Intiman Theatre (A)

Intiman Theatre (A)

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In the fall of 2016, Andrew Russell, Producing Artistic Director of Seattle’s Intiman Theatre, was preparing to depart his position and move to New York City. As he reflected on all that had transpired over the previous five years, he was cautiously optimistic about what the future held for this resolute organization.

Five years earlier, Intiman had closed following a much-publicized financial crisis. Following the closure, Russell partnered with a few dedicated trustees to reopen the theater as a summer festival, and Intiman subsequently began paying off over $2 million in debt, which had been incurred over several years prior to Russell’s arrival. Russell made notable structural changes at Intiman during his tenure, including producing shows in different venues around Seattle, establishing a repertory company, and building partnerships with other non-profits.

By 2016, Russell believed that, following negotiations with Seattle Center, Intiman’s former landlord, and the acquisition of two major gifts totaling nearly $1 million, full debt repayment was in sight. He said, "The Board and I got to a place of [asking], 'What does Intiman look like in 5, 10, or 20 years?' We knew that we had reached the end of an era, and [my departure] was the beginning of a new one."

But Intiman was still financially precarious. Earned revenue for the 2016 season had fallen over $52,000 short of its goal, following a $238,000 shortfall in the 2015 season. There had not been a long-term Managing Director since 2012, and there was only one staff member fully dedicated to fundraising. Furthermore, some in the community were confused about Intiman’s identity and its place in Seattle’s artistic ecosystem. When comparing pre-2011 Intiman to the 2016 iteration, one former trustee said, “It’s a totally different theater now. It has the same name, but it’s not the Intiman that I joined.”

As Russell and the Board began searching for a new leader, there were several key questions to be answered in considering Intiman’s sustainability: Was the summer festival working, or did Intiman’s model need to be reevaluated? Could Intiman someday operate at its former size and scope, and did it want to? Given its financial situation and remaining debt, what could be done to ensure Intiman’s survival for the next 5, 10, or 20 years?

Publication Date: 2020-11-16

Suggested Citation:  Eliza Orleans, "Intiman Theatre (A)," Yale Theater Management Knowledge Base Case 19-100a, November, 16, 2020

Keywords: Seattle, Branding, Leadership Transition, Organizational Direction

Teaching Notes: Yes (contact yaletmknowledgebase@yale.edu)

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This case is from the Theater Management Knowledge Base, a body of arts management material created by Yale School of Drama Theater Management students and faculty, overseen by an editorial board of leading practitioners. For more information or for help in selecting cases suitable for your educational or organizational purposes, please email yaletmknowledgebase@yale.edu.