Richard Bouchard, Chairman of Ruth Eckerd Hall’s Board of Directors, announced the news today noting the leadership, passion and national prominence Freedman has brought to the organization.
“It is with great pride and sadness that I make this announcement,” Bouchard said. “We are now moving forward to best position the organization for the time that our President and CEO Robert Freedman will retire. In keeping with best business practices and succession plans, Robert will remain in his current position while we conduct a national search for a new President and CEO,” he continued.
“The successes we have achieved at this organization would never have been possible without the talent and support that has been provided by our Board of Directors and the staff of Ruth Eckerd Hall,” Freedman stated. “I owe a true debt of gratitude to their tireless work and dedication to our mission. Ruth Eckerd Hall would not be what it is without each of them.”
Freedman has led the theater through thirteen seasons, more than 3,000 performances, and has made more than four million patrons feel “at home” within the walls of Ruth Eckerd Hall. He has overseen the booking of the biggest names in the entertainment business – from Neil Young to Yo-Yo Ma, and the widest diversity of programming including Broadway, dance, classical music and opera. Under his leadership, Ruth Eckerd Hall (REH) has consistently been ranked in the top 10 theaters in the world for most tickets sold to concerts and events. In 2010, REH was named the top grossing venue for theaters seating 2500 or fewer for the year and the decade by the international industry trade magazine Billboard, while being nominated as Theater of the Year by Pollstar Magazine in 2005 and again in 2009.
Freedman also worked with staff to grow Ruth Eckerd Hall’s programming throughout the market, including the development of a four-year innovative partnership as the provider of entertainment for the 2010 American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays Summer Concert series.
During his tenure, Freedman ensured financial stability of one of the most prominent performing arts centers in the country, and under his leadership, Ruth Eckerd Hall’s net assets have doubled. Freedman worked with the team to develop and implement the fundraising drive that supported the expansion of the Grand Concourse in the Main Lobby and innovatively expanded the venue to incorporate The Marcia P. Hoffman Performing Arts Institute. The Hoffman Institute is one of the leading performing arts education facilities in the country and offers exploratory and preparatory classes in dance, music and theater to all ages as well as multi-faceted community programs. The Institute also boasts the Eckerd Theater Company, a professional theater company that has been providing excellent works for youthful audiences for more than 25 years.
Freedman also leaves a legacy of commissioning works for Ruth Eckerd Hall. Many of the works he commissioned were in conjunction with the Hall’s 20th Anniversary including pieces performed by Dave Koz and David Benoit, Pilobolus and Itzhak Perlman, and pieces composed by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Commissioned pieces including Battledrum were performed by the Eckerd Theater Company in the Hall’s intimate Murray Studio Theater.
To celebrate the Hall’s 25th Anniversary, Freedman commissioned an artist of a different kind. Christopher Still, a nationally renowned painter, created a work that now hangs in the Main Lobby. The piece “An Evening to Remember” took two years to complete and commemorates how the community came together to create one of the finest performing arts centers in the country. Many longtime supporters are depicted as audience members, and students from the Hoffman Institute perform on stage while founders Jack and Ruth Eckerd look on from behind the curtain.
Broadway took a front seat at Ruth Eckerd Hall during Freedman’s tenure. Freedman oversaw the organization’s financial investments in the Tony Award® winner Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2005, and in the 2010 Tony Award® winning Musical Memphis – coming to the Ruth Eckerd Hall stage for eight performances this coming February (February 7-12, 2012). Ruth Eckerd Hall has played an integral role in bringing the best of Broadway to the Tampa Bay area, including recent first-time runs in the market of the musicals The Color Purple, Rock of Ages and Young Frankenstein.
In 2009, Freedman was a driving force in working with the City of Clearwater to acquire the Capitol Theatre, the newest member of the Ruth Eckerd Hall family. The 400-seat venue was constructed in 1921 in downtown Clearwater and is one of the oldest operating theaters in Florida. The Capitol Theatre project is part of the plan to re-energize downtown Clearwater and is an integral part of the unique character of the area.
Freedman has been a familiar face throughout Pinellas County serving on the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Clearwater Arts Foundation board the Pinellas County Economic Development Council and the Board of Directors for Congregation Beth Shalom.
“It has been a great honor to serve the greater Clearwater community with such talented and dedicated individuals who know how to come together for the common good. Personally, I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life enjoying spending quality time with family and friends, and catching up on the huge stack of books sitting on my nightstand,” Freedman concluded.
Designed by the prestigious Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Ruth Eckerd Hall (rutheckerdhall.com) is consistently ranked in the top 5 venues in the world with seats of 2,500 or less by industry trade publications and is known for its 2,180-seat, acoustically perfect auditorium. Artists from America and around the world, ranging from classical, rock, opera, Broadway, jazz, pop and more are included in the stellar lineup of more than 200 performances a year.
Ruth Eckerd Hall is a 501©(3) not-for-profit organization.