Theatre Forward has selected Gretchen Shugart as Executive Director, following an executive search process led by Arts Consulting Group (ACG). She began her tenure on April 1, 2020, following 18 years of service by Executive Director Bruce Whitacre.
Ms. Shugart recently served as CEO of TheaterMania.com, Inc., a media and technology company that she spent 17 years building from startup until its sale in 2017. During her tenure, the company acquired United Kingdom-based WhatsOnStage and launched OvationTix, a SaaS business that provides ticketing, fundraising, and CRM tools to hundreds of performing arts organizations. In addition to executive producing the Drama Desk Awards, she helped TheatreMania become a leading provider of theatre information and tickets to millions of consumers throughout the United States and United Kingdom. Following TheaterMania’s sale, she served as President, Arts & Culture of acquiring company AudienceView, ensuring a smooth transition to new ownership. Ms. Shugart’s additional experience includes roles at JP Morgan Chase predecessors MHT and Chase, merger and acquisition advisory firm CEA, and Bank of Montreal. She has also provided consulting services to several early stage ventures and served as President of advisory firm eMediaCapital LLC.
Ms. Shugart has been a board member of Theatre Forward for more than a decade, serving as Board President from 2011 to 2018. Other previous board service includes Vineyard Theater, TADA!, and the Advisory Board of California Institute of the Arts. She currently serves on the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s Advisory Council and is Co-Chair of the museum’s Council on Feminist Art. Ms. Shugart is a mentor in Columbia University’s Masters in Technology Management program and holds a bachelor of science from New York University Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
In making the announcement, Board Chairman John Thomopoulos said, “Theatre Forward has been fortunate over the past few years to benefit from Gretchen’s advice and experience as a leader on our board and we are very excited that she will be the next Executive Director. Her knowledge of the theatre industry, both commercial and nonprofit, and her experience generating revenue and growth in this field will be invaluable as we enter a new decade with strong programs in place. All of us have enormous respect for Gretchen’s insights and management capabilities. She is the perfect leader to build on what we have achieved as we continue to serve the American theatre and its communities.”
Outgoing Executive Director Bruce Whitacre said, “Gretchen is ideally positioned to immediately guide Theatre Forward as it enters a new phase of work in equity, diversity, and inclusion and educating through theatre. She was my trusted leader and advisor as Board President for seven years, during which we rebranded the organization and designed the programs that have set the stage for our future success. I congratulate her and Theatre Forward on this wonderful match.”
“As incoming Executive Director, I now have the opportunity to work directly with our staff, board, and funders to continue providing service and support to help our member theatres do important work that enriches our communities and makes theatre accessible to more people through a multitude of programs,” said Ms. Shugart. “I am honored to bring my management experience, love of the arts, and familiarity with the theatre industry to build on our work and I am grateful for the opportunity.”
“It was a great pleasure working with the search committee, board, and staff at Theatre Forward,” said ACG Vice President Jenna Deja. “ACG would like to congratulate Gretchen Shugart on her appointment as Executive Director. In this key role, we are confident that her expertise in finance, entrepreneurship, and technology, as well as her dedication to advancing the theatre industry, will be a valuable asset to both Theatre Forward and its members.”