Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Oct. 9 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Martin Miller resided in New Jersey with his family for the past four years while traveling to Northwest Arkansas for work.
Just a few weeks ago, Miller’s commute got much shorter.
On Sept. 7, Miller started working as executive director of the McCarter Theatre Center. The nonprofit professional company is situated on the campus of its owner — Princeton University — in Princeton, N.J.
“McCarter is one of the great American arts centers, and Princeton is a special place,” Miller said. “It’s a singular privilege to partner with [artistic director] Sarah Rasmussen, the board, the talented staff, and most importantly, with this community to help launch its exciting next stage.”
Miller, 38, helped lead downtown Fayetteville performing arts venue TheatreSquared (T2) through a significant transformation over nearly 15 years as its leader. The most high-profile aspect came in 2019 when T2 opened a 50,000-square-foot, two-stage venue downtown, capping a $34 million investment.
Miller joined the budding professional theater company in 2009. In 2017 the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal recognized him as a Forty Under 40 honoree.
Miller developed close ties with the Princeton community during the past four years. In 2019, his wife, Elizabeth Margulis, accepted a faculty teaching position in Princeton’s music department, and they moved there with their three children.
“I started to spend my time in two places, but only for about six months,” he recalled.
Miller’s recollection referred to the global pandemic in the spring of 2020.
“Fortunately, I had already been set up to have a really nice remote [work] environment,” he said. “That helped the whole [T2] staff transition to that uncertain period of many folks needing to work remotely. But, I still spent a good amount of time in Fayetteville for the past four years.”
Miller said he’s glad to cut back on frequent flier miles and be able to spend more time with his family, although he will always “greatly miss and have affection for” his time at T2, the state’s largest professional theater. In 13 years as executive director/producer, he guided the company through remarkable growth, from three plays on a shoestring budget to more than 400 performances and $7.5 million in revenue annually.
“Growth is done for a reason, and I think that’s why we were so successful at TheatreSquared,” he said. “We always had a purpose for which we were intentionally planning our growth. We wanted to grow into the need Northwest Arkansas had; to have an institution creating this kind of work and doing it at a level that was [considered] excellent nationally—no matter where you went.”
Miller produced 135 plays and new play workshops and led fundraising, design and construction for the company’s two-venue, permanent home, winner of six national and international architectural awards. He has directly raised $44 million for the company while working with teams to expand audiences more than twentyfold.
“Knowing that we were growing what the region needed and wanted meant that we could find the partnerships to make it happen,” he said. “Everything we did at every stage was with a great deal of support from many people across the community. Of course, the Walton Family Foundation was a key player, but so were thousands of individuals who made it their theater.”
Miller will call on that experience to help grow McCarter into a major powerhouse. The company, which debuted in 1930, operates on an annual budget of about $15 million and is a multi-disciplinary creative hub offering theater, music, dance, family programs, spoken word and educational programs for all ages.
“In addition to the wonderful coincidence of bringing my family together in one place, I am excited to work at an institution with a nearly 100-year history,” he said.
He added that the timing was right to accept the McCarter role and let T2 flourish under new leadership. This past August, T2 named longtime GM Shannon Jones its new executive director. Since 2014, her jobs have included assistant stage manager, production stage manager, associate producer and general manager.
“She has a sharp organizational mind and thinks strategically and pairs that with great people skills,” Miller said. “She is a real talent, a fierce advocate for the work and culture there, and has a great growth mindset. That will take the company far.”