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New season, new director: Diverse productions ahead for Penn State Centre Stage

Illustrations by Taylor Marie Shipton/Penn State

The Penn State School of Theatre has established a reputation for excellence in a number of disciplines, including musical theater. Now, its newly appointed head is developing a vision that will continue that excellence well into the future.

Rick Lombardo, a director, writer and composer was appointed director of the school of theater and artistic director of Centre Stage in July.

“I am fortunate to inherit the School of Theatre faculty,” Lombardo said. “And the season that is in place for this year will smooth the transition.”

According to a press release, Lombardo is an award-winning stage director, artistic director and adapter. He is the former producing artistic director of the San Jose Repertory Theatre, and the former Artistic Director of New Repertory Theatre in Massachusetts.

He is an executive board member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and a senior fellow with the American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley.

Lombardo has a very diverse theater background that includes directing numerous productions.

“About ten years ago I started to expand what I was doing,” Lombardo said. “I enjoy playing with words, writing songs and lyrics. I delight in doing that. I started adapting shows and writing musicals. The last one had to do with a fairy tale, ‘The Snow Queen.’ It’s been given 30 productions worldwide.”

When he arrived at Penn State, Lombardo began to gather information about the expectations of students, faculty and the community.

“In recent years Centre Stage has been trying to find the balance between serving the needs of our students and the local community. We must serve many constituencies,” he said.

This season, which kicks off next month, is diverse, Lombardo said.

“ ‘Legally Blonde’ is contemporary fun. ‘Clybourne Park’ explores how we deal with race in America. It does so in a beautiful way,” he said.

“Clybourne Park” is a play by Bruce Norris that was written to serve as a spinoff of the great Lorraine Hansberry play “A Raisin in the Sun.” It is loosely based on actual events that took place in Chicago.

“It is a cultural conversation that explores what is happening in the country now, politically and culturally,” Lombardo said.

He is especially fond of the musical “Hands on a Hardbody.”

“It closed too soon on Broadway,” he said. “It’s a musical based on a documentary that focused on a contest. I found it very interesting. It had a great score.”

The 2018-19 Centre Stage season also includes “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“We have a distinctly different season including a number of impactful events,” Lombardo said.

Penn State Centre Stage 2018-19 season

For more information, visit

“Polaroid Stories,” Sept. 18-22, Penn State Downtown Theatre Centre

“Legally Blonde,” Oct. 2-11, Playhouse Theatre

“Clybourne Park,” Nov. 6-15, Playhouse Theatre

“Caroline, or Change,” Nov. 27-Dec. 1, Penn State Downtown Theatre Centre

“Violet,” Feb. 12-16, 2019, Penn State Downtown Theatre Centre

“Hands on a Hardbody,” Feb. 19-March 1, 2019, Playhouse Theatre

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” April 2-12, 2019, Playhouse Theatre

“Men on Boats,” April 16-20, 2019, Penn State Downtown Theatre Centre