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Matthew Schliesman / entertainingarts

Nonprofit Arts Executive... Writer... Producer... Director... Teacher...  Theme Park Entertainment Executive... Creative Consultant

Above: backstage with LILY TOMLIN, 2013, Capitol Civic Centre.


Executive Director, Capitol Civic Centre, Inc., 2010-2020, (Manitowoc, WI)


Position leads and/or oversees all aspects of the company's administration and operations, including programming and production, fundraising and development, financial management, marketing, human resources, building operations, property management, community relations, and strategic planning for this very busy 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation/performing arts center.  


Venue is home to a dozen area arts organizations, the "Capitol Arts Partners." Company-produced programming has recently included premium performance season, student series, summer theatre camp, community chorale, and special events. Personnel consists of 12 FT and PT staff, and a large contingent of volunteers; with the E.D. reporting to the Board of Directors. 


2012-13: Led the first major building campaign for this 1921 historic theater property since the initial 1987 restoration, overseeing a successful $1.2 million fundraising and renovation project which included numerous technical upgrades, much previously deferred maintenance, and upgrades to lobby and restroom spaces.   


2018-20 saw a second renovation campaign completed. "Act Two" raised $3.2 million, funding significant improvements to the guest experience. These include lobby expansion on two levels, more than doubling restroom capacity, two new bars, elevator and grand staircase to second floor, all-new, more comfortable theatre seating, and house lighting enhancements.


Over time, guided stabilization of company finances and raised operational standards. 

Functioned as Managing Director of the Capitol Civic Centre Foundation, a separately incorporated nonprofit entity overseeing and growing an endowment for the benefit of the Capitol Civic Centre.


Related: Conference chair for 2015 Wisconsin Presenters Conference, hosting more than fifty leaders from regional performing arts centers for professional development activities.  Also served as Regional Chair for the Wisconsin Presenters Network from 2016-20.


Externally: Board of Directors of Manitowoc County Domestic Violence Center; 2012 to 2015.  Served on Board of Directors of the Lakeshore Planned Giving Collaborative: 2014 to 2018.  Appointed by Mayor of Manitowoc to several formal and informal committees relating to the re-energization and development of Manitowoc’s downtown district.

ABOVE:: the historic Capitol Theatre, Capitol Civic Centre, Manitowoc, WI, prior to 2019 renovations.

BELOW: presenting HOME FREE ar the Capitol Civic Centre, April, 2018.

RIGHT: Working with George Jetson and many others at Paramount Parks, 2001.

ENTERTAININGARTS: Freelance Writer, Director, Producer, & Consultant, 2000 – Present (Los Angeles, CA & Manitowoc, WI)


CALIFORNIA: Offering a diverse range of services spanning show and event creation, development, and operations; management and strategic planning; writing and directing commissioned and “spec” projects; formation of custom training programs; company policy development; marketing and public relations support.  Clients included Paramount Parks, Busch Entertainment Corporation, Tales From the Crypt Productions, Thinkwell Design & Production, Heartbeat Productions, LEGOLAND California, Thomas-Gregor Associates, and the California Writers Club.  Also, developed numerous "spec" television project proposals as part of Glue Factory Media (in partnership with John Stuart West and Calvin Mays).

WISCONSIN: World-premiere production of “Birch Hollow,” a 2-act play by Matthew Schliesman, produced and presented by The Masquers, Inc. to open their 85th season, November 12-14, 2015.  Development of "genealogical adventure story," -- THE SEARCH FOR GORDON continues.  Post Executive Director position with the Capitol Civic Centre, creative focus is expanding as projects-on-hold are resumed and new opportunities are pursued. 


Vice President of Entertainment, Knott’s Berry Farm, 1994 - 1999 (Buena Park, CA)


Artistic Director and Executive Producer for America’s first theme park,  overseeing the creation and presentation of one of the industry’s largest and most eclectic roster of original stage productions and events, including the world’s largest live Halloween spectacle—Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween Haunt®, entertainment and stage shows for Knott's Merry Farm®, and the creation of dozens of other original stage productions and environmental entertainment experiences throughout each year, including those featuring the licensed Peanuts® characters, and the presentation of many celebrity performances (Brandy, ‘N Sync, Hanson, Three Dog Night, etc.).


Managed division budget and capital controls of approximately $10 million per year.  Provided administrative oversight to all aspects of the division; Entertainment division staffing peaked at 500 annually. 


Regularly performed as “executive on duty” overseeing all park operations; also served as a company spokesperson.


Division Manager, then Director, then VP.  Elected to Knott’s parent company’s partnership in 1998.  















Chair, IAAPA Committee, 1997 - 2000 (Alexandria, VA)


Served four terms as a Committee/Program Chair for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. 


Developed professional outreach programs for entertainment professionals from around the world, and led the creation of the BIG-E Entertainment Award program.  Presented at international conferences.  

ABOVE: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark starring in KNOTT'S SCARY FARM stage show, 1997.   Executive Producer. 


LEFT: at Knott's Berry Farm, 1996.

BELOW: Attending the Entertainment Awards Program -- THE BIG "E" at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAPPA) with Melinda Grable, 2001.

Manager of Park Operations, Entertainment & Show Programs, Paramount’s Great America, 1990 – 1994; In similar position under Marriott Corporation, 1981-1984 (Santa Clara, CA)

Directed Entertainment Operations, Park Wardrobe, and Guest Relations for Northern California’s premiere regional theme park.  Entertainment operations included in-house and contract productions, and a celebrity concert series.

Prior positions with same company as Production Stage Manager (1979-1980), and Stage Manager at Chicago location (1977 & 1978).


Assistant Professor, Theatre/Dance Department, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 1987 – 1989

Taught a variety of academic and performance courses; directed a wide range of stage productions including BURIED CHILD, PERSONALS, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, MURDER AT THE HOWARD JOHNSONS, and COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN. 


Coordinated theatre management and marketing functions; helped develop new arts administration curriculum; provided academic and career counseling.


Guest artist and lecturer for one semester; then accepted a tenure-track position following a nationwide search.  

Entertainment Guide: Marriott's GREAT AMERICA, 1984.

LEFT: Director of COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 1987.

RIGHT: Director of MURDER AT THE HOWARD JOHNSONS, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 1988.

LEFT: The young professor -- a long time ago. 

RIGHT: Director of PERSONALS, University of

Wisconsin -Whitewater, 1989.

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