Synetic Theater’s Money Man

Synetic dreams big. Development Director Morey Epstein pays for it.

By Tim Regan

Synetic dreams big. Development Director Morey Epstein pays for it.

Synetic Theatre's Morey Epstein.
Photo by Erick Gibson.

Last year, non-profit Synetic Theater raised $31,000 on Kickstarter to turn an abandoned McDonald’s into a brand new rehearsal space just steps away from their performance venue in Crystal City.

As a non-profit theater, most of Synetic’s cash comes from the contributions, not ticket sales. Now, instead of relying on outlets like Kickstarter to raise money, they’ve got Morey Epstein, the company’s new development director, to help fund future endeavors. When asked about his mission, Epstein puts it like this: “What the job’s about is finding the resources for the artists to do what they want to do,” he says.

In other words, he’s Synetic Theater’s newfound money man—kind of like a sugar daddy, but way more respectable. And he’s no stranger to raising gobs of money from wealthy donors—Epstein came aboard in December after a 24-year run as Studio Theater’s Chief Development Officer in The District. There, he found the dough to transform the then-200-seat theater into the nationally-known venue it is today.

After Studio Theater founder Joy Zinoman left her role of artistic director at the playhouse, Epstein, after a couple of years, decided it was time for a change as well and left for Synetic. Now that he’s there, can he infuse the Crystal City theater with enough cash to grow as much as Studio did? Sure, he says, no problem—as long as that’s what founders Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili want.

“The plans and the visions come from Paata and Irina … my job is not to come in with a vision,” says Epstein. At the end of the day, it’s not his call on how much money to raise, but he has his figures, and so do the Tsikurishvilis. “They’re very smart. When I talk to them about my views … they’ve already thought of those things.”

Epstein says they have a when-you-say-jump-I-say-how-high kind of relationship, and that’s perfectly OK with him—he’s not shy with heaping praise and trust on Synetic’s founders. “I think there’s a great potential for the work of Synetic to have an impact on the American theater,” says Epstein, who compares their work to that of legends like Georgian-born choreographer George Balanchine and Constantin Stanislavski, the father of method acting.

Though he’s still getting comfy in his new role, his main focus has been meeting deep-pocketed donors and convincing them that Synetic needs—and deserves—their money. “A lot of what I’m doing is just getting an understanding of who [Synetic’s] patrons are, who their audience is.” Once he finds potential donors, Epstein works his magic by showing—not telling—what Synetic is capable of. “I believe very strongly in Synetic’s artistry. Once people see the work and get jazzed by it, they will want to know how they can help,” he says.

(March 2014)

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