Meet our new Leadership TeamAfter an extensive national search, we are pleased to announce that the Board of Trustees has selected Donna Lynn Hilton as the new Artistic Director and David B. Byrd as the new Managing Director of our beloved Goodspeed. Ms. Hilton and Mr. Byrd succeed Executive Director Michael Gennaro, who retired at the end of 2020.
Goodspeed has been led by a single Executive Director for over 50 years but upon Mr. Gennaro’s retirement, the Board decided to change that leadership model to a dual partnership of Artistic Director and Managing Director, as is most common in regional theatres across the country. Ms. Hilton, the Artistic Director, will lead the creative aspects of the organization while Mr. Byrd, the Managing Director, will focus on Administrative and Financial Management. They will share fund-raising responsibilities.
DONNA LYNN HILTON, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Donna Lynn Hilton is a highly-effective creative producer with a significant record of leading, developing and producing new musical theatre works as well as inspiring a re-envisioning of the classic musical theater canon. She has been a creative force at Goodspeed Musicals for over 30 years and led the creation of many of the two-time Tony Award-winning theatre’s most successful productions of the last 13 years, garnering 9 Best Musical Awards from the Connecticut Critics Circle.
For Goodspeed she produced the 2014 World Premiere of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, developed with Universal Theatrical Group. Holiday Inn was eventually produced on Broadway by Roundabout Theatre Company, licensed by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization and continues to be produced by theatres nationwide. She drove the creation of Goodspeed’s critically acclaimed 2012 production of Show Boat which was subsequently licensed by Rodgers and Hammerstein and has been produced across the US and in the West End. Donna Lynn brought to Goodspeed the new musicals Because of Winn Dixie, Chasing Rainbows, Amazing Grace and Anne of Green Gables (upcoming fall 2021). At The Terris Theatre, she led the development of many new musicals to successful production, among them The Circus In Winter, The Fabulous Lipitones, Passing Through, Band Geeks! and A Sign of the Times. With the development of Hi, My Name is Ben, she led Goodspeed’s first collaboration with a resident theatre outside the US - Scotland’s Dundee Rep Theatre.
Donna Lynn led the creation of the Johnny Mercer Writers Grove at Goodspeed, the partnership with the Johnny Mercer Foundation which welcomes nearly 50 musical theatre composers, lyricists and librettists to Goodspeed’s campus each winter and has become one of the premiere development opportunities available to emerging musical theatre writers. Under Donna Lynn’s leadership, the Grove is recognized as offering a safe and nurturing environment for new work, with a particular focus on elevating diverse voices. The Grove has enhanced development opportunities with 9 new musicals moving on to production on Goodspeed stages and supported the creation of one work awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. She has nurtured Goodspeed’s annual residency of the NYU Tisch School’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program and led an expansion of Goodspeed’s Festival of New Musicals. Through the Festival, Donna Lynn brought to Goodspeed the first US development of the now international hit Come From Away.
Donna Lynn is a past-President of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre and has served as a co-chair of the Selection Committee for NAMT’s annual Festival of New Musicals. She has served as a panelist for The Kurt Weill Foundation Grant Program and serves on the Advisory Panel for the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat.
She has led Goodspeed’s creative response to the pandemic including the creation of two online series - Greatspeed and In The (Home) Office. Under her leadership Goodspeed’s artistic team launched a podcast – In the Spotlight - and produced 2020’s Shakin’ The Blues Away – A Virtual Gala for Goodspeed. Both have garnered worldwide audiences.Donna Lynn is a native of North Carolina and a graduate of East Carolina University’s School of Theatre and Dance. She began her career as a stage manager of Musical Theatre and Opera and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association. Donna Lynn and her husband, Sound Designer Jay Hilton, make their home in Hadlyme with two rescue Border Collie mixes, Cookie and Macy. In her free time, Donna Lynn enjoys gardening, cooking, traveling and entertaining family, friends and colleagues from around the world.
DAVID B. BYRD, MANAGING DIRECTOR
David B. Byrd's career in the professional regional theatre has spanned 20 years with his most recent position as the Managing Director of Virginia Stage Company, Southeastern Virginia’s largest producing theatre. As the chief operating officer of one of the region’s most respected arts organizations, David guides the organization’s fundraising, marketing and operations functions in addition to stewarding use and care of the historic venue. A passion for placemaking, thoughtful community engagement, arts advocacy and coalition-building have made him a sought-after collaborator throughout the region. His commitment to equity, diversity, access, and inclusion is steadfast, with appointments to anti-racism working groups and other related posts in academia and the non-profit sector.
Prior to his work in Norfolk, David was Managing Director of the Clarence Brown Theatre at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where he also served as Adjunct Professor in the UT-Knoxville Department of Theatre and on the Chancellor’s Commission for LGBT People. While at the Clarence Brown Theatre, David introduced a new play program and produced a fruitful collaboration between the theatre and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, he was named a 40 Under 40 honoree by the Knoxville Business Journal. Dedicated to arts education and integration, David was appointed to the McClung Museum Academic Programs Advisory Board and the Great Schools Partnership Advisory Council.
Throughout his career, he has had a passion for new musicals, beginning with his work as General Manager at Triad Stage in Greensboro, NC where he shepherded many new works including Beautiful Star, Brother Wolf, and Bloody Blackbeard.
No stranger to Connecticut, David has held leadership positions at Yale Repertory Theater (Associate Managing Director), Westport Country Playhouse (Director of Marketing), and the Dwight/Edgewood Project in New Haven (Managing Director). He has served as a grants panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, Tennessee Arts Commission, Virginia Commission for the Arts and the United Way, in addition to participating in union negotiations with the League of Resident Theatres (LORT). David has guest lectured at Greensboro College, UNC-Greensboro, Virginia Wesleyan University, Christopher Newport University and Skidmore College, among others. He received an MFA degree in Theater Management from Yale University School of Drama and a BA degree in Drama from UNC-Greensboro in his native North Carolina.
David and his husband Jeff Stanley are proud dads of two senior rescue dogs, Maddie (Bluetick Beagle) and Queenie (German Shorthaired Pointer) and count regular hikes through the woods as a favorite pastime. When not in a theatre, David enjoys making things grow – he gratefully received his grandfather’s green thumb.