Pioneer Theatre’s managing director resigns, months after questions about bogus credits on his resumé

Christopher Massimine claimed he won awards that don’t exist, and said he worked on movies and video games when he didn’t.

(Photo courtesy of Pioneer Theatre Company) Christopher Massimine, left, then-managing director of Pioneer Theatre Company, is photographed with the company's artistic director, Karen Azenberg, shortly after he was hired in 2019. Massimine sent a letter on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, announcing that he would resign from that post, effective Aug. 20, 2021.

The managing director of Salt Lake City’s largest professional theater group, Pioneer Theatre Company, is out of a job two months after questions surfaced about bogus claims on his resumé.

Christopher Massimine, who had been PTC’s managing director since July 1, 2019, resigned Monday. His resignation takes effect on Friday.

Massimine cited mental illness as a reason for the many factual errors in his resumé and biography. He wrote that he would leave PTC “in order to address issues in my personal and professional life, stemming from untreated and at times an incorrectly treated mental health condition.”

The news was first reported in a tweet by FOX 13′s Adam Herbets, who did the initial investigative work into the untrue claims on Massimine’s resumé.

In his resignation letter, obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune, Massimine wrote that “there is a fair amount of truth within the reporting, withstanding discrepancies. Regardless, I take responsibility for errors in my resume but stand by my work product throughout my career.”

“We are surprised but we are grateful to be able to move forward,” Kirsten Park, a spokeswoman for PTC, said Monday. The theater company has not been in contact with Massimine since May, Park said, and the company had not received a copy of his resignation letter directly from Massimine or his publicist. The company learned about the resignation, Park said, from news outlets.

Massimine wrote in his letter that he had been on leave since May to seek treatment for his mental illness.

In his letter, Massimine made several claims about Pioneer Theatre’s financial success during his time there. In a statement, a University of Utah spokesman said “the university has no comment and cannot confirm the accuracy of the information he provided in his statement.”

Some of the claims Massimine makes in his letter also are inflated, say people involved with PTC.

Massimine claims that he “oversaw almost a doubling of individual giving to PTC” in the 2021 fiscal year, compared to the year before. But one of Massimine’s employees, Heidi Bruce, tweeted Monday night that the increase in donations was “because we allowed people to donate their unused tickets” for shows canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic — a process, Bruce tweeted, with which Massimine had little involvement.

Massimine also claimed to have a hand in “reducing a potential $1.4 million loss in the 2019-2020 fiscal year” during the early days of the pandemic. Someone connected with PTC, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to talk about the situation, said that figure reflected only lost ticket revenue — and was largely offset by production costs that were never spent because the shows were canceled.

Massimine’s resignation came the same day The New York Times posted on its website a lengthy debunking of his many claims — starting with the fact that he was born in New Jersey, and not in Italy, as he had told The Daily Beast in a 2018 profile.

The Times included a brief response from Massimine’s wife, Maggie. “Our side of the story has not been told,” she told The Times. “I really wish I could say more.” She said she could not comment further because of legal issues.

Pioneer Theatre Company, which is an entity of the University of Utah’s College of Fine Arts, named its development director, Diane Parisi, as acting managing director in June.

Massimine was hired in February 2019 to run the business operations of Pioneer Theatre, succeeding Chris Lino, who retired after 28 years in that position. Massimine was touted as an up-and-coming young producer, known in theater circles for his work as CEO of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, the oldest Yiddish-language theater company in the country.

News stories on FOX 13 and in The Salt Lake Tribune found many of the claims on Massimine’s resumé — as well as other biographical information — were either exaggerated or completely made up. He took “approved personal leave” after the stories ran.

In one example, Massimine claimed — and a University of Utah news release later trumpeted — that he had received a “humanitarian of the year” award from the National Professional Arts Action Association. That group does not exist, and the only references to it online were rehashes of the release proclaiming Massimine’s award, supposedly bestowed after he took the job with PTC.

A biography on the website for a consulting firm he founded, Imagine Tomorrow LLC, stated that Massimine was given “an honorary key to the city” by the city of Washington, D.C., in 2020. The mayor’s office in Washington confirmed to The Tribune that Massimine received no such award.

That biography said Massimine, in 2018, “was inducted into the PGA Hall of Fame for exceptional contributions to new media.” The Producers Guild of America, the organization that represents Hollywood producers, has no hall of fame, but does give lifetime awards; Massimine has never received one. There is the PGA of America Hall of Fame, maintained by the Professional Golfers Association to honor the greats of golf, and Massimine isn’t on that roster, either.

The same biography said Massimine was a keynote speaker at the United Nations Civil Society Conference, held in 2019 in the Salt Palace Convention Center. The program for that conference, which is still online, does not list Massimine as a speaker for any of its events.

A Tribune spot check of three movies listed on Massimine’s page on the Internet Movie Database — which listed nearly 100 credits for him in film, TV and video games — found his name missing from the credits. Two major video game companies confirmed to FOX 13 that Massimine didn’t work on their games, which were listed on his IMDb credits. FOX 13 also reported that ad agencies confirmed that Massimine did not work on commercial campaigns for which he claimed credit.

The Imagine Tomorrow website was switched to “private” shortly after the FOX 13 and Tribune stories about Massimine were posted online. Around the same time, Massimine’s IMDb page was scrubbed of all its credits.

As PTC’s managing director and, therefore, a state employee (since PTC is part of the U.), Massimine drew an annual salary of $167,500, plus another $48,108 in benefits — for a total compensation of $215,608, according to a state transparency website.

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune and FOX 13 are partners in a content-sharing agreement.