Longtime Geva artistic director to retire in 2022

COURTESY OF GEVA THEATRE CENTER

Geva Theatre Center’s longtime leader, Mark Cuddy, will retire as artistic director in July 2022 after 27 years.  

The board of trustees is forming a search committee led by Faheem Masood for his successor, according to Chair Maggie Symington. Among the committee members is Executive Director Chris Mannelli. An outside firm will assist in the national search.  

“It is hard to imagine Geva without Mark; however, he is leaving us in a strong position,” Symington said. “We are confident we will find a qualified successor by the end of this year to help plan the following season. Mark has already begun working collaboratively with the board to ensure a seamless transition.” 

Mark Cuddy.

Cuddy arrived in September 1995 from the Sacramento Theatre Company in California. During his tenure, Geva premiered over 25 plays and musicals, established nationally recognized education and literary programs, and developed a Rochester audience that consistently ranks in the Top 25 of regional theater attendance nationally. 

“I have been so fortunate to partner with Mark for the last five years, especially through this past year with all of its challenges,” Mannelli said. “He is a remarkable leader who has cared for this organization for so long, always striving to ensure that Geva enjoys a prosperous future. I am thrilled that, together, we will soon be opening the theater’s doors once again.” 

In August, Cuddy is set to direct the first live production in Geva’s extended 48th season: an outdoor staging of “Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash.” In October, the season will conclude indoors on the Wilson Stage with “Vietgone”, directed by associate artistic director Pirronne Yousefzadeh. “A Christmas Carol,” adapted and directed by Cuddy, will return for the holidays. 

Geva’s 49th season, Cuddy’s last as artistic director, will run from January to July 2022. Its 50th anniversary season will start in September 2022 under the helm of the new artistic director. 

“As we come out of this extraordinary pandemic shutdown, I’ve been thinking a lot about the next era at Geva and how best to position a new artistic director to lead that charge,” Cuddy said. “I knew that I’d be retiring soon, and it became clear to me that it made sense to mark the milestone of our 50th anniversary not just by celebrating our first half century, but by inaugurating a new leader into a new artistic tenure. The time to plan the transition is now and I look forward to supporting the next era of Geva wholeheartedly.” 

Cuddy directed over 55 productions during his 26 seasons at Geva. In 2018, he returned to the stage after an 18-year absence to act in the world premiere of “Heartland” by Gabriel Jason Dean. This original Geva production is scheduled to debut off-Broadway in March 2022. Institutionally, he championed two capital campaigns that funded a second stage, retired the theater’s mortgage, developed and purchased 14 nearby artist apartments, and underwrote the renovation of the entire Geva facility, which originally opened in 1868 to house the state militia. 

The Boston native started his professional career 50 years ago as a full-time technical apprentice at the Falmouth Playhouse on Cape Cod — when he was 16 years old. He received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he was a Commonwealth Scholar. In the intervening 43 years, Cuddy led houses across the country from California to Massachusetts. He launched TheaterLeader.com, a counseling and coaching service, in 2017.  

“The board is extremely grateful to Mark for his leadership and dedication,” Symington said. “We congratulate him on his retirement and we look forward to celebrating him in many ways over the coming months.”