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New Executive Producer Sees Starlight Shining in Different Direction

San Diego County Arts Writer

The curtain is going up on a new era at Starlight.

Recognized for its traditional summertime revivals of such musicals as “Show Boat” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” the theater may begin commissioning its own original musicals, according to Harris Goldman, whose appointment as Starlight’s new executive producer was announced Wednesday.

Goldman, a 38-year-old theater professional with extensive experience in commercial and nonprofit theater, was introduced at a press conference as the successor to outgoing general manager and executive producer Leon Drew. Drew announced his his plan to resign last spring and will step down in January.

Goldman, of West Norwalk, Conn., was selected after a six-month national search.

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“I think any arts institution has room to grow artistically,” he said, adding that he believes nonprofit theaters have an obligation to do so.

“Personally, I have a very serious interest in the development of new musicals,” Goldman said, adding that such development is a “natural role” for Starlight. He said he hopes the theater will also participate in “reconstructing” older, neglected American musicals.

“I love musical theater. Musical theater represents . . . probably one of the uniquely original American art forms,” he said.

Goldman noted that he was impressed with the “ongoing and secure operation” handed over to him and looks forward to collaborating with co-artistic directors Don and Bonnie Ward.

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A member of the Assn. of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers, Goldman was executive director of the regional Hartman Theatre in Stamford, Conn., from 1981 to 1985. Before that, he managed commercial Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring productions. He was company manager for the Joseph Papp Broadway productions of “A Chorus Line” and “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf.”

Goldman served as director of the Music Theater Production Partnership, a project of Philadelphia’s American Music Theater Festival that develops new musicals. He was also general manager of the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami.

For the past three years, he has run his own consulting and management firm for arts institutions.

Goldman will move to San Diego with his wife, Linda Cohen, also a theatrical manager, and two sons. His appointment comes at a time of expansion for Starlight, also known as San Diego Civic Light Opera. In the past seven years, under the leadership of Drew and the Wards, Starlight’s budget has grown from less than $1 million to more than $2 million.

Starlight expanded its summer season beyond its usual venue, the Starlight Bowl, this year to include a fifth musical at the Civic Theatre, “42nd Street,” which opens for a 10-day run next Thursday.


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