Image - piano on concert hall stage
Past Event

Behold! The Performing Arts Prevail

Anne W. Smith, the Commonwealth Club's Arts Member-led Forum chair, will moderate a discussion relative to restorative performing arts ideas and values, lingering pandemic issues and new implications for artist and audiences. 

Sean Fenton, the “new kid on the block”, is executive director for the arts community service organization Theatre Bay Area. He will spotlight new approaches and thinking ideologies of large and small companies, including why  passion is central to leveraging  pathways through equity, diversity and inclusion as theatre’s strongest future. Phillippa Cole, senior director of artistic planning at San Francisco Symphony, will share the emerging impact of Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen’s sparks of innovation underneath his galvanizing leadership model of collaborating artist partners. Is this how the symphony will—as Partner Julia Bullock so aptly wrote—“unpick the institutional tangle?" Why will Davies Hall’s collaborative space message prevail? And Carma Zisman, executive director of ODC/Dance, which was founded 50 years ago by Artistic Director Brenda Way, will talk about how ODC committed to 52-week full-time contracts for their dancers. It’s a very radical move in the contemporary dance world that grounds ODC's 50th anniversary the impact of EDI issues, and the professional dance world's positioning right now.

Join us for an enlightening conversation. We must try!

About the Speakers

Phillippa Cole is the senior director of artistic planning at San Francisco Symphony. She was previously the associate director of artistic planning for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, producing at London’s Almeida Theatre, casting administrator of the English National Opera, and agent with Askonas Holt artist management company focusing on conductors, singers, and stage directors, including Michael Tilson Thomas , Magdalena Kozena and Sir Simon Rattle. She served as the Center’s Performance panel chair at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Sean Fenton has been active in the professional Bay Area theatre community for more than two decades. He has worked as an actor, musician, director and administrator. He as performed at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, San Francisco Playhouse, Crowded Fire Theater, 42nd Street Moon, and Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company, among others. Backstage, he’s been a leader at Bay Area Children’s Theatre and Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre, and he has developed audience research services at Wolf Brown’s Intrinsic Impact program.

Before taking the helm at ODC/Dance five years ago, Carma Zisman served as director of institutional advancement at The Walt Disney Family Museum. Previously she was the vice president of development at the World Affairs Council of Northern California, and development director of the College of Liberal & Creative Arts at San Francisco State University.


Zisman photo by Tanya Angita; Fenton photo by Kim Champagne; Smith photo by MarthaL.

An Arts Member-led Forum program. Forums at the Club are organized and run by volunteer programmers who are members of The Commonwealth Club, and they cover a diverse range of topics. Learn more about our Forums.

June 21, 2022

The Commonwealth Club of California
United States

Image - Phillippa Cole

Phillippa Cole

Senior Director of Artistic Planning, San Francisco Symphony

Image - Sean Fenton

Sean Fenton

Executive Director, Theatre Bay Area

Image - Carma Zisman

Carma Zisman

Executive Director, ODC/Dance

Image - Anne W. Smith

Dr. Anne W. Smith

Co-chair, Commonwealth Club Arts Member-led Forum