Lincoln Center Looks to Broadway for New Leadership

Next prexy of the Gotham nonprofit will draw on his roots in marketing and commercial producing

With the selection of Broadway producer Jed Bernstein (pictured) as the next president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, one of Gotham’s major nonprofits looks poised to inject its activities with a little commercial flair.

To hear Bernstein tell it, he views the challenges of the new gig — from fundraising to digital growth to enhanced arts education initiatives — as closely linked to the marketing concerns that will sound familiar to any Rialto producer.

“It’s all about doing everything you can to support the creation of art — and selling more tickets, getting butts in seats, is very closely linked to that,” he said.

Bernstein’s for-profit showbiz background makes him an unusual choice for the leadership role at the flagship nonprofit, where past presidents, including outgoing topper Reynold Levy, tended to come from noncommercial sectors such as public service or city government.

Bernstein got his start in marketing and advertising, working at firms including Ogilvy and Mather, before he stepped into the top post at the Broadway League, the trade association of legit producers and presenters (known during his time there as the League of American Theaters and Producers). In 2006, following an 11-year tenure that saw the development of several corporate sponsorship programs as well as Kids Night on Broadway and the Internet Broadway Database, he moved into commercial producing with shows including “Driving Miss Daisy.”

In recent years he also spearheaded the financial and creative overhaul of the Bucks County Playhouse, which in its newly revitalized incarnation has hosted high-profile fare including last year’s developmental run of Warner Bros. Theater Ventures’ legit adaptation of “Misery.”

According to Lincoln Center Board Chair Katherine Farley, it was Bernstein’s commercial and marketing background that made him a compelling choice to fill the presidential post, which Levy will exit in January.

“He’s really knows the arts. He’s studied it, he’s taught it, he’s produced it,” Farley said. “He’s very entrepreneurial, and his background in marketing is particularly helpful here.”

Bernstein will take on his new role just as Lincoln Center — the umbrella nonprofit linking 11 constituent arts orgs including Lincoln Center Theater and the Film Society of Lincoln Center — has completed a $1.2 billion renovation of its Upper West Side campus. On the docket, though, remains one major redo: The renovation of Avery Fisher Hall, home to the New York Philharmonic, at an estimated potential price tag of some $300 million.

That’s in addition to Lincoln Center’s approximately $118 million annual operating budget, around half of which needs to be raised (as opposed to earned, via ticket sales and other means). Bernstein said he envisions exploring new revenue streams along the lines of the corporate sponsorships and partnerships that he initiated during his time at the League.

The expansion of Lincoln Center’s digital activities will include increased digital distribution of content, following in the footsteps of the Metropolitan Opera, the Lincoln Center resident company that has achieved notable success through its series of opera cinemacasts. “The Met has really shown the way there,” Bernstein said.

Even his duties in expanding Lincoln Center’s already fairly robust arts education programs are viewed through the lens of marketing.

“Arts education is directly tied to putting people in seats,” he said. “Audiences erode when people aren’t exposed to the arts when they’re young.”

Bernstein, whose production of “Driving Miss Daisy” is wrapping up a run in Australia, will see out his duties as producer director at the Bucks County Playhouse through the end of year. He officially begins his new job at Lincoln Center in January.

Popular on Variety

More Legit

  • Sanctuary City Martyna Majok

    Listen: How Off Broadway Is Coping With Shutdowns From Coronavirus

    It’s not just Broadway that’s been affected by New York City’s shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Off Broadway productions went dark too, cutting short the already limited runs of plays and musicals at venues all over the city. Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below: One of those plays is “Sanctuary City,” the latest by Pulitzer [...]

  • U.K. Freelancers

    U.K. Government Faces Pressure From Industry on Economic Measures for Freelancers

    The U.K. government is facing increasing pressure from the creative industries after it emerged that economic measures set out for the self-employed last week by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak have yawning gaps in them. The measures may have come as a welcome move for many creative industries workers, but not all are eligible [...]

  • Tessa Thompson MIB International Premiere

    Tessa Thompson, Michael Urie and Celia Keenan-Bolger to Appear in Play-PerView Fundraiser (EXCLUSIVE)

    Tessa Thompson will appear in a live reading of Ryan Spahn’s comedy ​”Nora Highland” in order to raise money for arts organizations impacted by the coronavirus. “Nora Highland” is being featured on Play-PerView, a new live-streaming initiative that was co-founded by producer ​Jeremy Wein​ (NYC PodFest)​ and actor and producer ​Mirirai Sithole (“Black Mirror: Smithereens”). [...]

  • Mark Rylance Oscars 2016

    'Bridge of Spies' Actor Mark Rylance Leads Union Drive for Coronavirus Relief Donations

    U.K. entertainment industry union Equity has pledged £1 million ($1.2 million) to support its members who have been affected by the pandemic-induced industry shutdown. Equity is asking for more donations, stating that the vast majority of its 47,000 members earn modest sums and do not have savings as a fall-back option. The appeal for further [...]

  • Directors Coronavirus

    Economic Package For Freelancers Elicits Mixed Response From U.K. Industry

    The long-awaited economic measures for the self-employed revealed by U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Thursday have elicited mixed response from the film and TV industry’s predominantly freelance workforce. Self-employed individuals can claim 80% of their average income over the last three years up to £2,500 ($3,000) a month, which is taxable. To [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    Critic’s Notebook: The Night Before Broadway Went Dark

    Let me preface this by saying the story I’m about to tell is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Two weeks ago, I rushed to New York City to catch “The Inheritance” before it closed on Broadway. I’d been tracking the play by Matthew Lopez — a multigenerational, six-and-a-half-hour monument that resurrects E.M. Forster [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content