By Brian Robin
Managing Director Paula Tomei to Depart in August 2024 After 44 Years at South Coast Repertory
South Coast Repertory announced today that Managing Director Paula Tomei will step down at the end of the current season—SCR’s 60th and her 44th, with the last 30 years serving as managing director. She will remain in the position through August 2024.
“It has been an honor and distinct privilege for me to not only serve as South Coast Repertory’s Managing Director for the past 30 years, but to spend my entire career working here,” Tomei said. “Throughout that time, I have been continually inspired by and fortunate to have worked with remarkable artists, dedicated staff and incredible community leaders and supporters who embraced SCR’s vision at every turn. My heart is full of gratitude to have played a role in the extraordinary growth of SCR and to have had the opportunity to serve the theatre and our community. There’s no greater joy in life than doing what you love, and for me, I was one of the lucky people who experienced that every day.”
“South Coast Repertory, Orange County and the American theatre community have benefited immeasurably from Paula’s dedicated service and exemplary leadership over the decades,” said Talya Nevo-Hacohen, President of the SCR Board of Trustees. “She will leave us with a legacy of commitment to the art and artists, sound fiscal management and the betterment of our entire community.”
“It is an honor to work alongside Paula Tomei. Her proven record of stewardship and her tremendous respect for South Coast Repertory has anchored the theatre with the vision and resources it requires to stay relevant into the future,” Artistic Director David Ivers said. “I am deeply indebted to her for her personal and professional support during very challenging times. She will be missed dearly, but her inspiring legacy will no doubt remain a part of our future trajectory. Thank you, Paula.”
During Tomei’s time at SCR, the Tony Award-winning theatre company has presented 435 plays, 149 of which have been world premieres commissioned and produced with her support. Among the world premieres produced under Tomei’s tenure as managing director include Donald Margulies’ Collected Stories and Brooklyn Boy, Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg, Kimberly Akimbo by David Lindsay-Abaire, The Beard of Avon by Amy Freed, Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage, Vietgone by Qui Nguyen, A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath, and Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee. Additionally, she played a role in two SCR plays performing in Singapore and one in Hong Kong.
Her legacy also includes supporting the launch of the Pacific Playwrights Festival in 1998, the Theatre for Young Audiences and Families series, which has provided free school-time matinee performances for more than 175,000 Orange County elementary school children since 2003, and the Theatre Access program, which offers free tickets to high schools and colleges to attend SCR’s public performances.
As SCR’s first and only managing director, Tomei has been instrumental in leading the organization through numerous periods of growth and change. That included The Next Stage Campaign, which raised capital for the expansion of the theatre facility, resulting in the addition of the 336-seat Julianne Argyros Stage, technical shops, administrative offices, Theatre Conservatory classrooms, and the reconfiguration of the former Second Stage into the 94-seat Nicholas Studio. Tomei co-led the theatre through the pandemic shutdown and subsequent reopening to live performances, starting with Outside SCR at Mission San Juan Capistrano in 2021. That new initiative has brought theatre to the historic Mission for the past three summers.
From 2005 to 2011, she led The Legacy Campaign to raise both annual fund and endowment monies to support artistic and education programs, including the Pacific Playwrights Festival and Theatre for Young Audiences and Families. During SCR’s 50th season in 2013-14, she continued this work with the establishment of the Founders Endowment, honoring Founding Artistic Directors David Emmes and Martin Benson, which created resources to fund special artistic opportunities.
“I leave SCR knowing that it will continue to advance and enrich the lives of so many under David Ivers’ artistic leadership,” she said. “David is a passionate, thoughtful leader who cares deeply about the community. South Coast Repertory deserves a co-leader who will work alongside him to navigate future challenges and new opportunities and chart the changes to best serve both the art and the community. I look forward to cheering them on from the sidelines and as an audience member.”
Today, SCR employs 60 full-time and hundreds of part-time and seasonal employees, has an annual operating budget of $12.6 million and holds assets of $74.7 million.
Tomei served four years as president of the Board of Directors for Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service organization for the American theatre. She was also the organization’s treasurer for a year and spent eight years on TCG’s board. Tomei also served three years as Vice President for the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) and was a member of that organization’s Negotiating Committees.
Her leadership and service to the Orange County arts community earned Tomei numerous awards, including Arts Orange County’s Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award, the City of Costa Mesa’s Mayor’s Award for contributions to the arts community, UC Irvine’s Lauds and Laurels Distinguished Alumna in the School of Social Sciences and recognition by the Orange County Business Journal’s OC 500.
Tomei plans to travel and take an active role in supporting the broader nonprofit sector in Orange County.
The Board of Trustees is organizing a search for her successor.
About Paula Tomei
Paula Tomei is responsible for the overall administration of SCR. She has been managing director since 1994 and a member of SCR’s staff since 1979. She is a past president of the board of Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service organization for theatre. In addition, she served as treasurer of TCG, vice president of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) and as a member of the LORT Negotiating Committee for industry-wide union agreements. She represents SCR at national conferences of TCG and LORT, and served as a theatre panelist and site visitor for the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. Her teaching background includes a graduate class in nonprofit management at UC Irvine (UCI) and as a guest lecturer in the graduate school of business at Stanford. She was appointed by the chancellor to UCI’s Community Arts Council and serves on the Dean’s Leadership Society Executive Committee for the School of Social Sciences at UCI. She is also on the board of Arts Orange County, the county-wide arts council, and the board of the Nicholas Endowment. She graduated from UCI with a degree in economics and pursued an additional course of study in theatre and dance. In March 2017, she received the Mayor’s Award from the City of Costa Mesa for her contributions to the arts community. In 2018, she received the Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award from Arts Orange County. In 2019, she was awarded UCI’s Distinguished Alumna in the School of Social Sciences at the Lauds & Laurels Celebration.