University hires new directors to manage COPA and Playhouse

Written By Jordyn Hronec, Editor-Elect

During the Spring 2019 semester, former artistic director of the Conservatory of Performing Arts, Ronald Allan-Lindblom, stepped down from his position in order to focus on directing shows in the newly-built Downtown Pittsburgh Playhouse.

And after several months of vacancy, the university announced via its website that not one, but two new directors had been hired in preparation for the upcoming semester.

This year, Steven Breese steps into the position of artistic director and dean of the Conservatory. Alongside him, Drew Martorella has been hired as the assistant vice president and managing director of the Pittsburgh Playhouse, a brand new position.

“We are thrilled to welcome Steven and Drew to Point Park,” President Paul Hennigan said in a statement given in the official announcement. “Their fresh energy, commitment and vision to the University’s mission for our nationally-recognized Conservatory and award-winning Pittsburgh Playhouse will set the agenda for years to come and provide an exceptional student academic experience as well an entertaining, unique and thought-provoking slate of programming for the public.”

Both Breese and Martorella, who come from universities out of state, expressed their excitement to begin their work in Pittsburgh and at Point Park.

“There is so much to learn and discover about this institution and the culture of Point Park University,” Martorella said. “I look forward to working closely with Steven Breese, and I am excited to work with the students.”

“The position at Point Park was really attractive,” Breese said. “And I wasn’t on the job market when it came up. But the Pittsburgh Downtown Cultural District is really something to be proud of, and Point Park University is located at the heart of it, and that is really exciting.”

Breese also commended President Hennigan’s dedication to the arts, citing it as a reason for coming to Point Park.

“The president has a vision and desire to invest in the arts and build a magnificent theater,” Breese said. “Not every university has a president this willing to support the arts.”

Breese is leaving his position as the dean of the College of Arts, Communication and Design at Long Island University to move to Pittsburgh and take on directing the Conservatory. However, his career and experience in the arts extends beyond higher education.

“I’ve been a dean at three different places,” Breese said. “But I was also an actor, a director, and a playwright in Chicago.”

Breese described the job of a college dean as being “multi-faceted”, due to different schools having different budgets and having to balance academics, the arts and financials.

“Most things pass through a dean’s office,” Breese said. “When a dean is doing their job well, they are supporting students and faculty to do well.”

In preparation for the semester, and in order to integrate into Point Park University, Breese said he must learn as much as he can about the school and its culture.

“There are three ways to learn,” Breese said. “The first way is to get on campus and to spend as much time as possible with faculty and staff. Then, I have to look at data. Then, I have to learn about the curriculum.”

Breese also plans to spend as much time as possible talking with students and focusing on the upcoming season.

And while Breese prepares to serve as the Dean of COPA, Martorella is preparing for a successful season at the Playhouse.

“My position is a new position, so I don’t have a predecessor,” Martorella said. “It was created as a response to the magnificent construction and renovation that Point Park undertook in building the Playhouse. I believe that the initial idea for the position stemmed from the idea that it’s true that when you build a new building, you have the opportunity to make a statement. You can sense and support the goals of students, and you can interact with and use the facility to move careers forward.”

Martorella is leaving behind his position as the executive director of UCCS Presents at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. He is excited to join the Point Park community, as well as the Pittsburgh community.

Martorella is also exploring new ideas for the Playhouse to be a resource for all Point Park students.

“As someone with a background in higher education and the arts, the arts thrive when all folks feel welcome,” Martorella said. “I also have a background in student success. So from the larger idea of student life, all students should be welcome and able to use the facility. I want students from all disciplines to feel like it’s their facility.”

This upcoming season, the Playhouse will host a number of productions, such as “Parade” in March 2020 and “Pump Up the Volume” in April 2020. Both Breese and Martorella expressed their excitement for these shows, as well as how they will be received.

The two directors also plan for their doors to always be open to students and faculty.