CINCINNATI – After a successful tenure of 29 years at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Buzz Ward will become Managing Director Emeritus, effective July 1, 2021. In this role, he will continue to serve in an advisory capacity – helping the organization transition to its new mainstage theatre facility.
Ward arrived at the Playhouse in 1992, making him the longest serving executive in its history having managed it for nearly half of its 61 years. He served as Executive Director under Producing Artistic Director Ed Stern until 2012. Ward was named Managing Director and Co-CEO with the arrival of current Artistic Director and Co-CEO Blake Robison, who will become sole chief executive at the end of this season and launch a national search to hire a new Managing Director for the organization.
Throughout Ward’s tenure, he has presided over 28 consecutive seasons with an operating surplus – an unrivaled record in the American regional theatre – that has resulted in the financially strong organization the Playhouse is today. He oversaw the production of over 300 mainstage shows, and the Playhouse won two Tony Awards during his tenure: the first in 2004 for Best Regional Theatre, and the second in 2007 for Best Revival of a Musical (Company).
Playhouse Board President, Ellen G. van der Horst, praised Ward’s record of accomplishment and added, “This transition is the result of a careful succession planning process between our Board and executive leadership. We expect a smooth transition that will set us up for future success. The Playhouse has benefited tremendously from Buzz’s management and institutional knowledge. It is our pleasure to recognize and honor him with an Emeritus title, and we look forward to celebrating his tenure once circumstances allow.”
Much of the Playhouse’s significant growth came during Ward’s tenure. One of his first accomplishments was to eliminate the Playhouse’s cumulative operating deficit. Ward managed the 1997 project to renovate the public, production and administrative spaces of the Playhouse. He helped to lead the capital campaign in 1994-96 for that project, establish the Stern endowment in 2011, and launch the current capital campaign for a new mainstage theatre complex. Fundraising for the capital campaign is nearly complete, and the Playhouse will break ground in early 2021. Furthermore, he successfully negotiated a 99-year lease with the City and the Park Board to secure the Playhouse’s location in Eden Park for the next century.
“My deepest thanks go to the dedicated board, amazing artists, and outstanding staff with whom I have had the privilege of working,” said Ward. “My great appreciation also goes to the citizens of Greater Cincinnati who have cherished and supported the Playhouse and made this the place where I wanted to spend my career. I look forward to ensuring a smooth transition to my successor and to spending more time with my family, returning to some teaching and consulting, and to perhaps rediscovering my golf game.”
In 2012, Ward received the Governor’s Award for the Arts in Arts Administration. On the national level, he served for 14 years as Treasurer of the League of Resident Theatres – the association of our country’s 76 largest regional theatres.
“Nobody can replace Buzz,” said Robison. “His keen financial skills and visionary leadership have brought national acclaim to the organization. But we can and should take this opportunity to imagine the next phase of the Playhouse’s life. I look forward to working with our Board and staff to complete our capital campaign, open our new mainstage theatre facility, and lead the Playhouse into the future.”