Theater Career Risen Like a Hot Air Balloon

If theater matchmakers were asked to recommend someone to remake the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene, a small nonprofit with a niche audience, into the animated producer of the Off Broadway hit, Christopher Massimine might not have been first on the yenta list.

Massimine in 2012, century old theater He was a 26-year-old Italian-American Catholic, producing shows for a largely older audience, with limited experience as a theater manager and even less experience in Yiddish.

But when he left seven years later, Folksbiene’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” It was moving from its own theater inside the Jewish Heritage Museum, directed by Joel Grey, to Stage 42, one of Off Broadway’s largest venues. The show had already sold out all tickets at the museum, and the theater’s revenue more than doubled in a year to nearly $5 million.

“Smart, dedicated, motivated, professional and always a pleasure to deal with,” said Ron Lasko, a publicist who worked with Massimine at Folksbiene.

To the surprise of many, however, Massimine didn’t hang around to celebrate “Fiddler”‘s successful transfer to a new theater. Instead, he left Folksbiene in early 2019 and accepted a job as general manager shortly thereafter. Pioneer Theater Company In Salt Lake City, the largest professional theater in the city.

“Chris has a proven track record of success,” said Dan Reed, vice president at the University of Utah, who oversees professional theater on campus at the time of Massimine’s appointment.

But for two years of his tenure there, Massimine was accused of embellishing his life story with wildly false depictions of his theatrical pursuits and sideshows.

Salt Lake City’s Fox affiliate KSTU-TV, based on public records and clues reported earlier this year As his resume states, Massimine did not have a master’s degree from New York University. The station said its claims helped develop popular video games and some major ad campaigns were left unchecked.

And even though she says she’s received a national arts advocacy award—and posted a photo of her wearing the medal—the donor organization doesn’t seem to exist.

TV channel reporter Adam Herbets said his sources included people who had seen Massimine’s resume and found it “incredible”.

“And you know,” he continued, “it’s incredible, sometimes it has a positive connotation, sometimes a negative connotation. In this case, it’s literally unbelievable.”

Apparently, Massimine’s embellishments go beyond what the TV station is reporting to include allegations that she was born in Italy and was once a full-time employee. Playwrights Guild.

“It’s a wild surprise,” said Jerry Rapier, artistic director of the Plan B Theater Company in Salt Lake City and a leading voice in the theater community there.

University of Utah communications director Chris Nelson acknowledged that Massimine’s resume contained some “false information” and that her position in theater is currently “under review.”

His wife, Maggie Massimine, said that her husband is currently on family medicine leave from college, which was confirmed before the TV news and was “out of reach” for an interview. Massimine’s spokesperson, Michael Deaver, said there could be some misunderstandings about issues such as his client’s work on advertising campaigns because he was employed by a subcontractor.

Maggie Massimine denied that her husband exaggerated or misled people, but said that due to the ongoing legal disputes, she was unable to resolve some questions asked about her husband’s past.

“Our side of the story has not been told,” he said. “I wish I could say more.”

Resume-filling annuals run deep, and often fillers are people who have already achieved a good measure of success. Former CEO of Bausch & Lomb. A Notre Dame head football coach. a famous chef.

Chief Robert Irvine said in 2008 that he needed to stand alone “without embellishment” after it was determined that he had filled his résumé with a science degree, a knighthood, and a stint as a chef to U.S. presidents.

According to a local theater director, proof of Massimine’s willingness to tell a long story goes back to her youth in New Jersey. Gerry Appel, then director of a theater now known as the Somerset County Cultural and Arts Center, recalled that in 2003 a teacher at a local high school sent him a request from Massimine. According to Appel, the teacher said Massimine told him he was the nephew of actor John Stamos, best known for his role as Uncle Jesse in “Full House,” and that Massimine wanted to stage “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the theater. .

“I said yes,” Appel remembered. At the time, he said he was spearheading the post-flood renovation of the old vaudeville venue and thought he could use the celebrity donation. He also thought right: “This kid might run a theater someday.”

Massimine would later say in a 2020 interview with a Forbes magazine contributor that as a high school senior, she “sold all the work of a professional theater production.”

Appel says “Rocky Horror” was played twice for an audience of about 50. According to newspaper records, tickets were $15. A spokesperson for the actor said that Massimine and Stamos are not related.

A university spokesperson said that after three years of training, Massimine received her bachelor’s degree in dramatic literature at NYU in 2007. Maggie Massimin said she thinks her husband has earned more graduate and undergraduate degrees than KTSU has reported. “She was as surprised as anyone,” he said.

Masimine’s profile on professional networking site LinkedIn reports that during her college years she served as “editor of editor and creative affairs coordinator” for over 18 months for the Dramatists Guild, a service organization for playwrights.

However, guild training director Tari Stratton said Massimine spent only four months there as an unpaid intern. “We have no record of Mr Massimine holding a paid position in the guild or holding a title other than a trainee,” he wrote in an email.

Massimine served in various roles in theater organizations before joining the cast of Flea, a small, messy New York theater, in 2011. He was hired by Folksbiene the following year and was promoted to general manager in 2016.

At the Yiddish theater, framed letters from legendary Broadway producer and director Hal Prince hung in Massimine’s office. He counted Manny Azenberg, a producer and eight-time Tony Award winner, among his mentors, and he seemed poised to continue to advance through the ranks of Manhattan’s theater ecosystem.

Bruce Cohen, a retired publicist who worked with Folksbiene to promote the Drama Desk-nominated “Golden Bride” operetta, said Massimine was a “very sweet man” with the ability to deftly manipulate his stormy artist egos.

Beck Lee, who served as a publicist for Folksbiene for most of Massimine’s tenure, described him as an ambitious hard worker.

“He did a lot to raise the profile of the company,” Lee said, “which sometimes tended to exaggerate, which I learned was typically an impressionist and entertainer vehicle. I thought he was a 21st century version of David Merrick who happily clamored for his performances to the public and the press.”

There were definitely issues with a profile posted on The Daily Beast under the heading “Massimine’s 2018 profile”.Meet ‘Nice Goy’ Christopher Massimine, director of the National Yiddish Theatre

Based on an interview with Massimine, the piece reports that she came to the United States as a baby from Italy and appeared on Broadway as a child in shows like “Beauty and the Beast” and “Les Mis.”tolords.” She was born in New Jersey, however, and according to the Broadway League’s widely viewed as authoritative database, there is no record of her performing in either show.

Maggie Massimine said her husband performed on Broadway as a child, citing memories she saw at her parents’ home. However, she said her husband was not born in Italy and requested a correction from The Daily Beast.

A spokesperson for the Daily Beast said, “Our editorial team has no record of requesting a profile correction from Mr Massimine.”

Despite her success in directing Folksbiene, it is unclear the circumstances under which Massimine left the theatre, and the executive director declined to comment. Beck Lee, the theater’s former advertiser, said she was told by theater officials that Massimine had been asked to leave after she had invested the theater funds in an unrelated production without permission.

“He was given the opportunity to accept his behavior and leave without further incident,” Lee said.

A second person with knowledge of the dispute admitted that Massimine left after an issue with an investment.

However, Maggie Massimine denied that there was such a problem and noted that her husband was invited to attend the opening of Stage 42 “Fiddler” in February 2019.

In Utah, Massimine was hired with a salary of $152,000 to run a theater with an operating budget of approximately $5 million. The school paid Management Consultants for the Arts, a research firm, about $36,000 to recommend candidates.

“This résumé was so phenomenal it probably got people drunk,” said Brant Pope, head of drama at the University of Texas at Austin and former president of the University Resident Theater Association. “It probably blurred his vision.”

Maggie Massimin said she heard about the Utah business through her husband’s relationship with producer Azenberg, who is an influential supporter of Yiddish theatre. Azenberg’s daughter, Karen, a former Broadway stage manager, has been artistic director of the Pioneer Theater since 2012.

“The search committee was looking for a general manager who would help grow this theater and support my desire to develop new musicals,” Karen Azenberg wrote in an email.

Charles Morey, who served as Pioneer’s artistic director from 1984 to 2012, said in an interview that he was upset by the embarrassment the hiring brought to the university and the theater and that the search was “badly mishandled”.

In Utah, Massimine continued to promote her own achievements. Two years ago, her new theater used her information to announce that she was named “Humanitarian of the Year” by the National Performing Arts Action Association and will be honored at a reception in Washington.

Jenny Thomas, spokesperson for the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, a Washington-based advocacy group, said that neither she nor other colleagues working for similar nonprofits had heard of the National Performing Arts Action Association.

No organization by this name has a website or is mentioned by news organizations, except those who receive the newsletter from the theatre.

However, Massimine allegedly traveled to Washington in January 2020 to receive the award, and later billed the university about $800 for her expenses. On the trip, an image of him supposedly taken at the White House and wearing a medal was deposited with the fictitious National Performing Arts Action Association and published two months later on a website containing an article about Massimine’s relationship with her mother.

The author of the article said that the photo, title and credit information were provided by Massimine.

Joseph Berger contributed to the reporting.

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