Rod Lathim


Rod Lathim is a fifth generation Santa Barbaran.  He enjoys embracing his life-long goal of utilizing the arts to affect social change.  Lathim is a social activist, a pioneer of the accessible theatre movement on a national level, writer and a consultant to foundations, non-profit organizations.  

Lathim’s cutting edge vision and drive have enabled him to create and develop programs, arts organizations and landmark cultural facilities.  He has perfected a rare balance of being an award-winning writer, director and producer in theatre and television, and an effective, sought after administrator and manager.  He has built a personal “brand” which reflects the integrity, communication skills, creativity and compassion he invests in all his work.  He has proven his ability to galvanize for-profit and non-profit organizations, private and foundation donors, City Council Members, County Supervisors, Assembly and members of Congress through the value and impact of the projects which he has managed and lead to long-term success.

In 2012, Rod was honored by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and the Santa Barbara Arts Commission with the Leadership in the Arts Award for his significant contributions to arts and culture in Santa Barbara County.  A few of the awards for Lathim’s artistic and civic work include the Princess Grace Foundation USA Outstanding Achievement Award presented by Frank Sinatra and the Royal Family of Monaco, Maxwell House’s America’s 100 Heroes, multiple Media Access and Drama-Logue Awards, multiple humanitarian awards, Santa Barbara Magazine’s Big Canvas Award for Community Service and the only person to receive two Santa Barbara Independent Local Hero Awards.  In 1998, Stage Directions Magazine honored his company, Access Theatre, as one of Ten Theatres Nationally who have “Made a Difference.”

Lathim Founded Access Theatre in 1979, and developed the company from a grass-roots community theatre, to a professional, award-winning, international touring company.  For 18 years, Access Theatre was a national model of accessibility.  The company trained and employed artists who were disabled, able-bodied, blind, sighted, deaf and hearing, and staged primarily original works. Lathim directed and in many cases co-wrote many of the company's 20 productions including the award-winning international tour and television production of STORM READING starring Neil Marcus.  Lathim worked with multiple Emmy Award-winning producer Gary Smith to produce and direct STORM READING for television. STORM READING and Neil Marcus are featured in a Smithsonian Institute collection on Disability Culture.

Access Theatre toured to regional and university venues throughout the USA and in Canada and England, including the Kennedy Center, Tribeca College in New York City, The Coconut Grove Playhouse, Stanford University, The Annenberg Center, The Vancouver Playhouse and the James A Doolittle Theatre.  Celebrity board members of his company included Anthony Edwards, Michael Douglas, Robert Zemeckis, Kenny Loggins, Kate Mulgrew and Rue McClanahan. 

An award-winning documentary featuring Lathim, titled SPEAKING THROUGH WALLS, was directed and produced by Anthony Edwards (NBC’s “ER”) in 1989.  The Access Theatre Endowment Fund remains at the Santa Barbara Foundation and continues to fund accessible theatre projects in Santa Barbara County.   Storms and Illuminations: 18 Years of Access Theatre by Cynthia Wisehart has been published by Emily Publications, and was released in May of 1997.  This book chronicles Access Theatre's history and is a one-of-a-kind resource book for artists with disabilities and arts organizations striving to increase accessibility.

Rod is a freelance director, having staged THE BOYS NEXT DOOR and CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD for the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, California.  He also directed the national tour of the original dance theatre work titled FIVE FOOT FEAT.  He collaborated in 2008 to write the book, music and lyrics, and co-direct the original musical NEWTON’S CRADLE for the Patricia Henley Foundation.

As an actor, some of his favorite roles have been Sancho in two productions of MAN OF LA MANCHA, most recently at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, Walker in LISTEN FOR WINGS! An original play by Ellen K. Anderson which toured in three states, and he won an Independent Theatre Award for his role as the Sheriff in the musical SPITFIRE GRILL at the Garvin Theatre in Santa Barbara.

Rod served as Director of the VSA Arts “Art & Soul” International Arts Festival in Los Angeles in 1999 featuring professional and emerging performing and visual artists with disabilities from 37 countries.  Lathim worked closely with the Kennedy family and producer Norman Lear on the festival, which he gave an entirely new look and artistic approach.  He shifted a primarily educational, amateur event into a high quality, cutting-edge festival featuring contemporary professional music, dance and theatre artists from around the world.  He attracted Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin and Emmy Award-winning Anthony Edwards to host the Festival. 

Lathim served for four years as the President of the National Association for Theatre and Accessibility (ATA).  He assembled and hosted the first national gathering of audio describers through ATA, which has since developed into a growing national association of audio describers.  He has presented workshops and seminars internationally on topics of accessible theatre and the impact of the Americans With Disabilities Act on theatre.

Rod served as the President of the Board of Directors from 1999-2008 and served as Project Manager and Development Director for the creation of the Marjorie Luke Theatre – one of Santa Barbara’s newest Performing Arts Centers.  Rod was key in forging a unique public/private partnership with the Santa Barbara School Districts to create a venue utilized by public schools and the community.  This state and local award-winning $4 million renovation of an historic landmark theatre was completed in October of 2003 and has become one of Santa Barbara’s busiest venues and is utilized by over 145 area organizations.  In addition to securing operating funds for The Luke, Rod was responsible for securing nearly a half a million dollars in private funds to establish the Dreier Family Rent Subsidy Fund – supporting over 30 area arts groups annually - and the Luke Theatre Sustainability Fund.

Lathim has consulted for many non-profit organizations in areas of development, board structure and strategic planning.  He also consults with foundations including the Santa Barbara Foundation, ELA Foundation, the Patricia Henley Foundation, and Dream Foundation.  He served as the Chair of the City of Santa Barbara Arts Sustainability Fund Task Force in 2007.  He has served on the Boards of the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, The Kennedy Center Editorial Board for Access to the Arts, The Lobero Theatre, Center Stage Theater, The Santa Barbara Performing Arts League, and Boxtales Theatre Company.

As an event planner and designer, Rod has staged, written and produced special celebratory and fund raising events including Access Theatre’s 10th Anniversary “A Night To Remember” at the Lobero with Anthony Edwards, Kate Mulgrew, Estelle Getty, and John Randolph; the 1999 Opening Ceremony of the Art & Soul International Festival in Los Angeles; The Grand Opening Gala “Illuminations” at The Marjorie Luke Theatre; the 75th Anniversary Celebration Gala for the Santa Barbara Foundation at The Lobero; multiple movie world premieres at The Arlington Theatre with Michael Douglas, Kirk Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Joel Schumacher and Andrew Davis; “A Day to Dream” with Brad Garrett for Dream Foundation, script and musical material for a Tribute to Carol Channing, Betty Garrett, Rona Barrett and Jane Russell at The Lobero, and two Partnerships For Excellence Conferences at the Double Tree Hotel; and private concerts featuring Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald and John Travolta.

Lathim Guest Directed Dos Pueblos High School’s Spring 2011 production of the classic musical HELLO, DOLLY! Lathim also produced the Benefit Event “GLEE at The Luke” with the Executive Directors, Co-Creator/writer and cast members of the hit Fox TV show.  He wrote and produced the 20th Anniversary Celebration production for Center Stage Theater; cast and stage directed John Lithgow’s children’s book THE REMARKABLE FARKLE McBRIDE with composer Cody Westheimer for the Santa Barbara Symphony; wrote original scripts titled MIGUEL AND HIS CELL and THE VOICE WITHIN for the Santa Barbara Dance Institute. Lathim conceived and directed the musical variety show SENIORS HAVE TALENT in 2013 and 2014 for the Center for Successful Aging, which is now an annual production. PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ was the 2015 installment at the Marjorie Luke Theatre. Rod has co-produced short films for the Santa Barbara Dance Institute, The Marjorie Luke Theatre, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, UCP/Work Inc. and Gene R. Kelley - Inventor of the Wind Wing. 

Rod co-produced the feature-length documentary film titled CITIZEN McCAW with Sam Tyler. Peter Seaman, Charles Minsky and Brent Sumner. The film chronicles the meltdown of the Santa Barbara News Press.  The film addresses issues of journalistic ethics, media ownership and the role of daily newspapers in communities across our nation. The film is a riveting look at the players, actions, and principles involved in the first year of an epic struggle for the soul of journalism.  CITIZEN McCAW has been distributed to over 500 university journalism, film and communication schools nationally.

In 2015, Lathim was hired by Superintendent of Santa Barbara County Schools to create video segments focusing on the human factors that create a strong workforce at County Schools. Lathim interviewed 38 managers and administrators and edited the footage into four segments used in an annual staff retreat.

Rod produced the world premiere of Nancy Nufer’s new comedy FOOD CONFESSIONS, directed by Jenny Sullivan at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara in 2012, and served as Associate Producer of the play at the Rubicon Theatre in early 2013. In 2012 Rod wrote his first autobiographical play UNFINISHED BUSINESS which he directed at Center Stage Theater.  The play returned for two productions at the Lobero Theatre in May of 2013 and January of 2015, in expanded form.  UNFINISHED BUSINESS is a ground-breaking play about shared death experiences and explores topics rarely discussed in public or in live theatre.

Rod will produce the world premiere of the three hour documentary mini-series WEST OF THE WEST - Tales from California’s Channel Islands, at the Arlington Theatre in early March of 2016. The series will be shown on PBS television stations throughout California and across the nation, and will be offered to schools with a curriculum being created for the series. This documentary film series is produced by Sam Tyler with writer/director Peter Seaman and Cinematographer/Editor Brent Sumner.

Lathim penned two editions of The Spirit of the Big Yellow House - a history of Summerland, California and its founding family.  He has co-written the screenplay of a feature film tentatively titled ILLUMINATION with Pamala Oslie.  He also enjoys being a published photographer and is an accomplished assemblage artist.