Snehal Desai

  • Artistic Director

    Center Theatre Group 

  • Address

    601 W. Temple St., Los Angeles

  • Website

  • Photographed by

    Jeffrey Fiterman

  • Special Section

    Men Who Lead

Snehal Desai is the third artistic director in the history of Center Theatre Group, one of the largest not-for-profit arts organizations in the country. Prior to joining Center Theatre Group in 2023, Snehal was the producing artistic director of East West Players in Los Angeles and worked on the faculty of the University of Southern California’s graduate program in arts leadership. He is a graduate of Emory University and the Yale School of Drama.

What led to your choice of this career?

I kept coming back to the idea of how one can effect change. You can do that through public health or public policy, but another way is through storytelling. I became interested in raising visibility and creating dialogue around issues affecting our communities through a single image or story. My desire to effect change is still very much there; it’s just through a different medium. 

Who was one of your mentors?

My predecessor at East West Players, Tim Dang, is someone I consider a mentor and champion. He helped me see that there was a path for me not just as an artist but as an artistic leader. He helped me understand my strengths and where I could grow.

What milestones have you achieved over the past year?

Growing up in a small town in Quakertown, USA, I never even considered being an artistic director. For a long time, I questioned whether there was a place in American theatre for someone who looked like me. It was only when I started working at East West Players that I felt empowered by being among our community to dream bigger. So when I was named the new artistic director at Center Theatre Group, the board’s decision felt like a true and sincere investment in my leadership and the vision I have for the role the arts should play in the life of Angelenos.  

What are the biggest challenges to your organization’s success?

We are first and foremost a not-for-profit company and a mission-driven organization. Our job is to fulfill that mission and the vision and values at the center of it. Within that, there has to be a certain amount of balance—stabilizing the organization so you can take chances and create unique and inspiring opportunities for artists and audiences.