Backstage

From the Harman To a New Life Stage

Edward Gero with Donald Carrier (foreground) in
Edward Gero with Donald Carrier (foreground) in "The Shining City" at Studio. Gero has found playwright Conor McPherson's dialogue as challenging as anything he's done. (By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)

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By Jane Horwitz
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Shakespeare Theatre Company Managing Director Nicholas T. Goldsborough is about to take his leave while on the crest of an $89 million wave and a high-profile new building.

After six years with the organization, Goldsborough announced he'll depart in December, having led the company through the capital campaign and construction project that culminated in last month's opening of Sidney Harman Hall, which, along with the older Lansburgh Theatre, constitutes the Harman Center for the Arts.

Goldsborough is the second business leader of a major nonprofit theater in the area to announce his parting this month. The first was Signature Theatre's Sam Sweet.

"It's been quite a trip," says the dapper Goldsborough, 65. "I've loved being here first of all, being much closer to the art form than I was in the past because, in addition to my responsibility for overseeing the building of the hall and the fundraising for it, I was also running a theater company."

Though his family's connections in Washington and Maryland go back generations, Goldsborough grew up in a small town outside Rochester, N.Y., where his genteel relations included a couple of aunts who worked as costume designers. The family would "sweep into New York" for their openings, and little Nick clearly caught the theater bug.

"My aunt would have fabulous parties and Helen Hayes and Geraldine Fitzgerald and Brian Aherne and all these friends of theirs would be there and I was absolutely star-struck," he remembers. "To meet all these people, and I was just a nobody kid. All of that helped to inspire me to want to be part of the world of the arts."

In 30 years of working for nonprofits, Goldsborough has lent his fundraising skills to the Music Center in Los Angeles as executive vice president and CEO and to its new Walt Disney Concert Hall and served as a deputy director of development at UCLA; as a manager of projects for Carnegie Hall, the New York City Opera and Lincoln Center Theatre; and as a major gifts fundraiser for Harvard University.

Goldsborough says he began talking to Michael Kahn, whom he has come to regard as a "master storyteller" of the stage, about working for the Shakespeare shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He came on board in January 2002. "I really came here to help Michael fulfill his vision for transforming this company into a national destination theater, and the fact that we have been able to build this theater and have it open on time is very, very satisfying for me," he says. He was also involved with the company touring productions of "The Oedipus Plays" to Greece and "Love's Labor's Lost" to the Royal Shakespeare Company's Complete Works festival in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

He also proudly reports that public spaces at Harman Hall already have been rented out for at least one wedding, a bar mitzvah and a huge party for a law firm. It is, he says proudly, becoming one of Washington's "hottest places to do events."

Goldsborough intends to start his own consulting firm for nonprofit arts organizations. He'll keep his Capitol Hill home, but also return to another he has long owned near Palm Springs, Calif. "I've been thinking about starting my own company for quite a long time," says Goldsborough. "If I wait around a couple years, I'm not going to have the energy to do it. So this is the time for me to leave. We've got a great staff in place to take over my duties, and I'll be around to help them any way I can."

Conquering Ellipses

Getting one's mind and voice around the speeches of contemporary Irish playwright Conor McPherson can be far trickier than wrestling with Shakespeare, says actor Edward Gero, who should know. The winner of multiple Helen Hayes Awards, Gero has played major roles in 57 productions at the Shakespeare Theatre Company.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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