Artistic Director Elly Lichenstein joined Cinnabar Theater in 1975 after serving as principal cellist for the Antwerp Chamber Orchestra in Belgium. At Cinnabar, she studied voice with founder Marvin Klebe, movement with Ann Woodhead, and drama with Fred Curchack and Richard Blake. Elly performed more than 50 roles with the company before retiring from the stage in 1999. Behind the scenes, she became Cinnabar’s general manager in 1979 and its executive director in 1997. When Marvin passed away in 1999, she assumed the role of artistic director as well.
Over the years, Elly has made it her duty to assure that Cinnabar continues to offer its artists a home where they are honored and safe, and can come together to collaborate, learn and create. She also helped to create and maintain an extensive youth program.
Elly has directed dozens of operas and musicals for Cinnabar and other theaters, including rarely-performed musicals and 20th century and rarely-performed operas. Under her leadership, Cinnabar has continued to present performances in a daring range of genres and upheld its commitment to develop bold new work. In the last decade alone, Cinnabar has presented six West Coast premieres and launched 15 world premieres – including nine plays, three musicals, an opera, an operetta, and a docudrama that proved so popular it went on to play off Broadway.
In 2013, when Cinnabar hired a new executive director, Elly retained her duties as artistic director while gladly passing her executive responsibilities on. In 2014, she received the Jerry Friedman Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bay Area Critics Circle, which recognizes a leader “who has furthered the creativity and growth of theater in the Bay Area throughout his or her career.”