Cleveland Pubic Theatre Announces the Retirement of Judith Ross Director of Development and welcomes incoming director Catie Dargue
It has been announced by Raymond Bobgan (Executive Director of Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) that after eleven years of distinguished service, Judith Ross has decided to retire and will be stepping down as Director of Development at CPT.
Judith has been at the forefront of development efforts since 2002 and has brought in more than nine million dollars of funding for the theater during her watch. She plans to remain at her position during the transition period with the new director.
Judith became Director of Development in 2001 by CPT founder James Levin who gave her the task of creating a Department of Development and to establish a system of diversified fundraising. During her tenure she has served under Levin, Randy Rollison and Raymond Bobgan. It is through her efforts of professional fundraising, attraction of corporate, foundation and individual support and the raising of the profile of the organization through such programs as Pandemonium (a highly successful annual benefit that draws a diversified audience) that has insured the success of CPT and made it one of the most successful theater companies in the region.
Originally trained as a social worker with a Master’s Degree from the University of Pennsylvania she earned respect from her peers in the health social network before she embarked on a career in development. She was Director of Social Work at MetroHealth medical Center in 1990 after 16 years of directing social work at The Children’s Cancer Research Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Renowned as a leader in Pediatric Oncology Social Work, she served as Editor in Chief of “Health & Social Work” (a scholarly journal) from 1990 to 1994. After departing MetroHealth in 2000, Judith labored as a consultant, developing programs and writing grants for non profits in Cleveland. Working with Recovery Resources, she was able to lead a project in Romania through USAID from 2001-2003.
Prior to accepting the position of Director of Development, Judith provided consultation services to Cleveland Public Theatre. Her success at CPT has been phenomenal with support found for the theater’s outreach programs, operations and new play development. Utilizing her people skills she strengthened relations with existing donors while attracting new donors to the theater. Among her many accomplishments was the receiving of one million dollars from The Kresge Foundation that was put into a building reserve. Through extensive knowledge and experience of conducting research, Ross was instrumental in developing evaluation protocols for CPT’s outreach programs.
“Judy has made a huge difference here at CPT and in our community. She essentially built a development department from scratch and made significant contributions to building the board. We are all going to miss Judy’s guidance and perspective,” said Bobgan.
Judy’s successor will be Catie Dargue who comes to CPT as a fundraising professional with an extensive theater background. She brings experience as a grant writer having worked for companies in Cincinnati and Great Britain. Most recently, she served as Development Director for the Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless leading a capital campaign to provide a permanent home for those in need.
History of Cleveland Public Theatre
Cleveland Public Theatre was founded and incorporated in 1981. James Levin had returned from New York and was determined to form a theatre similar to Cafe LaMama, the internationally renowned experimental theatre in New York City, where he worked as an actor and director for three years. CPT continues to fulfill Levin's vision of a theatre that can transform an urban neighborhood. Today CPT is Cleveland's leading stage for adventurous new theatre and is recognized nationally for its ground breaking work.
In 1984 CPT took occupancy of the second floor of an Irish Dance Hall at Detroit Avenue and West 65th Street (now The James Levin Theatre) and began producing limited seasons as it renovated its new space. In 1985 CPT launched the first New Plays Festival, which grew into a highly anticipated annual event with over six hundred submissions from national and international playwrights and ultimately evolved into a broad series of programs designed to support new work by North East Ohio performance creators, including playwrights, producers, directors, choreographers, composers, and performance artists.
Influenced by Joe Papp's series of Free Shakespeare in Central Park in New York, Levin set out to provide free theatre to the Cleveland Public by producing Shakespeare At the Zoo from 1984-1987. After 1987 theatre's focus shifted from Shakespeare to the emerging playwright and performing artist. Many local ensembles found a home in Cleveland Public Theatre, attracted by the freedom to experiment that distinguishes the CPT environment. Companies launched or nurtured by CPT include Wishhounds (Theatre Labyrinth), New World Performance Laboratory, The Repertory Project (now Verb Ballets), SAFMOD, and Theatre Ninjas. By undertaking full productions of world premieres; nationally significant second and "early" productions of new scripts; devised, ensemble based theatre; and radical reinterpretations of existing work, CPT forged relationships with emerging theatre makers and has achieved national stature.
In 1994 CPT completed its first successful capital campaign, raising more than $60,000 to purchase the building at 6415 Detroit Avenue. CPT transformed the first floor used-appliance store into a small black box theatre and a scene shop. The third floor, once an apartment, became the theatre's administrative offices. In 1995 CPT acquired the adjoining building which housed the remains of Cleveland's oldest standing theatre. The Gordon Square Theatre was built in 1911 as a vaudeville theater and condemned by the city. Now resurrected by The Gordon Square Theatre is now an integral part of the CPT Campus and the Gordon Square Arts District. In December 2009 CPT completed purchase of the de-sanctified Orthodox Church properties adjacent to the theatre buildings. This purchase is an important step in CPT's development as a center of performing arts.
In 2005, after subsequent years of financial loss, with severe debt and threatened buildings, CPT embarked on a difficult course to gain stability and financial success. CPT "doubled down" on mission by recommitting itself to: producing adventurous and unconventional new work for the stage; supporting local artists; and undertaking important education programs that use theatre to change lives. On the business side, CPT initiated a stabilization plan, which resulted in the elimination of short term debt, a reorganization of long term debt and a total debt reduction of over $200,000. As of 2010, CPT has also completed five years with modest surpluses toward a goal of raising a capital reserve of $200,000. CPT has also stabilized its properties by completing Phase One of renovation, which weatherized the buildings and included the installation of new roofs.
CPT's commitment to the community is evidenced by core educational programs for urban youth and homeless men and women. Classes were offered initially (from 1985) in schools and neighborhood centers in Cleveland and Lorain. We maintain four longstanding core programs and conduct workshops and other educational initiatives that serve about 500 children, youth and vulnerable adults. (See Education Tab for details). We offer participants meaningful, empowering artistic experiences, a safe, disciplined environment in which to acquire transferable skills, and the opportunity to create and perform in their own productions. Our focus is on the ensemble rather than "star" performers—each member of the group has an opportunity to shine. Our approach fosters empathy and responsibility among participants.
Since its founding, CPT has grown from a volunteer artist-driven organization with an annual budget of $5,000, to a vital member of the national arts community with a budget of one million dollars, a staff of dedicated professionals, and multiple performance facilities. CPT has anchored area redevelopment and stimulated a cultural renaissance in the once-blighted Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. Now a destination in and of itself, the neighborhood boasts many fine boutiques and pre or post-show dining options. CPT is the centerpiece of a capital campaign that includes two other organizations and has already begun to transform the neighborhood, designated as an arts district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.