Bernie Griffin, who aided remodel Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, retires

Immediately after additional than two decades, Bernadine “Bernie” Griffin, handling director of Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, has taken her final bow. A tireless employee who championed community and collaboration, Griffin, who retired on July 21, invested her time at The 5th encouraging to improve the firm from a mid-tier executing arts location into one particular of the most identified, musical-manufacturing theaters in the region. (“Hairspray” and “Memphis,” for case in point, ended up created and premiered at The 5th, in 2002 and 2009 respectively, and both went on to win Tony Awards for finest musical).

“I will miss doing work shoulder to shoulder with The 5th Avenue company,” Griffin states, reflecting on her time with the corporation. “To be a part of this team coming collectively to generate function that improvements and impacts life was extraordinary for me.”

When Griffin joined The 5th in 2002, there were being only nine workers on staff members. After 21 yrs with her on the management team, 13 of them as controlling director, the business now has about 670 total- and section-time personnel, and employs up to 2,000 men and women a 12 months concerning staff members, artisans and contractors. But the numbers do not halt there. In addition to developing the company’s very first fundraising section, Griffin can depend the following amid her vocation standouts: Due to the fact 2002, the theater has welcomed practically 6 million patrons to 150 musicals generated on its mainstage and in coproduction with ACT Up to date Theatre. This checklist involves 26 new musicals — 10 of which went on to Broadway and garnered 14 Tony Awards. 

“I remember 1st assembly Bernie,” states Monthly bill Berry, The 5th’s developing inventive director, who was hired as the assistant inventive director three months before Griffin started off at The 5th and who has co-led the theater with Griffin since 2017, when then-govt producer and artistic director David Armstrong stepped down. “She has this sort of a vivacious, partaking identity. She’s a person you quickly want to communicate to and get to know on a further level. She’s also seriously smart and had a refined feeling of what it would choose to transfer the needle at The 5th as much as fundraising.”

Whilst the theater, developed in 1926 to house vaudeville excursions, was new to fundraising in 2002, Griffin wasn’t. Lifted in Walla Walla, she attended St. Martin’s College in Lacey, Thurston County, and acquired a B.A. with an emphasis on theater. Soon after graduating, she planned to pursue a graduate degree in overall performance, but notes, “Life took me in a distinctive path. I found out that my talent fell a lot more in supporting artists than getting 1.”

Griffin received her start in regional arts fundraising in 1987 as the annual fund supervisor at Seattle Repertory Theatre — a place she held for four years. It was below, in 1990, that Griffin fulfilled her partner, actor Seán Griffin. In 1991, the pair moved to New York, the place Griffin worked as the director of specific initiatives below inventive director Tony Randall at the Nationwide Actors Theatre. They cherished New York — and the chances that came with living in the city — but sooner or later made a decision to return to Seattle, wherever Griffin worked as the assistant director of progress at Seattle Symphony. In this position, her crew was responsible for the funds marketing campaign that created Benaroya Hall. 

In 1999, the Griffins moved to Los Angeles, exactly where she served as the director of growth at the Geffen Playhouse for two decades, overseeing all contributed supplying strategies. 

“We were being down there when 9/11 happened,” Griffin recalls. “After that, we requested ourselves, ‘Where do we truly want to be?’ And we each claimed, ‘Let’s go home.’ I’ve attempted residing in several unique places, and I have often finished up again in Seattle.” 

In 2002, Griffin signed on at The 5th as the theater’s first director of institutional development and development, making and applying its fundraising initiatives, boosting $30 million through her seven-12 months tenure in the placement. Just after Griffin turned handling director in 2010, she expanded staff members and raised money to enhance the virtually 100-calendar year-previous location, and also introduced instruction and engagement packages reaching a lot more than 1 million college students in Washington.

“I’ve normally questioned the issue, ‘How do we very best serve our neighborhood?’” Griffin suggests. “Bringing folks alongside one another in a darkened theater to encounter a tale by way of songs and dance — a romantic relationship is developed in a way that only the arts can do.”

For Griffin, involvement in the arts has generally been greater than supporting a one business. She believes deeply in the importance of group and that businesses doing the job with each other and supporting each other foster a more healthy, a lot more robust arts ecosystem — and downtown main in standard, and has served as a longtime board member of the Downtown Seattle Association and the Washington State Cultural Alliance.

“Bernie has generally considered in the electric power of The 5th Avenue to be portion of revitalizing downtown Seattle,” Berry states. “She has perseverance — she looks at a challenge and can break it down into approachable ways. Rather of saying, ‘We require to increase 6 million bucks this year,’ she’ll start by indicating, ‘I’m heading to choose up the telephone and get the first thousand this week.’”

This perseverance aided Griffin navigate the at any time-shifting mandates on masks, accumulating and total closure all through the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many carrying out arts venues, The 5th went dim for the duration of mandated pandemic closures and reopened in early 2022.

“That spring was really gruesome,” Griffin admits, “but we noticed a nice uptick in audiences this spring.” Ticket gross sales are growing — currently, one-ticket gross sales are at about 65%, and subscriptions are at about 60%, of pre-pandemic stages, and the theater is forecasting to end the 2022-23 fiscal yr on goal with its budgeted intention of $29 million — and there is careful optimism when it arrives to subsequent time. 

Although Griffin will no extended be on employees at The 5th in the course of that subsequent time — the theater declared in late July that Katie Maltais, taking care of director of Levels theater in Houston, and previous controlling director of Curious Theatre Organization in Denver, will be stepping into Griffin’s purpose on Sept. 5 — she hopes to continue supporting with different fundraising efforts, “if they’ll nevertheless have me!” she jokes. 

She and her husband have some road visits on the guides but eventually approach to keep in Seattle. “I’ve been likely into an place of work each individual working day because I was 21 many years old,” Griffin states. “Looking ahead, I want to be open and take my time just before jumping into anything. For when, I’m just going to wait around and see.”