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Foothill Theatre faces overhaul

In a major reorganization at Foothill Theatre Company, it was announced Tuesday that Scott Gilbert has replaced Phillip Sneed as artistic director for the regionally renowned acting troupe.

Sneed has been with the troupe for 12 years, coming to the county from San Diego after a national search drew more than 100 applicants. He attributed the shake-up to financial troubles he said the company experienced last year.

“I think when that happens and when there is a lot of debt, a lot of people get very nervous,” Sneed said. “Then people make changes at the top even if they are symbolic.”



Sneed said he hopes the changeover will be smooth and the artists and staff will not feel any ripple effects from the switch.

“I don’t want to do anything to hurt the company. The staff and the artists are the ones that do the work the audience sees and I support them,” Sneed said.




The theater company requested he stay for part of the upcoming season as an actor and director, said Sneed, and he agreed that it would be a “good thing,” but that he would then be moving on. He said he will direct at least two plays at the Sacramento Theatre Company and begin a search for another job as an artistic director.

Sneed said he is proud of the growth the company has seen during the past 12 years. The audience size has increased four-fold, from about 17,000 per year to about 70,000 this past year, he said.

Also, while he was artistic director, the company started an international cultural exchange with a theater company in Russia, received national funding for a new play festival, and formed the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare and Sierra Shakespeare festivals.

“Mostly, I am proud of the ensemble of artists who are the mainstay of the company. Board of directors come and go, but the artists, some of them have been with the company the full 12 years that I have been with the company, they are the backbone,” he said.

Gilbert, who has worked full-time for the company for the past seven months as production manager, said Tuesday he would continue the direction Sneed had set, maintaining the high artistic standing the company has established in the community.

“I came here (from Louisiana),” he said, “because I liked the work being done. I was impressed that such professional theater could exist in such a relatively small community. I respect Sneed and will continue the good things he was doing, including making the season we have currently planned as good as it can be.”

Gilbert, whose wife, Paulette Gilbert, is also employed by Foothill Theatre Company as costume shop manager, received his master’s degree in theater from Louisiana Tech University and then taught there for 10 years. He was in charge of directing and acting in the theater department, and became expert in stage combat and sword play. He also acted, choreographed fight scenes, and stage managed from 2002 to 2004 at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and Sierra Shakespeare Festival at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

“Our company has grown to such a level that it’s impossible for a small group of artists to do everything,” Gilbert said.

“While we do a good job selling tickets, we need to do more to get outside funding, such as grants and donations, both locally and nationally. That would be the job of the development director. The marketing director handles the day-to-day publicity, primarily locally, and ticket sales.”

The Nevada City-based organization also added two positions – marketing director and development director.

Foothill Theatre Company can be reached at 265-9320.


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