Hipp's new producing director hopes to bridge the arts and business

Thomas Eldon Anderson is the new producing director at the Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville.

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer
Published: Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 18, 2013 at 4:38 p.m.

The Hippodrome Theatre's new producing director has extensive business experience, such as in development and planning, sales and marketing, startups, and venture capital markets — and he's also an actor.


Thomas Eldon Anderson is the new producing director at the Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville.

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer


Thomas Eldon Anderson

Age: 55
Occupation: Producing director, Hippodrome Theatre
Personal: Married to actress Cristine McMurdo-Wallis
Pets: Winston Beauxzeaux, a tuxedo kitty
Dream partners for lunch: Thomas Jefferson, Anton Chekhov, Winston Churchill, Billy Shakespeare
Last book read: "A Whole New Mind" by Daniel Pink
Favorite book: "The Mask of Apollo: A Novel" by Mary Renault
Favorite TV shows: All PBS dramas, "The West Wing," "Homeland," "Slings and Arrows"
What's playing in his car: NPR or XM Classical, blues, jazz
Hobbies: Gardening, birding, golf, cooking
Education: B.A., cultural anthropology, Ithaca College; master of fine arts, theater, Southern Methodist University

But Thomas Eldon Anderson doesn't view the arts and business as mutually exclusive.

Calling the Hipp "a crown jewel of Gainesville," Anderson said he will be an ambassador of the arts to the business community and an ambassador of the business community to the arts.

"(It's) a position that I relish," he said. "One of the things I specialize in is building the bridges."

Anderson's predecessor, Mary Hausch, was the theater's only producing director — for 40 years — until she retired when Anderson came aboard on Oct. 8.

Michael Curry, chairman of the search committee charged with filling the Hipp's top post, said they needed to find someone with a unique skill set.

"And Tom really fit the bill. … I knew first and foremost the Hipp is a complicated and complex business," said Curry, who was also recently named chairman of the board.

Anderson moved to Gainesville from Baton Rouge, La., with his wife, professional actress Cristine McMurdo-Wallis. Before coming to Gainesville, Anderson was interim executive director and director of corporate and government development at the Stephenson Disaster Management Institute at Louisiana State University.

The couple also lived here for a time in the 1990s, when Anderson acted in three productions at the theater.

"All of (the productions) are treasured artistic memories of mine," Anderson said.

Another treasured memory from that time is his first romantic getaway with his wife at a bed and breakfast in Micanopy.

Instead of acting or directing, Anderson, who also worked in state and federal government, will spend his first few months on the job gathering information to chart a new course for the theater.

Anderson is conducting a series of "SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats" analyses, which he called non-threatening opportunities to collectively discuss these subjects.

In addition to the staff, board members and stakeholders also will participate in the SWOT analysis, Anderson said.

The Hipp employs 30 part-time and full-time employees and 13 interns, plus actors and contractors.

Anderson credited Hausch for the quality of the theater staff.

"Everyone here is really top of their game," Anderson said. "My God, I've got a hell of a team."

The theater has more than 110 business partner sponsors, said Jessica Hurov, director of communications. "The sense of trust they have in us… And I think (Anderson) being here will only deepen that."

The producing director's job includes marshaling resources and fundraising, said board chair Curry, who also stressed the importance of underwriting with endowments.

Anderson spoke of artistic director Lauren Caldwell's particular talents, such as her vision, passion and ability to tease audiences.

"That's the art that I'm so proud to advocate on behalf of," Anderson said.

In January 2014, Anderson will present a three- to five-year strategic plan to the board of directors. The Hipp will launch capital campaigns in September 2014.

"We need to engage the broader community in our future," the producing director said.

Anderson is also working on a book, "Crisis of Imagination: Why Reducing our Commitment to the Arts and Arts Education is a Threat to Our Economy and National Security," which will include material from contributors.

Anderson said he found the producing director position on Artsearch, a job board for the industry, this past winter.

"I saw this, and I had this flash sitting there in front of the computer," Anderson said. He envisioned his memories of the Hipp and Micanopy.

"I have never wanted a job more," Anderson said. "And I think I'm the luckiest man in the world."

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