39, producing artistic director of Adventure Theatre
A chase is unfolding onstage at Adventure Theatre, and the few dozen preschoolers in the audience are going wild.
“Do you hear that?” Michael Bobbitt says as laughter and shrieks pour from the theater. “That’s the best part of my job.”
Tall and stocky with big brown eyes, a goatee and a soft, honey tenor voice, Bobbitt, 39, makes his job as producing artistic director sound like child’s play. But transforming the Glen Echo Park children’s theater from a board-run operation to one with a professional staff and a revamped operating system was anything but.
Bobbitt, who took over in 2006 after working as a professional actor and director in Washington, D.C., and New York, also changed the focus of theater productions from grade-school kids to preschoolers and younger children.
And he aggressively pursued adaptations of big-name children’s books, including If You Give a Pig a Pancake, which won the theater its first Helen Hayes Award last year.
During Bobbitt’s tenure, the theater’s annual attendance has skyrocketed from 18,000 in 2007 to 71,000 in 2011.
Jerry Whiddon, a former artistic director at Bethesda’s Round House Theatre, says Bobbitt has increased Adventure Theatre’s visibility “in a wonderful way.”
“What he’s done with the theater got my attention, and got the attention of a lot of other professional artists who are well into their careers,” says Whiddon, who has directed plays for Bobbitt at Adventure Theatre.
Bobbitt, who lives in Glen Echo with his partner, Craig Hanna, and his Vietnamese adopted son, Sang Bobbitt Hanna, 10, is working to diversify the theater’s audience. He has developed a “sensory-friendly” performance model for autistic children and held special events, including one for adoptive families.
Bobbitt’s “fearless nature and healthy sense of competition” motivate him to seek new challenges. “I thrive on the fun of those challenges, and in the success that comes in their wake,” he says.