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Originally published Friday, December 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Intiman manager Penn is N.Y. bound

Intiman Theatre is losing its longtime manager, Laura Penn, to the Big Apple. The Seattle company's respected managing director since 1994...

Seattle Times theater critic

Intiman Theatre is losing its longtime manager, Laura Penn, to the Big Apple.

The Seattle company's respected managing director since 1994, Penn has accepted the post of executive director of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, a theatrical labor union based in New York.

"I love Intiman and what we've been able to accomplish," said Penn. "This is the only theater in the country I'd want to run. But I've always seen my role as advocating for artists, and the chance to impact the field nationally is an opportunity I had to pursue."

Penn came to Seattle in the 1980s, after working at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. She was hired by Seattle Repertory Theatre as assistant production manager, later coordinated special projects at the Rep, including educational programs, and eventually rose to the position of the Rep's associate managing director.

In 1994, she became Intiman's manager, working alongside artistic head Warner Shook. She stayed on when Bartlett Sher took over as artistic director in 2000, and helped guide Intiman to additional national prominence, via its world premiere of the Broadway musical "The Light in the Piazza," and receipt of a coveted regional theater Tony Award last year.

Penn has also faced major financial challenges at Intiman. Despite a growing audience — and a successful $3 million campaign to make physical improvements to its Seattle Center venue — Intiman has carried a hefty, mounting debt for much the past decade.

But a 2007 fundraising campaign overseen by Penn raised $1.3 million, reducing Intiman's deficit to $1.4 million.

Penn says she hopes to complete the total campaign and retire more of the debt by next spring, when she will move to New York with husband Marty Pavloff (who manages the stage hands at Seattle Center), and their two children.

Penn said her Seattle tenure has opened many doors for her. "I came here to get a little production experience under my belt, and figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up," she noted. "I had no intention of staying here 23 years! But then I fell in love with my husband, with Seattle, and with the theater scene. I love this city, and it's been unbelievably wonderful to build a career here."

Said Sher, in an Intiman press statement: "Laura has been a valued partner, and our collaboration over the past eight years has been a highlight of my career. The foundation of what we have built is very strong and stable ... and there is real opportunity for Intiman to build on her legacy."

Intiman Theatre will launch a national search for Penn's replacement.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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