MAX LANDO THEN: Fine Arts Scholar 2005 and 2006 majoring in Theatre Studies at the University of Central Florida
MAX LANDO NOW: Institutional Giving Manager at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago
When asked recently what the Fine Arts Society Scholarship meant to him, Max simply answered, "It meant everything." He added, "Even though I went to college in-state and had additional scholarships, the reality is that I am still paying off student loans at 31 years of age. It would have been so much harder to get through school and beyond without the support of the Fine Arts Society and other scholarship organizations." Max graduated with honors from UCF in 2009 having earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre Studies with a Minor in Creative Writing.
In 2010 Max began his career back in Sarasota where he was Manager and Development Assistant for WRITE A PLAY at Florida Studio Theatre. His responsibilities included managing the $80,000 operating budget, direct and subscription ticket sales and assisting the Development Director in securing individual, corporate and foundation giving in excess of $1,000,000. While working in the FST box office that summer, he met (his now wife) Stephanie who was in Sarasota from Connecticut performing in WRITE A PLAY productions.
Having been a participant in the WRITE A PLAY program as a youngster, it was a full-circle moment for Max when, in 2011, he and Stephanie co-founded MaineStage Shakespeare in Kennebunk, Maine. Max capitalized on his operational experience at FST to bring live theatre to children in an area that didn't have much arts-based education. "Witnessing first-hand what theater can do for kids was very rewarding. Often the 5 to 8-year-old participants were shy and didn't talk much. Teaching them to write and perform really helped them find their voice and see themselves in a new way," says Max.
Next stop, New York City and co-writing/co-starring with his sister, Rebecca, in the YouTube online culinary video series Working Class Foodies – and 2 years working in Barnes & Noble bookstore honing his salesmanship skills and helping to pay the bills. After a few years living in New York City Max and Stephanie relocated to Chicago in 2013.
Fast forward to 2018 and Max is the Institutional Giving Manager at the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Company, nown across the globe for innovative and artist-driven productions. As noted on their website, Steppenwolf operates as a not-for-profit organization relying on community support to produce or present nearly 700 performances, readings and other events annually. The theatre's artistic and educational programs attract multi-generational audiences of nearly 200,000 theatergoers. They are committed to year-round programming that engages their audiences with thought-provoking productions that help develop new plays, new audiences and new artists for the future of American theater. As we know, all of this takes money…lots of money. And that's where Max and the Steppenwolf Development Department staff come in - they are in the business of raising money for the arts.
When asked about the challenges of creating a continuous pipeline of funding for the theatre, Max commented that, while Steppenwolf is fortunate to receive year-over-year funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the overall reduction in government financial support and fewer grant opportunities have had a tremendous negative effect on the financial health of arts organizations all over this country. As a result, the reliance on corporate giving and individual donors has increased.
Steppenwolf's Outreach and Education programs remind Max of what the arts can do for kids and as someone who grew up in Sarasota's arts-centric community, Max knows firsthand that the arts can change lives. And speaking of kids and changing lives, Max and his wife Stephanie have just welcomed their newborn baby boy, Ezra, into the world - "Our finest production to date," said the proud father. And with Max's parents still living in Sarasota, when asked if the dream of having his own theatre in Sarasota was still on his 'To Do' list, he enthusiastically replied "Yes! I still follow the theatre scene in Sarasota and the productions put on by Urbanite Theatre are along the lines of what I envision for myself. They consistently tap into the new style of theatre productions that are taking place nationally and internationally. Edgy, bold and modern."
The Fine Arts Society has much to be proud of in Max's success and his contributions to the world of performing arts. Congratulations, Max, and we look forward to you and Stephanie introducing Baby Ezra to our city someday soon!
To learn more about the Steppenwolf Theatre, please click this link: https://www.steppenwolf.org/About-Us