Carole Shorenstein Hays, the founder, president and co-owner of SHN, the lead commercial theatre producer in San Francisco, is no longer with the company, its CEO Greg Holland confirmed last week.
Carole Shorenstein Hays outside the Curran Theatre in 2007. Photo: Kevin Berne
Holland did not comment on the nature of the departure. Only the board, which before Shorenstein Hays's departure comprised two members of the Shorenstein Hays family and two members of the Nederlander family (the "SH" and the "N," respectively, in the company name), knows that information. This ends a long-antagonistic partnership, one Shorenstein Hays tried and failed in 1991 to terminate in court.
Holland said that the loss of Shorenstein Hays would cause no change to the leadership structure or the operating structure of SHN, calling her exit "just the loss of a board member." Holland did not know whether the board would replace her.
Even if SHN won't change in name—Holland confirmed that SHN will remain "SHN"—or in structure, it's hard to see that the departure of its public face (the Nederlanders aren't local) and one of its key decision-makers won't change the company's character. Shorenstein Hays, who's also a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer, is known for transforming SHN from another stop on Broadway tours to a legit Broadway tryout zone, a place where producers can test shows for viability on the Great White Way. She's also known for championing more serious, provocative shows, often straight plays, that other Broadway producers shy away from. Often, that aesthetic has paid off: She is the only person to have won a Tony for best play and best revival of the same play, for August Wilson's Fences.
Shorenstein Hays's exit also poses questions about the SHN's use of the Curran Theatre, one of its three venues. While SHN's website states that it owns and operates the Curran, as well as the Golden Gate and the Orpheum, the current relationship between the trust that owns the Curran and Shorenstein Hays is unclear; she inherited the theatre from her father, Walter Shorenstein, a real estate developer who owned lots of property in San Francisco. While Holland confirmed that SHN's lease of the Curran was valid through its current season and that company's current lineup of shows wouldn't change, he didn't know whether they'd be able to continue using it after this season.
Shorenstein Hays could not be reached for comment.
Since taking on producing the shows she wanted to see while in college, this month’s Featured Member and two-time Lemonade Fund benefit producer, Megan Briggs, exemplifies how a theatre artist can blow past the constraints placed on early actors to create her own play and develop works that support the field. Read all about her here.