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New OSF executive director selected

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has named a new executive director to replace Paul Nicholson, who is leaving in December after 33 years with the theater, 17 of them at the helm.

Cynthia Rider comes to the festival after serving as the managing director of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre since 2009, OSF said in a news release.

During her tenure in Kansas City, Rider raised $7 million for the theater and expanded its yearly lineups.

Before her work with that theater, Rider managed another arts organization, the news release said.

OSF Board President Rudd Johnson praised Rider's accomplishments in Kansas City and described her experiences as the "perfect mix" for the job of running OSF.

Johnson said the theater performed an international search for qualified candidates to serve as executive director.

Johnson said a job search firm collected resumes from a large number of theater professionals and eventually narrowed them down to the final candidate during an intensive interview process.

"It's a very exciting time for the company," Johnson said.

He said Rider remains in Kansas City and was introduced to company members Thursday during a conference call.

"She said she was honored to be joining the company," he said.

Bill Rauch, OSF's artistic director, said Rider is a welcome addition to the theater.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Cynthia is the perfect person for this vitally important position," Rauch said in the news release. "Her lifelong passion for the theatre was apparent from the moment we first met, and she already has a deep respect for the history and current work of OSF and our profound relationship with the audience. I can't wait to begin our collaboration."

Johnson said Rider is expected to join the company in early December after Nicholson leaves. She is expected to work with Nicholson in a transition period, the news release said.

Nicholson endorsed Rider in the release, saying that he is confident she will effectively guide the company for years to come.

In September last year when he announced his plans to leave, Nicholson said he'd like to teach, do some consulting and keep a connection to the OSF, maybe something like that of former OSF Artistic Director Libby Appel, who has produced new Chekhov

(playwright's name has been corrected) translations for OSF and returned as a guest director.

"You hit a point in your life when you say it's time," Nicholson said in an interview before his announcement. "For me it happened in the last year. I didn't want to someday retire and have people say, Thank God he's gone.' "

Under Nicholson's tenure, the OSF grew from a pre-professional theater and a place where people could begin their careers to a professional theater where people could have a career and raise families, and once-itinerant actors who stay at OSF now have insurance and retirement plans and earn enough to buy homes.

Nicholson said that's been the biggest single change.

"When I first came, there were three of us that had families," he said. "Today there are 80 or 100, maybe more. That makes me feel good."

Nicholson saw the festival grow in membership from 2,000 to 18,000, expand its annual audience from 240,000 to 410,000 and increase the budget from $2.6 million to more than $30 million a year.