeting process.
· Adhere to a strategic approach to organizational planning guided by foresight for opportunity.
Programming and Education
· Define the artistic vision and direction of State Theatre NJ programming from a place of knowledge, confidence, and collaboration.
· Deepen State Theatre NJ’s capacity for providing educational access that is responsive to current community need.
Fundraising, Administration, and Strategy
· Fully participate in institutional fundraising by leading the charge for support as State Theatre NJ’s most public advocate.
Communication and Marketing
· Charismatically act as State Theatre NJ’s chief spokesperson.
· Communicate challenges and opportunities to Board and staff with transparency and openness.
State Theatre New Jersey is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices and, in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool. The ideal candidate will have the following:
· Substantial artistic and managerial experience in conceiving and presenting live events.
· Demonstrated experience working with budgets, finance, and organizational planning.
· Proven track record of high-level participation in fundraising.
· Collaborative, transparent, team-oriented approach to work.
· Ability to multi-task and respond swiftly and under pressure in a fast-paced environment.
· Great writing and communication skills.
· Talent for mobilizing a team of professional staff and volunteers with an assured and inclusive sense of purpose.
· Excellent facility for communicating opportunities and challenges with positive pragmatism.
The ideal candidate will also possess the following characteristics:
· A true team spirit.
· A great attention to detail.
· A strong work ethic and authentic sense of grit.
· Ability to derive deep satisfaction from facilitating the best work of others.
· A desire to be a resident of New Brunswick or the surrounding community.
Compensation, Application Procedure and Start Date
The seven-member State Theatre NJ Search Committee is committed to reviewing a talented and diverse slate of candidates; females and candidates of color are strongly encouraged to apply. The salary and benefit package for this position will be competitive with other non-profit organizations of comparable stature and size.
State Theatre NJ hopes to make its decision in the first half of 2018 with the successful candidate onsite sometime soon after that. Interested candidates are invited to send a résumé, cover letter, and at least three professional references in Word or PDF format to the consulting firm retained to facilitate this important search:
Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc.
Subject Line: State Theatre New Jersey, President & CEO Search
Attn: Jonathan West or David Mallette
By email: MgtConArts@gmail.com
65 High Ridge Rd. # 128, Stamford, CT 06905
Phone: 203-353-0722 – Fax 203-353-0893 – www.MCAOnline.us