BERKELEY, CALIF.: Berkeley Repertory Theatre today announced that long-time managing director Susie Medak will depart the company at the end of its current season, its 53rd, this coming summer. When Medak leaves, she will have been on staff at the company for 32 years. In that time she was worked with no fewer than three artistics directors: Sharon Ott, Tony Taccone, and Johanna Pfaelzer, who began in the job in 2019.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead this company for so many years,” said Medak in a statement. “Making theatre, making really good and impactful, entertaining, and provocative theatre, has brought me into contact with so many simply remarkable people…As far as I’m concerned, this has been the best job in the world. It is time for me to make room for someone new.” Of the current artistic director, Medak added, “Johanna is a superb leader, with a dynamic vision. She is also a thoughtful partner who will be a joy for whomever comes next. She deserves an equally dynamic partner so that together, they can shape this company for a new generation of theatre lovers and theatremakers.”
For her part, Pfaelzer said in a statement, “I am unbelievably fortunate to have had Susie by my side for the last two and a half years. Neither of us could have foretold that we would find ourselves in a partnership forged in the fire of a pandemic that has created more vulnerability in our field that anyone could have imagined, but I am deeply grateful to have had her wisdom and cool head as we have steered Berkeley Rep though the last two years.” Medak’s legacy, she added, “will be in the generations of artists, artisans, and organizational leaders she has championed over the years, and whose impact on this art form is immeasurable. It’s hard to picture Berkeley Rep without her, but we will move forward holding fast to her commitment to the people of this company and this community.”
During Medak’s tenure as Berkeley Rep’s managing director, the Tony-winning nonprofit presented more than 80 world, American, and West Coast premieres, and nurtured 34 shows that made their to New York, two to London, and one to Hong Kong. Broadway shows that originated at Berkeley Rep include Paradise Square (set to open in spring 2022), Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, No Man’s Land, Amelie, American Idiot, Passing Strange, Bridge and Tunnel, and Wishful Drinking, among others.
Under Medak’s leadership, Berkeley Rep also oversaw the unveiling of the state-of-the-art Roda Theatre, the renovation of the Peet’s Theatre, the creation of the School of Theatre, which supports the Teen Council, and other programming that has served countless young people since its inception in 2001. Medak helped transition Berkeley Rep from a theatre committed to adventuresome classics to a company known for its commitment to new work, exemplified by the creation of the Ground Floor. In 2011, she secured Berkeley Rep’s 62,000-square-foot pre-production facility in West Berkeley, and leaves Berkeley Rep having placed the last piece of its facilities puzzle: a 45-unit apartment building adjacent to the Roda Theatre to house guest artists and fellows and include a studio for showcasing new work. That project is slated to be completed within the year.
Medak also expanded professional growth opportunities for young people by deepening Berkeley Rep’s commitment to its fellowship program and by training 20 aspiring theatre managers who graduated from the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale, many of whom are leading theatres around the country today. In addition, she served on the board of Theatre Communications Group, and for six years s president of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT). Locally, she served on the board of the Downtown Berkeley Association for 20 years, and was the board chair for five. She co-founded the Berkeley Cultural Trust, the Berkeley Arts in Education Steering Committee, and the East Bay Cultural Alliance. Medak was also instrumental in the creation of the Berkeley’s Downtown Arts District.
“Susie has impacted so many people, communities and theaters in her career,” said Berkeley Rep board president Emily Shanks in a statement. “She has been instrumental in building Berkeley Rep into the nationally recognized theatre it is today. We have been so fortunate to have had her leadership and partnership with three great artistic directors by her side. She will be dearly missed, but I am happy for her to be starting a new chapter in her life. It is well deserved.”
The search team for Medak’s replacement will be spearheaded by Shanks and the Arts Consulting Group, ACG, led by Wyona Lynch-McWhite.
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