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Dale Franzen steps down as director of Broad Stage

Dale Franzen steps down as director of Broad Stage
Dale Franze (Broad Stage)

Dale Franzen, who has led the Broad Stage in Santa Monica since its 2008 opening and helped spur its creation at Santa Monica College, has stepped down as its director in what she's calling "an unbelievably happy ending."

Under Franzen, 61, the 499-seat Broad emerged as the most active multipurpose performing arts venue on L.A.'s Westside.

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FOR THE RECORD:

Broad Stage: In the Sept. 25 LATExtra section, an article about the resignation of Dale Franzen from the Broad Stage in Santa Monica misspelled the last name of the Broad's chief operating officer. His name is Mitchell Heskel, not Haskel.

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Its seasons have included a mosaic of touring talent in classical and jazz music, theater, dance and children's programming. Bobby McFerrin recently launched the 2014-15 season, and coming next month is a production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute," transplanted by England's Young Vic Theatre to an African milieu and performed by the Isango Ensemble from South Africa.

Franzen was a professional opera singer before turning to arts consulting and administration at Santa Monica College in the late 1990s.

"I feel it's time for my third act," she said Wednesday. "I'm not a person who would be happy staying at a post for 20 or 30 years. I think there's one more big thing in me, and I don't know what it is yet."

She will move into a consulting role as "strategic advisor" to Chui L. Tsang, Santa Monica College's president. Franzen said that will include helping search for her successor and continuing to work with the college administration and Broad Stage's separate nonprofit board on longer-range planning. (Los Angeles Times Publisher Austin Beutner chairs the board.)

Mitchell Heskel, the chief operating officer who's been with the Broad Stage since it opened, is now the interim director, which includes responsibility for booking the 2015-16 season.

"The first seven years [at Broad Stage] have exceeded all expectations," Tsang said in a statement. "Dale … is a creative force who looked for groundbreaking and compelling programming to challenge and engage audiences." The aim now, Tsang said, is "to build on the strong foundation that Dale helped create."

Franzen's combined earnings from the Broad Stage and Santa Monica College totaled $250,780 in 2012, according to the Broad Stage's most recent public tax filing.

The Broad Stage, which includes a smaller 99-seat second stage, is in expansion mode. It recently broke ground on a $12.3 million new wing with a 165-seat music hall, rehearsal spaces and classrooms for Santa Monica College arts students.

Franzen said it is expected to take about 2 1/2 years to build. Also underway is a multimillion-dollar campaign to augment the $10 million endowment provided by the venue's namesake donors, Eli and Edythe Broad.

The $45 milllion current building, and construction costs for the new wing, have been paid for primarily from public bond issues approved by voters.

As she plugged in the early 2000s to raise funds for the arts venue – with Santa Monica College alumnus Dustin Hoffman chairing the fundraising campaign – Franzen's pitch was that Santa Monica and the Westside were venue-poor when it came to mid-sized, all-purpose theaters for the performing arts.

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She also enlisted Mikhail Baryshnikov and Placido Domingo as celebrity allies in pushing for an arts center, and both have since performed at the Broad Stage.

Before it opened, the only other high-profile Westside option for eclectic offerings was UCLA, whose 586-seat Freud Playhouse and 550-seat Schoenberg Hall figure in the university's CAP-UCLA performance series, along with the larger Royce Hall.

New competition arrived a year ago with the opening of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, a $70-million privately-run venue with 500 and 150-seat theaters.

"What's important is that each artistic director should be really clear about what they're trying to capture" for a prospective audience, Franzen said. "There's more of a challenge when there's more competition, but I believe in competition. It makes the city more vibrant. I've always thought that more is better."

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