Michael Gennaro, executive director at Trinity Repertory Co. in Providence, joined the organization five years ago after along career in the theater world including time spent as an actor, entertainment attorney, and as theatrical producer.
With it 2012-2013 season underway – with "Chicago’s Famed Second City" and "Tango," a collaboration of the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA program on the bill – the company got some more good news when the RI Economic Development Corporation gave preliminary approval for Trinity Rep to obtain tax exempt bond financing the theater desperately needs to cover fire safety code improvements.
PBN: You came to Trinity Rep in 2007. Have you achieved your five-year goal set?
GENNARO: I feel my success has been mixed in achieving the goals I set for myself. Curt Columbus and I inherited significant debt which we have not increased and have in fact reduced. And while we have done a better job of managing our debt, it has not been eliminated. At the same time we have done an excellent job of staying within our approved expenses and have been able to come in under budget most years.
PBN: You faced unexpectedly difficult financial times, coming on board just as the financial tide was turning. How have you had to reorganize fundraising goals and other plans since then?
GENNARO: The first year of the recession hit us hard because ticket sales slowed considerably despite strong critical reviews. We were forced to cut almost $1 million in expenses. We had to let staff go and there were salary reductions. We have become more targeted in our development efforts and have actually seen increases in some areas of contributed revenue.
On the flip side, we have seen losses in other areas such as overall government funding and reorganized our fundraising efforts by launching a Capital Campaign called Theater for Every Generation This is a comprehensive campaign to raise $18 million over several years which is expected to be completed in fiscal 2013/14, our 50th anniversary.
PBN: The EDC just issued preliminary approval to allow you to obtain tax exempt bond financing that would take care of much needed fire safety code improvements. How crucial is this in getting you up to speed?
GENNARO: We have been working hard to upgrade our patron safety in partnership with the state and city fire marshals, but it has been difficult to find financing to fund this critical need. Bond financing will help us to finally begin this much needed work and achieve compliance.
PBN: What would you most like to do at Trinity Rep that you’ve yet?
GENNARO: From where I sit I would like to retire our debt which has seemed like Marley's chains from "A Christmas Carol." But even in the headwinds of difficult times I believe we are most proud of the growth and reach of our educational programs and the growing partnership with Brown University in a nationally recognized MFA program. Moreover, we continue to produce new works created with and by the Acting Company, which is central to our mission.
PBN: Of all the theater-world hats you’ve worn during your career, where does executive director of a company fit? Do you see this is as your last role?
GENNARO: I am a lifelong student of the theater and dance and feel most comfortable in a company environment where the artists are resident and serve as the basis for the DNA of the organization. This is what makes Trinity Trinity. My work will not be complete until I have found an operating model that is sustainable for the next 50 years as we celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2013-14.
Trinity Repertory Co.,
Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation