Dr. Mark Shugoll is the past Chairman of the Board of Arena Stage. During his tenure he oversaw the completion of Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater that now houses three performing spaces. He is also an avid theatre goer and sees dozens of shows each year. He’s also an avid Washington Capitals’ fan. Mark is the CEO of Shugoll Research, which has created TheaterTrips! which underwrites theater tickets for students, and ArtSpeak! which brings Broadway artists like Audra McDonald, Liz Callaway, and Brian Stokes Mitchell into DC area schools. His generosity and love for theatre is much appreciated by the DC area theatre community.
What year did you first sit on the board of Arena Stage?
I just had my 60th birthday, and people my age aren’t too reliable recalling factual information like that! I believe it was 1994. Many people ask me with my love of theater why I chose to join the Arena Board. That one is simple. It’s because they asked me, and no one else had. So, they chose me!
About how many productions do you see in a year?
Wow, these questions are challenging. I’m guessing I see over 100 productions a year. Some come in batches: eight at the Humana Festival of New American Plays over one weekend, four on one of many typical weekend trips to NY. I see theater when I travel on business and vacation. And we plan special trips all over the country to see projects that excite us. Last year we went to Norfolk, Philadelphia and Atlanta just to see plays of interest of us. I recently came back from London and saw 11 plays in 6 days. There is no place I’d rather be than in a theater. It brings me great joy. My pulse always quickens in anticipation when the lights dim in a theater.
What do you consider to be the greatest accomplishment you had when you were Chairman of the Board at Arena Stage?
It has to be green lighting the new building, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. The Board truly did its homework before making a decision about going ahead with the building. But the decision process had dragged on for years and years. We had a great list of reasons to build and not to build. It was time to make a decision. felt we owed this new building to our audiences, who put up with inadequate facilities for so many years, to the artists who come to Arena so they could have the full technical palette to work with, to the staff who make amazing things happen at Arena, and of course, to our wonderful Artistic Director, Molly Smith, whose vision this all was.
Have you ever considered being onstage?
Never! I don’t have any theatrical talents! I do remember well my theater debut in junior high school. My gym teacher, Ms. McComis came up to me saying she was directing the school play, Inherit the Wind, and she needed boys. I said to her, “Ha. Ha. Ha. I’m an athlete. I don’t do theater.” Her response, was, “Mark, to pass gym next semester you are required to climb the ropes and touch the ceiling. I know you have a fear of going to the top. Do the show and I’ll pass you in gym.” And I said, “Yesss!” I had great stage fright, particularly a fear of forgetting my lines. Lucky for me, I played a lawyer and sat throughout the play at a desk on the courtroom set. I hid a copy of the script in the center desk drawer and referred to it any time I got nervous!
What do you think is the best thing about the DC theatre community?
So many things… I love the diversity of work on our stages. You can see any type of theater here. And the quality of the work is so high, as good as anywhere. Our local artists are so giving and caring. I love how they work at many different theaters and, when they are not working, attend plays all over town. And we must have the smartest, most dedicated, most talented group of Artistic Directors in the country. And don’t forget all the amazing Board members who give in so many ways to our theater community. I love DC theater!
Watch a time lapse video of the construction process of Arena Stage at The Mead Center for American Theater beginning with groundbreaking in January 2008, to substantial completion of the exterior in October 2009.
Arena Stage’s 2011-2012 season schedule.
Mark Shugoll talks about ArtSpeak! on Maryland Theatre Guide.
Shugoll Research website.