Chuck Tobin ’80 retires as Playhouse producing artistic director
“Everything came out beautiful.”
This last line of the last production of the last summer season in the “Chuck Tobin era” of Saint Michael’s Playhouse was a most fitting ending, professionally and personally for Tobin, a 1980 St. Mike’s theater graduate who is retiring this October after decades of work at the Playhouse.
Tobin was intentional in selecting Over the River and Through the Woods by Joe DiPietro as the final show of the 2023 Playhouse season, knowing it would be his last production as producing artistic director. The story focuses on family, relationships, and transitions — all topics at the forefront of Tobin’s mind these days.
Tobin watched the final performance from his second-floor McCarthy Arts Center office with its large window that looks out over the very theater where he appeared regularly in leading roles during his Saint Michael’s student days. The Over the River and Through the Woods seasoned professional cast and production team collaborated to deliver an absorbing and touching story, well told, in signature Playhouse style.
The show brought a final standing ovation in a building that Tobin first saw and loved when it was brand new in 1975. He tells the story of his first visit to campus and McCarthy Arts Center that year as a theater-loving high school senior from suburban Boston, visiting mostly based on a friend’s recommendation of the College and its Theater Department, then led by Saint Michael’s legends and eventual Tobin mentors Donald and Joanne Rathgeb.
Tobin began his career with the Playhouse in 1986 as Associate Producer for Rathgeb Obrien Rathgeb, Inc., the former producing organization. In 1997, Saint Michael’s College brought the Playhouse into its fold as an auxiliary enterprise, with Tobin as Managing Director. In 2004 he assumed full leadership as the theater’s Producing Artistic Director. During these past years, he has enjoyed seeing the Playhouse blossom into “One of the best regional theaters in America” (NYC Drama League) while continuing its historic role as one of the oldest professional theater companies in Vermont.
Outside of Saint Michael’s Playhouse he has produced and managed live professional theater with credits that include productions at Lincoln Center, Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse, and Symphony Space in NYC, the Nissay Theater in Tokyo, the Adam Mickiewicz Center in Poznan, Poland, and regionally at New Repertory Theater, Worcester Foothills Theater, Nickerson Theater, Olney Theater, National Players, Foxhill Stage, and the National Theater Group’s Broadway Celebrity Series.
Jeffrey Trumbower, the College’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, shared news of Tobin’s retirement with the campus community in an August 4 email:
“Please join me in congratulating and thanking Chuck Tobin, SMC Class of 1980, who will be retiring at the end of October after almost 40 years with Saint Michael’s Playhouse,” he wrote. “From the students he has mentored and the St. Mike’s colleagues with whom he has collaborated, to the countless community members he and the Playhouse have enthralled, Chuck has left a lasting impression on so many people and on this community. He will be deeply missed.”
Trumbower’s announcement stated, “The College will be exploring options for the future of the Playhouse, including potentially partnering with community organizations to continue this wonderful tradition.”
From annual auditions in New York City among Broadway’s top talent to selecting just the right shows each season and seeing each detail through from first to last curtain, Tobin has distinguished himself with the uncompromising professionalism and passion for theater that are his trademarks and legacy, building a following of loyal and enthusiastic patrons.
As his favorite production, Tobin names the Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Trilogy, produced over three years in chronological order — a rare and significant theatrical achievement for any professional theater company.
He speaks with gratitude about the decades of work with his longtime colleague and Playhouse Production Manager and Resident Designer John Devlin of the College’s Theater faculty, along with “stellar professional actors, highly skilled directors, top-notch designers, production staffs, and interns.”
Tobin also thanks the loyal Playhouse audiences for their support, saying “it really has been both a pleasure and an honor to serve them with high quality professional theatrical productions.” He offers heartfelt gratitude to the people of Saint Michael’s College and the Greater Burlington area for their support of Saint Michael’s Playhouse and for their understanding of the profound value of the arts to the community and education.
“It has been an honor for me to lead this company, and I look forward to visiting the Playhouse in future summers to enjoy, as an audience member, the high-quality professional theater that the Playhouse audience has come to expect and love,” Tobin said. “But now, it’s time to pass the baton. Everything came out beautiful.”