Jan. 26, 2017

Clyde Wagner, former executive producer of the Luminato Festival, attended his first board meeting at city hall on Thursday as president and CEO of Civic Theatres Toronto. The new organization will amalgamate boards of directors for the Hummingbird Centre, Toronto Centre for the Arts, and the St. Lawrence Centre under one brand once it is up and running.

The CEO-search has been an ongoing topic of discussion at the city’s theatre board meetings over the past year, and has included a hope of finding a leader who knows both business and brand. “My background is very diverse and I think that I touched a lot of points they were looking for.” Wager told Signal Toronto on Thursday.  “I’ve run organizations from a mobile tech firm and then Luminato – so I have a very broad background, and because of that and my dealings with the city and my understanding of an international context to the arts I think that’s what appealed to them. In order to make [Civic Theatres Toronto] successful we’re going to have to push all of those levers to make sure that it rolls forward properly.”

There has been no official City of Toronto announcement for Wagner’s appointment but a profile and endorsement by veteran arts writer Martin Knelman was published in an article that ran in The Globe and Mail on Dec. 21, 2016.

The strategic direction of the new umbrella group, and the decision for its final name, is still in process. In response to questions from board members about timeline for the strategy, board chair Robert Foster said he wants to give new management time to get up and running. “At the moment, Civic Theatres Toronto doesn’t even exist as a corporate entity. We’ve got a lot of steps to get through.”

In the meantime, while Wagner begins to shape the direction for the organization, he’ll have a chance to show off his chops as a producer at board meetings on topics such as the meat that sustains theatre companies (i.e. subscriptions). Following a presentation by TAPA and The Strategic Counsel on audience survey data, Wagner asked if consideration had be given to the difference between cost and value for younger audiences, reminding the board that teenagers will spend $200 to see Drake. “People say, ‘oh the prices are too high so therefore we can’t commit’ – that is the perception of the argument you are seeing,” Wagner explained to Signal Toronto after the meeting. “But the reality I have found as a producer in the marketplace is that’s not actually true until you get to an average and you’re across the board… What we’re actually talking about is where is the perceived value, who is the demographic audience, and how do we as an organization tap into that. That’s a different kind of survey than just saying prices are too high so therefore people are not coming.”