New Jersey Stage

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Visionary Arts Leader NORMA KAPLAN tapped for new joint position with George Street Playhouse and the New Brunswick Cultural Center

(New Brunswick, NJ) -- The Board of Trustees of George Street Playhouse and The Board of Directors of The New Brunswick Cultural Center are pleased to jointly announce the appointment of visionary arts leader Norma Kaplan in a newly created joint-position as the Executive Director of The New Brunswick Cultural Center and Managing Director of New Brunswick's nationally-acclaimed regional theatre, George Street Playhouse.

Ms. Kaplan, currently the Director of Arlington Cultural Affairs in Arlington, Virginia, was tapped by the New Brunswick Cultural Center and George Street Playhouse leadership because of her strong list of accomplishments and national reputation for building communities through the arts.

Her first day in New Brunswick will be September 19.

"I am very excited to welcome Norma Kaplan to George Street Playhouse," said the theatre's Chairman of the Board, Steven M. Darien.  "Norma has an exemplary track record of the kind of ground-breaking thinking that can help us cost-effectively build programs and do more to enrich the lives of our community through first-class theatre."

"We are very fortunate to have brought Norma Kaplan to New Brunswick," said Chairman of the New Brunswick Cultural Center William R. Hagaman, Jr. "With her passion for the arts and experienced leadership, she is the ideal person to smartly address the challenges of today's economic environment and to work with the other leaders of our community to envision and create a new era of arts and arts management in our city."

Under Ms. Kaplan's leadership, Arlington Cultural Affairs received the Innovations in American Government Award in 1996 for their Arts Incubator project, creating cost-effective opportunities for arts organizations and artists in the Arlington County.    It is in a similar spirit of innovative collaboration that the leadership of George Street Playhouse and New Brunswick Cultural Center created this joint executive position.

"Norma is a visionary thinker," said George Street Playhouse Artistic Director David Saint.  "The chance to work with someone with her ideas and history of integrity in bringing arts to the community will bring an exciting new energy to our theatre.  I am thrilled to welcome her to George Street Playhouse,"

During her 25 years as Division Chief of Arlington Cultural Affairs, Norma Kaplan  guided Arlington County, Virginia's arts community through a remarkable transformation from a $400,000 recreational arts program, to a $5,000,000 government arts agency offering a comprehensive menu of programs and services that used the arts as a tool for community development,  As a result,  the County experienced  a  more than 500% growth  in the number of arts activities hosted in Arlington and over 40 new arts organizations that were reflective of the Arlington's diverse community interest in innovative arts programs formed. "Norma Kaplan is a visionary and an extraordinary arts professional whose leadership of Arlington Cultural Affairs has given the arts in Arlington, Virginia an international presence," says Jennifer Cover Payne, President of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington.  "She is a risk-taker with the ability and courage to create new, exciting, and innovative projects that serve as a catalyst to change the way we work and think in the arts."

As a result of winning the Innovations in American Government Award in 1996, Kaplan has worked with numerous arts agencies around the Country and internationally to assist them in replicating Arlington's arts incubator program which London's Plays International called "A model of smart government/arts partnership".  In 2001, her agency won the Helen Hayes Washington Post Award for Distinguished Community Service for its incubation and support of theatre.   During her tenure, Kaplan initiated Arlington's Arts Al Fresco, summer festival which offered over 100 free outdoor performances throughout the County. In addition, her agency developed a number of major special events including Planet Arlington that presented unique artists from around the globe including Lila Downs, Ahmad Jamal, Ray Barretto and Melba Moore. Kaplan has also been a leader in the DC metro region working to forward efforts to build stronger regional arts planning to support the continued growth of the arts throughout DC area.   Over the last three years, Kaplan developed the vision, business plan, and design for Artisphere, a new, innovative cultural center and was responsible for its opening in October 2010.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director David Saint, George Street Playhouse has become a nationally recognized theatre, presenting an acclaimed mainstage season while providing an artistic home for established and emerging theatre artists.  Founded in 1974, the Playhouse has been well represented by numerous productions both on and off-Broadway – recent productions include the Outer Critics' Circle Best Musical Award-winner The Toxic Avenger, the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Drama League nominated production of The Spitfire Grill and the recent Broadway hit and Tony® and Pulitzer Prize winning play Proof by David Auburn, which was developed at GSP during the 1999 Next Stage Series of new plays.  In addition to its mainstage season, GSP's Touring Theatre features four issue-oriented productions that are seen by more than 70,000 students annually.  

New Brunswick Cultural Center, Inc. (NBCC), is the nonprofit organization that oversees the evolution, improvement, and expansion of the downtown cultural and entertainment district.  The organization supports efforts among its member companies to achieve greater cooperation and coordination of activities and sponsors , providing a comprehensive view of cultural activities.  The NBCC is currently undergoing a planning process to reshape and advance the arts community even further.  Kaplan's singular experience makes her hiring an important step forward.

George Street Playhouse programming is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and by its lead season sponsor, Johnson & Johnson.