Gretna Theatre is welcoming a new executive producer.
Michael Philip O’Brien was selected for the leadership position after a national search, according to a statement from the theater.
Brian Kurtas, who has served in the role since 2018, is moving on, according to an announcement from marketing and sales manager Mike Hogue. Kurtas, Hogue explained, is departing to become associate artistic director at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.
“It has been a privilege to work with Brian Kurtas while he was the Executive Producer at the Gretna Theatre,” Gretna Theatre board president Patrick Castagna said in a written statement. “He aimed for and reached a higher level of excellence for our theatre and the audience overwhelmingly appreciated it. The Walnut Theatre in Philadelphia will truly benefit from Brian’s expertise and knowledge and we wish him the best.”
Under his leadership, Gretna Theatre saw successful growth in subscription and fundraising revenue, setting modern company records for income, cash reserves, and a retirement of debt, Hogue noted. Despite the downturn because of COVID-19, Gretna Theatre has also increased the amount of programming and educational outreach, and it re-established itself as one of the region’s top year-round destinations for entertainment.
Gretna Theatre is America’s oldest summer theater and Lebanon County’s only professional theater, Hogue noted. Now entering its 95th season, the theater’s program for 2022 will be planned jointly by Kurtas and O’Brien, he said.
O’Brien comes to Gretna Theatre from the 11th Hour Theatre Company in Philadelphia, where he was co-founder and producing artistic director since 2005.
“I am so thrilled to be joining the team here at Gretna Theatre and to be a part of this wonderful organization and community,” O’Brien said in a written statement. “I am looking forward to continuing the incredible work that Brian, the staff, and the board have done to make Gretna Theatre a destination for exceptional professional theatre in Central PA!”
Under O’Brien’s leadership, 11th Hour Theatre Company garnered over 55 Barrymore nominations for excellence in Philadelphia theatre, winning 15 awards including Outstanding Production of a Musical. He has produced multiple world premiere musicals and over 20 Philadelphia premieres, and he has developed more than 10 new musicals with writers from all over the United States.
A native of Philadelphia, O’Brien is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a focus in musical theater. As a performer, O’Brien is a five-time Barrymore Award nominee and won twice: Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical (“Avenue X” in 2009) and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical (“Field Hockey Hot” in 2016).
“O’Brien brings a wealth of knowledge and a wonderfully warm presence to Gretna,” Hogue wrote. “Please join me in welcoming him.”
Hogue also announced that he will be leaving his position with Gretna as well. He departs at the end of October to become managing director “of an organization in Philadelphia,” he said.
“It has been a pleasure working with many of you this season,” he said in a statement. “It was a highlight of my time back in the area to express my passion with you.”
For more information about Gretna Theatre, visit GretnaTheatre.org.
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