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Chris Smith And The Magic Theatre Part Ways

October 5, 2007

This just in: The Magic Theatre's artistic director, Chris Smith, has announced that he is leaving company at the end of the season to pursue new projects. According to Evren Odcikin, the theatre's marketing manager who called me to tell me the news this afternoon, Chris doesn't have a new job lined up. He's on the lookout. Meanwhile, The Magic is starting a nationwide search for a new artistic director.

I am gutted that Chris is leaving. He is one of the most generous and optimistic souls I know working in the theatre today. As his productions at The Magic have proved, Chris a punchy director. He's also a natural leader who knows how to nurture artists and engage audiences.

I can totally understand why he's heading out though. Despite Chris' enthusiasm and talent, the 40-year-old Magic has struggled to find its identity over the past few years. It has never quite been able to recoup its glory days back in the 60s and 70s when the likes of Sam Shepard, Robert Woodruff, Michael McClure and Joseph Chaikin exploded onto the national scene with work produced at The Magic.

David Mamet's Faust and Bill Pullman's Expedition 6 might demonstrate how capable Chris is at drawing in the big guns, but the quality of these works has not lived up to the stature of the creators. And shows like The Joan Rivers Project, though economically successful, hardly help promote The Magic's image as a home for cutting edge new plays.

Then again, Chris has done so much to promote the work of contemporary dramatists. Since he arrived just five years ago, the Magic has produced 20 world premieres, four American premieres, and three Bay Area premieres. 14 of these plays have received subsequent national and international productions (which is always a challenge for new work as most producers are tied to the glory of hosting world premieres and don't want to touch second productions.) I'm particularly grateful to Chris for helping to take the careers of such playwrights as Julie Marie Myatt, Mat Smart, Courtney Baron, and Betty Shamieh to the next level. And it makes me proud to know that The Magic is a place where more established writers like Rebecca Gilman and Edna O'Brien want to premiere their new work.

Chris Smith will be missed. The question is, will his successor help the Magic to find its identity once again?

3 Comments:

  • Chris Smith caused a lot of problems at Magic Theatre. I know I cancelled my season tickets after 1 season with him. There were just too many ideas that didn't take into account the theatre goers or quality of output. The Hot House idea is the best example. Why would season ticket holders want half of a year of theatre to be squeezed into 6 weeks, while the quality became questionnable. I miss the old Magic Theatre.

    By Anonymous BradSF@ymail.com, At July 1, 2009 at 4:45 PM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, At February 13, 2010 at 7:47 AM  

  • For those of you who did see the brilliance of Chris Smith's work, he is Directing 42nd Street Moon's new production of the Gershwins' Lady, Be Good! re-imagined right here in San Francisco (with the blessing of the Gershwins' I understand)

    By Anonymous Ken, At March 30, 2010 at 9:08 AM  

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