National search lands Miamian as first executive director of Grove playhouse
By Susan Stabley
A former executive director of a New York music conservatory is the first executive director of the Coconut Grove Playhouse.
Laura Calzolari took over the non-profit playhouse's business operations Monday and held a staff meeting. The name of the veteran arts administrator was announced Jan. 3 by Board of Trustees Chairman Vincent Post.
"A trustee I had gotten to know asked if he could put in my name for consideration," Ms. Calzolari said. "The rest is history."
Ms. Calzolari was selected from a national search conducted by Miami-based Lydia Harrison & Associates, which gleaned more than 50 resumes. The board created a new leadership position for the theater in August 2001 but was unable to hire a search firm until a year later because of lack of funds.
Board member and chair of the selection committee Sandra Gonzalez-Levy said it was a "very difficult decision, but a unanimous one."
The final choice was one with "expertise in managing art organizations and in development," according to Mr. Post.
For 16 years, Ms. Calzolari was the executive director of the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains, NY, where she oversaw budgets, expansion of programs and audience, a redevelopment project and capital campaign for the institution's renovation and relocation in January 2001.
She was also founding director of the Center Music School, Jewish Community Center in Stamford, CT, and spent 10 years as a professional flutist specializing in chamber and contemporary music. She holds a master of music degree in flute performance and musicology from the Manhattan School of Music.
The Coconut Grove Playhouse declined to detail Ms. Calzolari's compensation package, deeming it "subject to a confidential agreement," said Director of Marketing and Communications Deborah Eyerdam. However, she did say it was comparable to other executive director positions in South Florida and across the US.
Ms. Calzolari moved to Miami in June 2001 when her husband, Howard Herring, became the president of Miami Beach's New World Symphony.
Both knew little about Miami before moving here, having previously only stopped in the city to change planes.
"I love the warm weather. It's so wonderful here. It exceeded our expectations," she said. "I love the diversity. I love the vibrancy of the community and all the wonderful arts organizations."
Recently, Ms. Calzolari has been working locally as an art consultant, having last worked with the Florida Grand Opera, she said.
According to Ms. Eyerdam, the new executive director will manage the organization's day-to-day business operations including development, capital campaign, government and community relations, finances, facilities, marketing and public relations.
Ms. Calzolari will work closely with Producing Artistic Director Arnold Mittelman, who is responsible for the institution's artistic and educational programs. Both will report to the Playhouse Board of Directors.
Mr. Mittelman had been both directing plays and running operations. Those responsibilities will now be split.
The State of Florida, which owns the Coconut Grove Playhouse, demanded division of the roles and restructuring of the board to allow the theater to keep its $500,000 state allocation.
"It's a more typical model for regional theater to have this structure," said Ms. Eyerdam.
The Coconut Grove Playhouse is South Florida's largest not-for-profit theater with budget this fiscal year of $7 million, according to Ms. Eyerdam, and has been producing and presenting plays and musicals for 47 years.
The building was opened in 1926 as a movie theater. The playhouse serves close to 200,000 patrons each season, plus 65,000 students through its education and outreach programs.
"Working with the board and Arnold," Ms. Calzolari said, "I want to do everything I can to ensure it has more than another 47 years."