When Christopher Massimine was hired to be managing director of Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Theatre Company in 2019, he was touted by artistic director Karen Azenberg as “a creative business leader” with production credits on two Tony-winning Broadway productions under his belt.
A deeper dive into Massimine’s credentials, though, finds some of that creativity might have been expended on his resumé.
The discrepancies first came to light in FOX 13 story that aired Thursday night.
On Oct. 22, 2019, the University of Utah’s College of Fine Arts — which oversees Pioneer Theatre, whose home stage is on the U.’s campus — issued a news release congratulating Massimine for winning the “humanitarian of the year” award from a group called the National Performing Arts Action Association. Other versions of the release online remove the word “Action” from the group’s name.
The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be such an organization, with the extra word in its name or not.
A Google search for the National Performing Arts Association finds an under-construction website, a Twitter account and a Facebook page. Both social media accounts were created last November, a year after the award was supposedly given out, and refer back to the under-construction website. Neither account has any posts attached to them.
Dozens of sites are generated by a search for the National Performing Arts Action Association but all of them refer to Massimine’s award, in language similar to the College of Fine Arts’ release.
There is nothing online indicating anyone else has ever won this humanitarian award, before or since.
Christopher Nelson, a spokesman for the university, said Thursday evening that Massimine was on “approved personal leave.”
A spokeswoman for Pioneer Theatre Company said Thursday that Massimine was unavailable for interviews. She directed other inquiries to the College of Fine Arts, which in turn directed questions to the university’s administration.
Nelson said that all applicants for university jobs “attest during the application process that the information they’re submitting about their background is accurate” — including information on their resumé or curriculum vitae (CV). If information is found to be inaccurate, Nelson said, the university will give the employee a chance to make corrections and explain why it was wrong.
Employees caught lying can be disciplined, Nelson said, which “can range from corrective disciplinary action up to termination of employment.”
When the university hires an outside recruiting firm, as happened with the Pioneer Theatre job, it’s expected that “finalists sent to the university for review have been properly screened and the information about their backgrounds confirmed.”
As managing director, Massimine is responsible for the business side of Pioneer Theatre, from ticket sales and attracting donors to keeping the lights on. He was named in February 2019 to succeed Chris Lino, who ran the company’s operations for 28 years, and started in the job on July 1, 2019.
Because Pioneer Theatre is an entity of the University of Utah, Massimine is a state employee — and his salary is posted on the state’s transparency website. According to that site, Massimine draws an annual salary of $167,500, plus another $48,108 in benefits, for a total compensation of $215,608.
The company has not staged a performance since March 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021-22 season is scheduled to start Sept. 10, with a two-week run of the musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”
In Massimine’s bio on the website of Imagine Tomorrow LLC, a creative consulting company he founded, he boasts not only of the NPAA humanitarian award, but of receiving “an honorary key to the city” from the city of Washington, D.C. No independent news source mentions this award; a Google search finds the last person to receive a key to the city in Washington was comedian Dave Chappelle in 2017.
A spokesperson for the office of Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser did not answer a request for comment Thursday afternoon.
The Internet Movie Database — a favorite website of movie fans, who click through its lists of people who have worked on tens of thousands of titles in all filmed media — credits Massimine with work on nearly 100 movies, TV shows and video games. A spot check of three Oscar-winning movies revealed that, despite what the IMDb said, Massimine’s name was missing from the credits of all three: the climbing documentary “Free Solo” (where the IMDb listed him as a co-producer), the animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (listed by IMDb as a script consultant) and DC Comics’ “Suicide Squad” (where, the IMDb said, he got a “special thanks” credit).
FOX 13 noted that Massimine’s IMDb page also lists producing credits for major video games, including Capcom’s “Resident Evil Village” and Square Enix’s “Final Fantasy VII Remake.” Representatives for those companies told FOX 13 that Massimine had never been a producer on either game.
Massimine also has claimed credit, the FOX 13 report said, for familiar ad campaigns, including spots for Old Spice grooming products and Dos Equis beer’s “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials. The ad agencies responsible for those campaigns told FOX 13 they had never heard of Massimine.
Then there are those Tony-winning plays. Massimine said in 2019 that he was among the producers nominated for Broadway’s most prestigious award for two productions: the 2010 musical “American Idiot” and the 2017 play “Indecent.” Massimine’s claims of credit are somewhat exaggerated: He was an associate producer on both plays, a lower-rung position — and his name was not included in the Tony nominations for either of them, according to the awards’ website.
Some of Massimine’s CV does hold up. There is ample evidence in news reports of Massimine’s years as CEO of National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, which produced an acclaimed production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” translated into Yiddish, during his tenure. And Massimine’s claims of being a playwright are valid; the website Broadway World reported that a production of the musical “Lovers,” which he wrote, was produced off-Broadway in 2010.
Editor’s note: FOX 13 and The Salt Lake Tribune are partners in a content-sharing agreement.