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An artistic director is the executive of an arts organization, particularly in a theatre company, that handles the organization's artistic direction. He or she is generally a producer and director, but not in the sense of a mogul, since the organization is generally a non-profit organization. The artistic director of a theatre company is the individual with the overarching artistic control of the theatre's production choices, directorial choices, and overall artistic vision. In smaller theatres, the artistic director may be the founder of the theatre and the primary director of its plays. In larger non-profit theatres (often known in Canada and the United States as regional theatres) the artistic director may be appointed by the board of directors.
The artistic director of a theatre is similar to the music director of a symphony, the primary person responsible for planning a theatre's season. The artistic director's responsibilities can include but are not limited to choosing the material staged in a season, the hiring of creative/production personnel (such as directors), and other theatre management tasks. He or she may also direct productions for the company. Artistic directors work closely with the general manager of the theatre, and contribute the artistic evaluation of projects and productions to be included in promotional, funding, and press materials. An artistic director also functions as a resource for the directors who are working to mount productions at the theatre and can provide support, counsel, and/or artistic input where requested. The artistic director may be called to assume the production should the director become unable to complete his/her duties. Artistic directors are frequently regarded as the artistic representatives of theatre companies and are often required to speak about their theatre to the press. In the United States, artistic directors often have fundraising responsibilities as well.
In some ensemble companies, the artistic director is responsible for recruiting performers to act as a talent pool for the company's productions. This ensemble may include actors and artists of various disciplines. The artistic director functions as leader of this group, with the aim to create and/or realize various new and established works.
In ballet the artistic director is the head of a ballet company. He has overall responsibility for training the dancers and mounting productions. He is almost always a retired dancer. Often he also choreographs some of the company's productions.
In some companies the artistic director may also manage the company but in a great many companies the artistic director may only make decisions about the art. In those cases decisions about administration, business issues, finances, fundraising, board relations, donor relations, publicity and marketing are usually the responsibility of the General Manager, Chief Operations Officer or Managing Director.
Prominent artistic directors
Each of these artistic directors manages a professional arts organization:
- Jason Alexander — Reprise Theatre Company
- Randall Arney – Geffen Playhouse
- Pierre Audi — Dutch National Opera
- Robert Battle — Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
- Charlotte Benns - TheNaked.
- Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton — Sydney Theatre Company
- Michael Colgan — Gate Theatre
- Stephen Cronin - Bor Studios
- Robert Falls — Goodman Theatre
- Joe Dowling — Guthrie Theatre
- Jan Englert - The National Theatre in Warsaw
- Michael Kahn — Shakespeare Theatre Company
- Renu Kumar - R.G.K. Modern Indian Dance Academy
- Rick Lombardo - San Jose Repertory Theatre
- Emily Mann (director) — McCarter Theatre
- Diane Paulus — American Repertory Theatre
- Bill Rauch — Oregon Shakespeare Festival
- Michael Ritchie — Center Theatre Group
- Kevin Spacey — Old Vic
- Helgi Tomasson — San Francisco Ballet
- Lin Hwai-min - Cloud Gate Dance Theatre
- Willy Tsao - City Contemporary Dance Company and BeijingDance / LDTX,
- Karen Kain - National Ballet of Canada
- Nikolaj Hübbe - Royal Danish Ballet
- Gregory Doran — Royal Shakespeare Company
- Mark Baldwin — Rambert Dance Company
- Jillian Keiley - National Arts Centre of Canada