Stern Endowment bodes well for Playhouse’s future

Supporters hope to raise $5 million to honor retiring artistic director

Sep 11, 2011 at 8:00 am

Ed Stern retires from the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park next spring after 20 seasons, but his presence will be felt long after that thanks to funds that are being raised to honor him. The Edward Stern Endowment for Artistic Excellence will ensure the Playhouse’s future as a place where the nation’s finest directors, actors, designers and playwrights can produce remarkable work for Cincinnati audiences. —-Playhouse leaders and sponsors hope is to reach to raise at least $5 million; to date more than half that amount has been pledged.

Citing Stern’s commitment to talented artists, Victoria Buyniski Gluckman, chair of the theater’s board of trustees, says, “The creation of this endowment for artistic excellence will help guarantee outstanding theater for our current and future audiences.”

Numerous theater professionals have profoundly appreciated Stern’s artistic leadership. John Doyle, the Tony Award-winning director who returns to the Playhouse this season to direct Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along in March, says, “From the moment I met Ed Stern, I knew I had to work for him at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. He has provided me with two of the most fulfilling experiences of my somewhat lengthy career. A wonderful collaborator and a true gentleman of the theater, Ed wants only the best for the work that is in his theater. He also has a vision and belief in theater that is almost unique. When I met Ed, I gained an artistic home, a true collaborator and a dear friend.”

One of America’s best scenic designers, Tony Award winner David Gallo, also thinks of the Playhouse as his artistic home. “Where do I fit in? Where is the place I am accepted for ‘what I am’? Where is the place I can become more than what I was before? My home is New York City. That is where my family and I reside. But my home as an artist is wherever Ed Stern stands. Ed’s vision is my spiritual and artistic home. It is the place I return to again and again when I long to make challenging theater.”

Stage and screen star Kathleen Turner appreciates Stern’s willingness to take on risks with new works. “I had the privilege to get to know and work with Ed Stern while doing the play High in the fall of 2010. I was and am most impressed with the way the theater is run and the quality and commitment of those working there. The dedication to the work, the expertise could only come from the top. Ed Stern exemplifies the best of regional theater. I am so very proud to have worked with him.”

Playwright Carson Kreitzer, whose script Behind the Eye was commissioned by Stern and had its world premiere at the Playhouse earlier this year, says Stern’s support and encouragement have sustained her. “I honestly don’t know that I would have stuck with theater if not for him,” she adds. “At the Playhouse, I have had productions of tremendous, aching beauty, productions that were precisely what those plays wanted to be, exactly the way they were crying out to live. This has not happened for me anywhere else. Before I met Ed, I didn’t know it could.”

Actor Joneal Joplin, a veteran of many Playhouse productions and who played Ebenezer Scrooge for many years in A Christmas Carol, says, “Ed Stern is my favorite artistic director, my favorite director, my best friend in theater and one of the most generous men I have ever known. His talent, humor, commitment and genuine love of theater are unequaled in my 44 years in this profession. I would go anywhere, do anything and (God help me) work for any salary if Ed is involved. He is, quite simply, one of the greatest gifts American theater has ever enjoyed. Does it sound like I love him? You’re damned right!”

Stern’s focused and passionate leadership of the Playhouse since 1992 has made it into one of America’s best regional theaters. The establishment of the Edward Stern Endowment for Artistic Excellence assures that his vision for the theater will be sustained and Cincinnatians will continue to enjoy memorable work by the world’s best directors, actors, designers and playwrights. That’s quite a legacy.