A familiar face in the region's performing arts community is about to take center stage at the College of DuPage.
Diana Martinez, whose resume includes stops at Second City, the Paramount Theatre in Aurora and Pheasant Run in St. Charles, has been hired as the interim director of COD's McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn.
"Diana comes in with a wealth of experience. She's fully qualified to hit the ground running," said Daniel Lloyd, COD's dean of liberal arts. "Her experience and commitment to the liberal arts is important, particularly at this time as we transition to the renovated MAC."
The MAC is undergoing a $35 million facelift, which includes improvements to the front entrance, an enhanced concession and bar area, the new Cleve Carney Art Gallery and, by summer 2014, a new outdoor theater.
At one time slated to reopen in spring of 2014, Lloyd said the school is now on target to christen the new facility with a New Year's Eve performance of the New Philharmonic.
Martinez was executive director at the Paramount from 2001 until resigning in July 2009, and was at Second City from 2009 until October of 2012, serving the last two years as president. Since then she has consulted at various venues, including The Auditorium Theater at Roosevelt University for its 125th anniversary.
Martinez, who lives in Glen Ellyn, said she was asked to consider taking on the COD project by her friend Stephen Cummins, who left COD as the MAC director in July for a post at California State University.
"I think it's an exciting time for the center to re-emerge and reposition itself in the community," Martinez said. "I had an opportunity to walk through the other day and it is truly gorgeous, and exciting to see the investments they have put into the cultural arts."
Born in Glen Ellyn to an El Salvadoran mother -- a longtime wigmaker for shows at Pheasant Run -- and a Spanish father, Martinez made her name directing high-energy productions of low-budget shows at Pheasant Run in St. Charles. In her first year at the Paramount, Martinez spent roughly $1.4 million expanding its season with Broadway attractions such as "Cabaret" and concerts by entertainers like Bill Cosby.
As interim director of the MAC, Martinez said she's there to "stabilize, to restaff and to rebuild," and to see how it can grow an audience.
"How can we engage more students? How can we engage the community?" Martinez said. "It starts with programming, always. To entice people, you need programming and awareness."
On the subject of programming, Martinez suggests bringing in shows with "different appeal."
"I do think that bringing in family programming and programming with young people and with commercial appeal (helps) to get the people on the campus," Martinez said. "The arts is a great entree and such a great catalyst to drive positive attention and draw people in from all walks of life."
Lloyd said COD is starting the process of searching for a permanent director in hopes of having one in place by January. Martinez is assisting with that process.
She said it's only fair for COD to do its due diligence in finding a permanent director, but "absolutely the door is open on both sides" for her to consider the position.
"I'm focused on getting them where they are going," Martinez said. "I don't come from an education background. I'm not even positive that I am the right fit, but I am positive that I am the person to get you to the next level."