When San Diego Repertory Theatre was struggling during the Great Recession in 2008 and lost its managing director, board member Larry Alldredge agreed to volunteer in the position until it was filled. Thirteen years later, he’s still there and still working without a salary. But last week he announced plans to retire.
The La Jolla resident will continue to serve until his successor arrives. An executive search firm has been hired to look for his replacement, which could take three to six months.
Alldredge said the COVID-19 pandemic — though devastating for artists and the company’s ticket sales — has been a boon for donations, grants and stimulus funds to pay the staff. It also gave the company time to do the strategic planning necessary for a change at the helm.
“Since I came in, I’ve continuously thought when is the right time when the next person can run with it. The pandemic provided that pause,” said Alldredge, 60. “Unlike a normal year where we’re producing plays while planning new ones, we had time to actually get a year ahead in planning. We have 10 plays we’ve penciled in for the future, when normally we might have just five or six.”
Rep co-founder and longtime artistic director Sam Woodhouse said Alldredge and his wife, Dawn Moore, have been a major part of the theater’s growth, stability and commitment to progressive theater-making over the past two decades. The couple — both of whom are retired Qualcomm executives — are the largest individual donors in the theater’s history. Moore also served on the theater’s board from 2004 to 2017, the last two years as president.
Woodhouse described Alldredge as one of the smartest people he’s ever met, with a passion for theater, a willingness to embrace risk in the name of art and a full-hearted embrace of the company’s values.
“Larry is a one-of-a-kind managing director and a true hero of the arts in San Diego theater history,” Woodhouse said. “There are so many ways that Larry has made it possible for us to reach for our artistic dreams and climb to new heights of quality and inclusiveness.”
Alldredge came to the Rep after what he jokingly called a failed effort at retirement from San Diego wireless technology firm Qualcomm, where he was vice president of technology from 1994 to 2007. Moore was vice president of engineering at Qualcomm from 1990 to 2004. Alldredge was in his mid-40s when he retired from the company.
“I guess I’m bad at retirement,” he said. “When I left Qualcomm, it wasn’t that I didn’t love what I was doing. I just wanted to do more than one thing in life.”
Like his wife, Alldredge is passionate about theater, having first discovered it in kindergarten. In his teens, he was active in community theater, both onstage and behind the scenes designing scenery, sound and lighting. He and Moore were season subscribers and board members at the Rep before the theater’s board president asked him if he’d be willing to serve as “interim” managing director.
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“When I told my mother about the job, she said, ‘Be careful, I’ve been interim choir director at my church for 45 years,’” Alldredge said. “But it just clicked right away. I saw the company had so much potential and I saw how the skills I had could help it realize that potential.”
From 2008 to 2020, San Diego Rep’s annual revenue grew by 175 percent, including an increase in contributed revenue of 115 percent. Rep officials said Alldredge’s philanthropy and leadership enabled the company to build a dependable infrastructure.
“Larry has devoted a significant portion of his life to San Diego Repertory Theatre, and his energy proved much-needed by the organization,” longtime Rep supporter Osborn Hurston said in a statement. “Larry’s multifaceted work as managing director has contributed greatly to the long-lasting success of the Rep. He leaves huge shoes to fill.”
In the past year the theater created its Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Action Plan, which, in part, calls for an examination of the eventual succession of the artistic and managing directors as opportunities to achieve representation for indigenous and people of color in senior leadership.
The company has hired m/Oppenheim Executive Search to conduct a nationwide hunt for Alldredge’s replacement. Alldredge said the firm will begin its search by speaking to 350 arts leaders nationwide in the next several weeks.
Alldredge said that when the time comes to hand over the keys to his successor, he’ll give retirement “my best shot,” with plans to travel with friends he and Moore have made through the Rep to places around the world that they’ve never been.
Alldredge said that once the Rep returns to indoor performances, hopefully in the fall, he’ll be looking forward to attending shows as no more than a ticket holder.
“I am going to love it,” he said. “I’ve always envied the audience members when they can just sit back and look at it and marvel at it and be a part of it.” ◆