Playhouse Square announced today that Gina Vernaci plans to step down as president and CEO in February 2023 after a 39-year career with the organization.
The Board of Trustees will shortly begin a nationwide search for Playhouse Square’s next CEO. Trustees Jim Merlino, chief clinical transformation officer at the Cleveland Clinic, and Brent Ballard, managing partner of Calfee, have agreed to serve as co-chairs of the Search Committee, whose first order of business will be to retain a firm that will help conduct the search.
Vernaci joined Playhouse Square in 1984 and grew from an intern with the two-theater organization to executive producer overseeing programming in 11 performance spaces, with responsibility for more than 1000 shows and almost $50 million in gross sales annually. During her tenure as CEO, she successfully led the organization through unprecedented pandemic challenges, with 1100 shows/events cancelled and theater doors shuttered for 15 months.
During the lockdown, Playhouse Square completed and opened The Lumen, a 34-story, 396-foot luxury apartment tower, which is now more than 82 percent leased. As Road Vice Chair of The Broadway League, the national trade association for the Broadway industry, Vernaci and Playhouse Square helped lead the industry nationally as theaters started opening again. Locally, Playhouse Square hosted the first touring show in the United States, The Choir of Man, and the opening of the return of Disney’s The Lion King to its U.S. tour. With strong partnerships and support from government, its Board and donors, Playhouse Square has emerged with its financial strength intact, its resident companies in place and most of its restaurants and retail again open for business.
“Playhouse Square is extremely fortunate to have had Gina’s leadership for almost four decades,” said Amy Brady, Chair of the Playhouse Square Board of Trustees and Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Key Bank. “Her extraordinary knowledge, reputation and relationships within the nation’s performing arts community have helped us achieve our leadership position in the industry. We are extraordinarily well-positioned to attract top candidates, and I am grateful that Gina is giving us the time and personal commitment to help make a smooth and successful transition.”
“My years at Playhouse Square have been an incredible experience and a great honor,” said Vernaci. “I got to grow up as a professional within an organization that went from dodging the wrecking ball to becoming a giant in our industry. And I got to do it in partnership with an amazing team of colleagues and a super supportive Board. I know I will never lose the gratitude I feel for the Playhouse Square family.”