WaterTower Theatre is in the midst of a season of change. This is its first season with artistic director Joanie Schultz at the wheel, and now the theater has added a new managing director, longtime Dallas attorney Nick Even.
“When a theater moves beyond the vision of its founders into someone else’s hands, it’s a big phase. It’s like the next generation of adulthood for an arts organization," Schultz says. "Terry [Martin, former artistic director] made it something that he could someday walk away from and hand off to us.”
For Schultz and Even, that means continuing to grow WaterTower as an artistic anchor in Dallas-Fort Worth and introducing its work to more communities in the area.
Even has worked as an attorney for 30 years, but during that time, he's also worked closely with arts organizations and nonprofits in Dallas. He served on the board of WaterTower Theatre from 2005-08, as development committee chair from 2005-07 and as president in 2008.
Even has also been on the boards of the Dallas Opera, TACA and Second Thought Theatre. In 2017, he received the General Director's Award for Outstanding Board Service from the Dallas Opera.
“I remember being in board meetings, talking about what it would be like someday when Terry left WaterTower,” Even says. “The work here is already really strong. Now we just continue to get the word out. I’ve spent the better part of 20 years working with nonprofits. I’ve gained a lot of insight, even in my years as a lawyer working in client service. We’re in a period of tremendous growth and recruitment for our board. I’m excited to see that growth continue here.”
What is a managing director, and why does it matter? The artistic director makes choices regarding plays, artists and the overall artistic vision of the theater. The managing director tackles the administrative side — anything from fundraising to marketing, budgeting and managing the organization’s board of directors.
Jeff Woodward of Dallas Theater Center says the managing director is half of the leadership at a theater. Woodward started at DTC after working with the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, which, like DTC, won a regional Tony Award.
“My goal in Dallas was to improve individual giving and widen the first-time donor base,” Woodward says. To accomplish this, he has invited donors to see the inner workings of the theater, attend new play readings and see sneak peeks of new productions.
Woodward says his job also entails saying no to the artistic director. During DTC’s production of Hair, Kevin Moriarty suggested that audiences should be allowed to use the giant slide created for the set. Woodward says he had to jump in and shut down the idea, as fun as it might be, because it would be a liability for the theater.
Schultz and Even are looking at ways to broaden their audience as well.
“We want to bring new people that want to see their stories told on the stage,” Schultz says. “Theater can be the meeting place where we put our minds to those stories.”