Lou Spisto is an experienced theater producer with several Broadway and West End productions under his belt. The acclaimed recent production of The Glass Menagerie on Broadway and Strangers on a Train on the West End, are two of his first productions as an above-the-title producer. Louis is co-producer of Rocky on Broadway as well as Big Fish in the 2013 season. Through his arts management company, Louis has worked as a consultant with clients in the Theater and Orchestra industry; both non-profit and for-profit enterprises. He serves on the Board of Music Heritage Global, an organization devoted to the education, collaboration, innovation and preservation of the arts.
Louis Spisto is passionate about the relationship between communities and arts organizations. As head of performing arts institutions of national significance, he has a long history of developing and nurturing innovative programs in arts education and community engagement in places as diverse as such as Orange County, San Diego, Detroit and New York City.
Lou Spisto has built a highly regarded career in arts management. His work with arts organizations has drawn the attention of many of the industry’s leading professionals. This is in part due to his success in building organizations, turning around difficult financial situations and keeping organizations in surplus while growing their capacity to support great work.
Louis’s career began after earning his Bachelor's degree in Business from the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Arts Administration in 1979. Shortly after, he was hired by Skidmore College, a highly ranked Liberal Arts college in Sarasota Springs, New York, to complete a major capital campaign. Even then his fundraising skills were apparent, he raised 20% more than his goal.
Making a move to California, Lou Spisto accepted a position at the University of California Berkley’s nationally recognized performing arts organization: CAL Performances. The organization presents more than 100 events per year across 6 world-class venues with a total of 12,000 seats. As the Director of Operations and Development, Louis was responsible for administrative areas like accounting, the box office, and development. He also managed a renovation program for the organization’s primary 2000-seat venue. At the University of California, Louis Spisto created accounting and box office systems that saved more than $250,000, and organized the first annual fundraising program for the organization.
In 1984, Louis made another cross-country move, this time to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, becoming the Director of Marketing for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. One of the country’s top 10 orchestras, Pittsburgh Symphony has an international reputation and an incredible artistic legacy. As the Director of Marketing, Lou Spisto was responsible for the sales of more than 120 subscription events in addition to managing 30 staff members in the marketing, public relations, box office, and telemarketing departments. While there, he increased ticket sales from 68% to 92% of capacity, and received national media attention for innovations in marketing from the New York Times, NPR, and Washington Post.
After his time with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Louis Spisto became the Executive Director of the Pacific Symphony in Orange County, California. The orchestra, one of the nation’s top 20, is a resident performing group at the Segerstrom Center (then the Orange County Performing Arts Center) with an outdoor 10,000 seat amphitheater. During his 11-year career with the orchestra, Louis guided the group to a national reputation of creative innovation and financial stability, more than tripling their budget. He led and completed the orchestra’s first capital campaign, creating an endowment funding artistic and educational initiatives.
After tenures with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the American Ballet Theater as President and Executive Director, respectively, Lou Spisto became the Executive Director and Executive Producer of The Old Globe Theater in San Diego, California. As San Diego’s largest and the country’s sixth largest regional theater, The Old Globe produces 16 plays and musicals with more than 650 performances combined over three theaters. Louis was the lead producer for 10 seasons, totaling 140 productions, including 6 Broadway transfers and more than 40 world premieres.
In addition to his producing responsibilities, Lou Spisto developed and led a $75 million building program and capital campaign supporting a new theater, education center, public spaces, reserves, and endowment funds, personally securing the $20 million lead donation and closing a $10 million gift for the campaign. He also instituted new programs that eliminated a $2 million deficit and nearly doubled the overall budget to $20 million. As his passions lie with education, community engagement and developing new productions, Louis developed playwright-in-residence programs, which produced over 30 world premieres, and expanded the educational programs to reach 50,000 people annually.