SALT LAKE CITY: And so the Christopher Massimine saga comes to an end. Yesterday the managing director of Pioneer Theatre Company resigned from his post and broke his silence about months of reporting that uncovered glaring discrepancies in his résumé and an apparent pattern of fabulism throughout his career—reporting which began with Adam Herbets at FOX 13 in Utah, and culminated yesterday with a New York Times report by Rebecca Ritzel (since updated with news of Massimine’s resignation, which followed soon after initial publication).
Herbets was the first to report that Massimine, who’d been hired into the $200,000-a-year job in 2019 after a national search, had not only clearly inflated the CV that landed him the gig—claiming to have done everything from managing campaigns for Old Spice and KFC to working on popular video game titles—but also continued to fabricate accolades while in the job, including a humanitarian award from a non-existent organization. Ritzel was able to speak to Massimine’s previous employers and associates at New York’s National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene, who had praise for his work at the company while also conceding that he left under a cloud of suspicion about an unauthorized investment.
She also got quotes from Maggie Massimine, the embattled manager’s wife, who attempted to refute many of the claims about him, and expressed bafflement at the revelation that he had in fact not received both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in a mere three years at NYU. “He was as surprised as everyone else,” she told Ritzel.
For the record, American Theatre was implicated in Massimine’s campaign of prevarication, running an op-ed by him earlier this year in which he talked about how Pioneer Theatre Company had weathered the pandemic, stayed solvent, and managed to pay people to make things like masks and protective gear. As FOX 13’s Herbets discovered, at least one number Massimine cited seemed to be wrong: He claimed that the deficit faced by the company at the end of FY20 was $66,000, but Herbets found records to show it was in fact $102,779.29.
Massimine addressed that discrepancy in his statement yesterday (published in full below). One final note re: American Theatre‘s involvement: We did try to reach out to Massimine and his colleague, Pioneer artistic director Karen Azenberg, as well as to representatives of Folksbiene and Management Consultants for the Arts, the search firm that ostensibly vetted Massimine’s qualifications for the job (and charged $35,000 for the trouble). None wanted to speak about the situation, least of all MCA, whose spokesman told me, “We have a policy within our firm to not speak to the media about a specific project without our client’s permission.” When I replied, “If you can’t speak about this particular search, could you speak to me more generally about what a search typically entails, and whether checking credits on a résumé is or is not part of your remit?”, I got back this offer: “I appreciate you reframing the question and in the future would be open to having a discussion of search practices that would include our peers in the field. For now, I’m happy to take a look at any article you’re writing and if there’s something I can comment on, I’d consider that.”
Below is the text of Massimine’s resignation letter, which we publish advisedly, the claims in it not having been confirmed, but whose entirety seems newsworthy.
“For my entire life, I’ve battled with mental illness. The struggle, as with so many others with such an illness, is deeply personal and not one that most people are inclined to share with others. This is the first time that many of my friends and colleagues will hear of my dilemma. In 2019, my wife, Maggie, and I decided to move to Salt Lake City from New York City so I could take the position as managing director of Pioneer Theatre Company (PTC). We hoped to find a better quality of life, a more meaningful pace, and a healthier environment to start our family. And, indeed, we discovered all the goodness Utah has to offer.
Despite many good things that have happened over the last two years under my direction, effective Aug. 20, 2021, I will resign my position at Pioneer Theatre Company in order to address issues in my personal and professional life, stemming from untreated and at times an incorrectly treated mental health condition. Despite my mental disability, and stressors from a dying mother, the birth of my firstborn, and workplace change management, I accomplished some important milestones during my tenure at PTC, including the following:
First, I oversaw almost a doubling of individual giving to PTC in FY20, and more than doubling it in FY21.
Second, I led the administrative operations for PTC’s most successful single-ticket-selling play, The Play That Goes Wrong.
Third, I initiated a brand campaign for the theatre to find its identity and narrative within the community.
Fourth, I began diversifying the board with the aim to continue to ensure Utah’s vibrant BIPOC community was represented.
Fifth, I worked to ensure all employees furloughed during COVID-19, when the season was suspended, were offered a return to work by end of December 2020. In addition, I oversaw the organization financially through the COVID-19 crisis reducing a potential $1.4 million loss in the 2019-20 fiscal year per the theatre’s Audited Financial Statement, to a deficit of $102,799 ($32,190 of which belonged to the U of U Theatre Department, thus leaving PTC with a true deficit of just $70,589. In FY 2018-19 the true deficit was $66,279 per the Pioneer Theatre Fund Balance, which I in error reported to American Theatre magazine as FY20, instead of the FY20 $70,589 true deficit.)
In May of this year, I went on FMLA for in-patient treatment of my deteriorating mental health and suicidal thoughts, but with PTC projected to end 2020-21 (on June 30, 2021), with a balanced budget. Local and national news outlets have reported this year that I misrepresented my work history on my résumé, in press releases, and interviews, both prior to accepting the PTC position and during my tenure here. There is a fair amount of truth within the reporting, withstanding discrepancies. Regardless, I take responsibility for errors in my résumé but stand by my work product throughout my career.
In stepping down from PTC, I hope that the organization can move forward in the best manner for its objectives. Most importantly, I hope that this saga becomes a catalyst for discussing mental health in the workplace and in our beloved arts community. I look forward to working hard, and making meaningful contributions in my future employment. In the meantime, I remain a present, attentive, and loving husband, father, and steadfast advocate for the arts.”
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