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An artistic director is the executive of an arts organization, particularly in a theatre company, who handles the organization's artistic direction. They are 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 musical 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. They have overall responsibility for training the dancers and mounting productions. They are almost always a retired dancer. Often they also choreographs some of the company's productions.
In some companies, the artistic director may also manage the company, but in 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
Notable artistic directors of major professional arts organizations and institutions:
- Arvin Brown - formerly Longwharf Theater
- Bill Rauch — Oregon Shakespeare Festival, formerly Cornerstone Theater Company
- Brett Sheehy - Melbourne Theatre Company formerly Sydney Festival, Adelaide Festival, Melbourne Festival
- Brigitte Haentjens — National Arts Centre French Theatre
- Carey Perloff — American Conservatory Theater
- Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton — Sydney Theatre Company
- Diane Paulus — American Repertory Theater
- Emily Mann — McCarter Theatre
- Gregory Doran — Royal Shakespeare Company
- Helgi Tomasson — San Francisco Ballet
- Jan Englert — The National Theatre in Warsaw
- Jason Alexander — Reprise Theatre Company
- Jillian Keiley — National Arts Centre English Theatre
- Joe Dowling — formerly Guthrie Theater
- Karen Kain — National Ballet of Canada
- Keith Fowler — formerly Virginia Museum Theater, American Revels Company
- Kevin McKenzie — American Ballet Theatre
- Kevin Spacey — The Old Vic
- Lin Hwai-min — Cloud Gate Dance Theatre
- Mark Baldwin — Rambert Dance Company
- Michael Colgan — Gate Theatre
- Michael Kahn — Shakespeare Theatre Company
- Michael Ritchie — Center Theatre Group, formerly Williamstown Theatre Festival
- Sir Nicholas Hytner — Royal National Theatre
- Nikolaj Hübbe — Royal Danish Ballet
- Nikos Psacharopoulos — formerly Williamstown Theatre Festival
- Sir Peter Hall - formerly Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre
- Pierre Audi — Dutch National Opera
- Reid Anderson — Stuttgart Ballet
- Rick Lombardo — San Jose Repertory Theatre
- Robert Battle — Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
- Robert Falls — Goodman Theatre
- Rufus Norris - Royal National Theatre
- Sheldon Epps — Pasadena Playhouse
- Sir Tyrone Guthrie — formerly Guthrie Theater, Stratford Festival of Canada
- Willy Tsao — City Contemporary Dance Company and BeijingDance / LDTX
- Stanislavski, Constantin (1936). An Actor Prepares. Theatre Arts Inc. New York.
- Rudnitsky, Konstantin, Transl. G. Petrov (1981). Meyerhold the Director. Ardis, Ann Arbor, MI.
- Brook, Peter (1972). The Empty Space. Harmondsworth, UK: Pelican.
- Lanipekun, Jennifer (2011). Communication in Theatre Directing and Performance from rehearsal to production. Cambria Press, New York. pp. Appendix I: Interview with Director 1, Artistic Director of Opera Company 1.