Managing Director: Bristol Riverside Theatre

Posted November 29th, 2017 at 1:08 pm.

Bristol Riverside Theatre (BRT) was founded in 1983 by Susan D. Atkinson who approached the Grundy Foundation with a radical proposal to transform Bristol, PA by renovating a derelict movie house into a legitimate theatre. Together, they re-developed an eyesore, transforming the building into one in which everyone from children to seniors can now enjoy high caliber professional theatre and educational activities. What was once a blight on this community is now the cornerstone of the downtown business district, and a proud community center piece. The partnership continues to this day with The Grundy Foundation as landlord and one of the theater’s largest funders.

Bristol Riverside Theatre operates out of a 302-seat theater in Bucks County, PA, just outside of Philadelphia. Programming includes five Equity Mainstage productions (LOA referencing LORT), a summer concert series, special presentations, four staged readings of new works as part of the “America Rising” series, an annual Christmas concert, and “ArtRageous,” a free summer camp for local youth. BRT’s season is notable for its variety, and the organization is known for its flexibility in responding to a range of programming choices and opportunities.

BRT is active in various community and professional organizations including the Bristol Business Association, Theatre Philadelphia, the Tessitura Consortium, and TCG.

BRT is dedicated to being the premiere regional theater for Bucks County and surrounding communities. Its mission is to engage audiences and artists alike with exceptional performances, inspired writing and superior productions that motivate us to think harder, to feel more deeply, laugh more joyfully and to reflect on ourselves and the worlds in which we live. BRT is known for a high level of production quality and is reviewed by local, regional and occasionally national publications. It is frequently represented in the annual Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theater given by Theatre Philadelphia.

Bristol Borough was first settled in 1681 and was Bucks County’s first county seat. It developed as a center of textile mills, and the evidence of that wealth from manufacturing still exists along the Delaware River in the form of restored historic homes. Bristol is a quaint small town of 10,000 people situated 22 miles from Center City Philadelphia and 70 miles from Midtown Manhattan. Its current and potential catchment area approaches a million people in a 4-county area of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Increasingly, Bristol is notable for the involvement and investment of its citizenry in its development. As several observers note, there has been a civic renaissance and an increase in investment.  For an insight into this civic energy you can take a look at the Hulu program Small Business Revolution that focuses this season on Bristol.

Current Environment, Opportunities, and Challenges

BRT is led by Founding Director Susan Atkinson, Artistic Director Keith Baker, and Melissa Zimmerman who is serving as interim Managing Director until April 2018.

BRT has an active and committed board of directors with 13 members. One of the goals for the new Managing Director will be to assist in board development.

BRT has put together a roster of accomplished and committed employees including 14 full-time and 6 regular part-time. While it can be an overused cliché, Bristol Riverside has created a staff that is as tight-knit as a family, many having been with the company for over 10 years.  Known for promoting from within, BRT has throughout its history been committed to the professional growth of its staff. It will be important for the new Managing Director to be an excellent team leader and encourage the staff’s development.  BRT strives to be a “learning institution”.

One of BRT’s many assets is its control of its real estate. In addition to its 302-seat theater, it controls artist housing in several buildings within walking distance from the theater, a rehearsal studio a block from the theater, and it leases a costume shop across the street, and a scene shop approximately a mile away. The theater is located on historic Radcliff Street with a lobby overlooking the scenic Delaware River. Its location is in the heart of Bristol’s commercial center.

With 3,000 subscribers, BRT has seen a steady growth in subscribership over the last decade. Needless to say, a focused effort to continue audience growth is essential.

The Theatre’s highest priority is to grow its contributed support. BRT has begun to create a culture of philanthropy among its board and supporters. BRT believes there is substantial room to grow its current level of contributed income, which is about $1.1M annually (excluding Grundy’s in-kind contribution of the theater rent. While Philadelphia foundations are key contributors, there is potential for more foundation, corporate and individual support from the town as well as Bucks County.  To that end, a full time Institutional Giving Manager was recently hired.

The 2016-17 year was BRT’s 30th anniversary season and one of its best artistically. Our Gala celebrating Keith Baker, BRT’s Artistic Director, along with honoring the Gundy Foundation and one of their most loyal staff members, was a huge success both financially and socially.   In addition, the individual donor base grew by over 32%, the subscription base grew by over 11% and paid attendance grew 26%.

While no plans for their succession are in place, planning for such has begun between the board and Artistic Director and Founding Director. By the time the new Managing Director joins BRT plans for succession will be in place.

Position and Responsibilities


The Managing Director will report directly to the Board of Directors and will work in a three-part co-equal partnership with the Founding and Artistic Directors. Currently, the Managing Director has four direct reports, including Marketing, Development, Facilities, Company Management and Accounting with Production Management reporting to both the Managing Director and the Artistic Directors.


The Managing Director will understand, embrace and help articulate the artistic vision of the two artistic leaders. It is particularly important that she/he deeply understands and imparts this vision to staff, board, the Philadelphia theater community and Bristol and the Bucks County region. Developing a collaborative, open and supportive relationship with the two artistic leaders will be essential for the new Managing Director.

She/he will take the leadership role in developing new and expanded income streams. Of particular importance will be the expansion of contributed income working with staff and the board donor engagement committee. The Managing Director will devote a significant part of her/his time to this effort.

Working with the board to help it be an active contributor in all aspects of the theater’s development will be critical.

Working with the committed and hard-working staff to nurture and develop their skills will be an important component of this position.

BRT is not only centrally located in Bristol, it is central to the development of the Borough. The next Managing Director will actively engage in the community with the anticipation of becoming a community leader both for the benefits it will bring BRT and the broader community.

BRT is a mid-size theater with a culture of mutual respect and collaboration. The next Managing Director will need to demonstrate knowledge and love of theater.

A number of traits will help the Managing Director step into the leadership of this collaborative group, and these include judgment, openness, patience, authority, and confidence, leavened with a sense of humor.

BRT has worked hard to strengthen itself fiscally and establish the appropriate reporting practice. The new Managing Director will continue to strengthen BRT in this important area.


– Be deemed likely to develop a rich, collaborative thought partnership with the two artistic leaders.

– Have the experience, skills and traits necessary to lead fundraising efforts and play an active role in those efforts

– Have the ability to assess all aspects of the theater’s operations that directly impact earned and contributed income and develop a plan to incrementally improve those operations to better manage risk, accurately budget and maximize revenue for any given production and better systematize the process for growing contributed income.

– Have the leadership skills to work effectively with the board officers to engage and develop the board.

– The successful candidate will be knowledgeable about making excellent theater and have a deep appreciation for the skill and commitment needed to go from page to stage.

– Be transparent, collaborative, and confident in his/her leadership style.

– Have the ability and desire to engage constructively with the Bristol community and become a civic leader.

– Have the capacity to nurture, mentor and empower staff.

– Possess strong financial management skills.

– The ideal candidate will have the following personal qualities:

– High emotional intelligence and a genuineness that serves to build relationships of trust

– Strategic, positive, energetic, and forward-looking

– A good listener

– Loves theater and the people who make it

– Innovative problem solver

Start Date

The committee intends to make its decision during the winter/spring of 2018 and work toward a mutually agreed upon start date as soon as possible thereafter. BRT offers a competitive salary with producing theaters of commensurate size and scope.

Benefits include:

– Health and vision insurance

– Paid vacation, sick and personal time

– Week between Christmas and New Year’s off

The Bristol Riverside Theatre provides equal opportunities (EEO) to all applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, nation of origin, age or disability.

To Apply

Recommendations of qualified individuals are welcome. Interested candidates are encouraged to send a résumé, professional reference, and a cover letter of no longer than one and a half pages that describes why the post interests them and in what ways they believe themselves to be qualified to the consulting firm retained for the search:

Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc.

Attn: Stephen Richard

Email only:

Subject line: Bristol Riverside Theatre MD

Filed under: Executive Level by Margie DuBrow

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