Staging a comeback
Taking the call as Arvada Center’s new executive director is somewhat of a homecoming for Philip Sneed.
Sneed performed in the Arvada Center’s second-ever production, “The Contrast,” in 1976.
“That was my debut in the Denver metro acting scene,” Sneed said. “I worked here a lot in the late ’70s before the Shakespeare Festival, then I went away to graduate school in California and came back for a year or two in ’83 and ’84 and worked on the main stage, with the children’s theater, and in the scene shop. I pretty much made my living at the Arvada Center as an actor and carpenter at the time.”
In the 1980s, Sneed began to produce and direct and eventually ran a theater in northern California for 12 years. As a producer, Sneed learned how to write grants, start a 501c3 nonprofit and other necessary skills to run a center. In 2006, Sneed returned to Colorado where he ran the Colorado Shakespeare Festival until just recently. While with the Shakespeare Festival, Sneed was also a guest director at the Arvada Center’s Black Box Theater and brought several of the Shakespeare Festival’s production to the center.
“We negotiated to co-produce another Shakespeare play, ‘Twelfth Night,’ which I also directed,” he said. “That production of ‘Twelfth Night’ was the first Shakespeare that’s been done here since the 1983 production of the same play, which I was an actor in. We didn’t pick ‘Twelfth Night’ for that reason, it just happened to be a coincidence.”
While running the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Sneed helped grow the festival and its finances greatly, a task he is looking forward to doing with the Arvada Center, he said.
“I personally know Philip, and he’s done a couple shows here, so we’ve worked together,” said Arvada Center publicist Melanie Mayner. “Knowing Philip, I see such a great match with him, and it’s an exciting time coming up for us indeed.”
The Arvada Center’s funding has been a topic of discussion with the center, City Council and the city of Arvada this past year.
“I think the challenge, of course, and one of the things among my top priorities, is to raise more money,” Sneed said. “To go out into the community and raise more from individuals, foundations, corporations, wherever we can find additional dollars. That’s been my job everywhere I’ve worked.”
Why the Arvada Center means so much to him and the community, Sneed said, is because it has something for everyone.
“What’s great about this place is it’s not just a fantastic theater company,” he said. “It has art galleries, there’s dancing, there’s music, there’s so much here. I find at this point in my life and career, it’s exciting to have an impact on all of the arts.”
Sneed said he hopes to still be at the Arvada Center when it celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2026.
“I’d love to be here for the 50th anniversary and be able to say ‘I was in this building in 1976 and am 50 years later,’” he said. “(Being at the Arvada Center) means a tremendous amount to me personally. I feel extremely privileged to be given the opportunity to come here and make a difference.”
Sneed will be on the job Feb. 4.