When Kristofer Geddie and Derek Blankenship met in July for a get-to-know-you lunch, neither knew that each was about to become the head of their respective Venice organizations.
Today they are the executive directors of the Venice Theatre and the Venice Institute for the Performing Arts, respectively.
“What were the chances of that?” quipped Blankenship, who was named VIPA’s executive director almost exactly one year after he joined the nonprofit as director of education and general operations.
Blankenship succeeded Reno Manne, who died in March. A popular local longtime tennis coach, Manne served as VIPA executive director from 2021-2023.
Blankenship's new post is a multi-pronged position that includes managing the programming of the 1,090-seat Venice Performing Arts Center and overseeing VIPA’s arts education and programming.
Meanwhile, over at Venice Theatre, Geddie stepped into longtime Executive Director Murray Chase’s shoes when Chase decided that overseeing repairs and renovations after Hurricane Ian was a full-time job.
Geddie, who holds a BFA in Musical Theatre and an MA in Arts Administration, was previously director of diversity at the Venice Theatre. Before arriving in Florida, Geddie traveled the world as a company manager and principal singer for Jean Ann Ryan Productions on Norwegian Cruise Line. He directed productions such as "Once On This Island," "Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar and Grill," "Fences" and "Dreamgirls."
As executive director, Geddie is managing Venice Theatre’s 2023-24 season: fifteen shows in total between the temporary 130-seat Raymond Center and the 90-seat black box Pinkerton Theatre, plus concerts at VPAC and other venues.
Geddie also oversees Venice Theatre’s extensive education arm. Prior to Hurricane Ian's destruction of the main Jervey Theatre nearly a year ago, the Raymond Center was going to be renovated into a new Arts Education Center.
That renovation is on hold as the Raymond Center, which is only a third of the size of the Jervey Theatre, serves as the main stage until the Jervey is rebuilt.
As the Venice Theatre tries to recover from Ian with the help of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and other supporters, here's how Geddie sees his role: “Right now and for the foreseeable future the impact I need is to make sure the Venice Theatre survives.”