David Armstrong. (Photo by Mark Kitaoka)

David Armstrong to Depart the 5th Avenue Theatre

The longtime artistic director will step down at the end of the 2017-18 season after 18 years at the helm.

SEATTLE: The 5th Avenue Theatre has announced that executive producer and artistic director David Armstrong will step down at the end of the 2017-18 season. Armstrong will assume the title of artistic director emeritus and work as a consultant, advisor, and frequent director. The theatre will not fill Armstrong’s position. Managing director Bernadine C. Griffin and producing director Bill Berry will share leadership.

“While we are sad to see David depart, we also feel great joy and excitement as we imagine what the future holds for him,” said chairman of the Board Stephen P. Reynolds in a statement. “We are also excited to see what the next chapter of the 5th Avenue Theatre holds and feel confident in a smooth transition in leadership. We have worked closely with David, Bernie and Bill in the last two years to develop a succession plan, and feel that this will be a very natural transition.”

During his 18-year tenure at the 5th Avenue Theatre, Armstrong expanded the company’s national reputation. The company has produced 18 new musicals, 9 of which went on to have Broadway productions including the Tony-winning productions of Hairspray and Memphis. The theatre also developed numerous arts education initiatives, national competitions, and mentorship programs to support young audiences and artists. Armstrong has also fostered local talent, helping to make Seattle the largest arts employer in the Pacific Northwest. He also forged relationships with other performing arts organizations in the community, partnering the 5th Avenue Theatre with ACT, Spectrum Dance Theatre, Seattle Men’s Chorus, and the Pacific Lutheran Chorus. He spearheaded the citywide Seattle Celebrates Bernstein festival in 2010, and will helm the 2018 Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare festival.

“The time that I have devoted to this theatre company has truly been the highlight of my nearly 40 years of working in the American theatre, and no other job has been nearly as meaningful or rewarding,” said Armstrong in a statement. “I could not be more proud of what I have accomplished during my time at the 5th, first as producing artistic director, working in partnership with Marilynn Sheldon; and then in my current role in collaboration with Bernie Griffin and Bill Berry. After nearly 18 amazing years leading this organization I have decided it is time to let go of the day-to-day responsibilities of running a large theatre company so that I can focus more effectively on my creative work as a director and writer.”

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