Scott Shiller, executive vice president of Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, on Thursday was named president and chief executive officer of Colorado’s Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Based in downtown Denver, the performing arts complex is the country’s second largest, after New York’s Lincoln Center.
Daniel Ritchie, the Denver Center’s CEO and chairman of its board of trustees since 2007, will continue to lead the board. He noted that Shiller was chosen from more than 100 applicants and said of the center’s new president, “We have so much in common in terms of values and priorities. Trustworthiness is so important all around, and obviously he’s had a lot of experience.”
In an increasingly diverse Denver, Shiller will oversee an operation that encompasses touring Broadway productions, locally produced theater from the Tony Award-winning Denver Center Theatre Company, experimental theater, cabaret and theater education. Enhancing the center’s creation of new work, broadening its variety of offerings and further engaging the region’s Latino, black and immigrant communities are all things Ritchie hopes Shiller will achieve in Denver.
Already, Shiller enthusiastically rattles off statistics about his new artistic home.
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“This is a $54 million organization. Last year, 800,000 visitors came to see 43 productions,” he said. “I hope to learn from and collaborate with the artists there. I want to challenge the organizations to be innovative. I want to collaborate with and be a sounding board for Kent [Thompson, producing artistic director of the Denver Center Theatre Company]. I want to work with Broadway producers, not just to get great theater from New York but to create work that travels to New York and the rest of the country.”
Shiller, 39, joined the Arsht Center in 2007, just 10 years after graduating from Emerson College in Boston. Before coming to Miami, he worked as vice president of programming for the Chicago Theatre and Los Angeles’ Kodak Theatre, director of programming at Boston’s On the Line Company, and theater and marketing manager for Broadway in Boston.
At the Arsht, Shiller made his mark in ways both financial and artistic.
He programmed lavish summer shows more dependent on spectacle than language, thus appealing to Miami’s diverse audiences. He launched initiatives like the Theatre Up Close series in the center’s Carnival Studio Theater, creating a home for the Carbonell Award-winning Zoetic Stage, annual collaborations between the Arsht and the University of Miami, and multiple productions by Chicago’s House Theatre, which will create a commissioned trilogy for the Arsht’s just-announced 10th anniversary 10@10 celebration.
During Shiller’s tenure, the Arsht has also showcased the work of nationally impactful Miami artists such as choreographer Rosie Herrera, as well as presenting City Theatre’s annual Summer Shorts festival and the International Hispanic Theatre Festival. When Shiller arrived at the Arsht, the center’s touring Broadway series had 2,000 subscribers; now, it has 7,000, and recently the Arsht has sold more than $1 million in tickets to each week-long run.
“I’m so proud of him ... He’s been the master of invention here,” said John Richard, the Arsht’s president and CEO. “His fingerprints are all over the center. He is a superstar, and Denver has made a very wise decision.”
Richard also lauded Shiller’s multitasking, forward-thinking style.
“When he comes into the office in the morning, he has nine ideas,” Richard said. “He lives in real time — today, what’s happening tonight — while staying focused on next year and the year after. What comes out of that is Scott’s special sauce ... It’s in his DNA.”
Stuart Meltzer, artistic director and one of the four Zoetic Stage founders, said the five-year-old company — which has five successful world premieres to its credit and leads all South Florida theaters with 16 nominations for the 2014 Carbonell Awards — wouldn’t have come so far so fast without the support of Shiller and the Arsht.
“He gave us a nesting ground where creativity and risk could be explored. He’s an unbelievable mensch,” Meltzer said. “He’s young, he’s smart, he’s savvy, he communicates so well, he’s good with numbers. He is a collaborator. He loves to share ideas. He loves to listen, and he loves producing new work.”
Shiller, who will continue at the Arsht through April, noted that when he and his wife Kerry moved to Miami, the first piece of theater he saw was the Off-Broadway smash Urinetown at Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables. The Shillers became regulars at theaters all over the region, and for several years Shiller has served as president of the board that administers the Carbonell Awards, South Florida theater’s highest honor.
“I just fell in love with the arts community here,” he said. “I’ve loved nurturing artists, getting to know the artistic community, highlighting talent.”