Case | HBS Case Collection | October 2011 (Revised May 2015)

The American Repertory Theater

by Rohit Deshpande, Allen S. Grossman and Ryan Johnson


When Diane Paulus, artistic director and CEO of the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) first started in 2008, she attracted media coverage around an aesthetic that aimed to give the audience more ownership over the theater experience, excited theatergoers by experimenting with new venues and received critical recognition for the breadth and range of the work she staged. Paulus also recognized the changing realities in theater, which included dropping subscription numbers and an increase in single ticket buyers. Paulus, inspired by the mission of the A.R.T.—to expand the boundaries of theater—hastened a shift in the A.R.T. business model. Her new plans included operating two unique segmented venues, creating and presenting varied content that aimed to be both challenging and popular, and driving a sales and marketing campaign focused on single ticket buyers, memberships and dynamic pricing. Early results showed some promise; the A.R.T. was closer to break-even than in previous years. However, some questioned if the A.R.T. was beginning to look like a commercial theater, focused on presenting theater that sold, rather than truly expanding boundaries. Despite the questioning, Paulus remained committed to fulfilling her vision of the A.R.T. mission in order to solidify A.R.T. as a leading and financially stable not-for-profit regional theater.

Keywords: Advertising Campaigns; Arts; Business Model; Leading Change; Media; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Nonprofit Organizations; Competitive Strategy; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; North and Central America;


Deshpande, Rohit, Allen S. Grossman, and Ryan Johnson. "The American Repertory Theater." Harvard Business School Case 512-026, October 2011. (Revised May 2015.)