23 to watch in 2023: Argo Thompson, CEO of California Theatre

Argo Thompson opened the California Theater in downtown Santa Rosa in September 2022. Prior to that, was artistic director of Left Edge Theatre for seven years.|

For more people to watch in 2023, go here.

Name: Argo Thompson

Title or position: CEO (“Chief Eternal Optimist,” as he puts it) of the California Theatre, a 199-seat cabaret-style space at 528 7th St., Santa Rosa.

On the job since: He opened The California Theatre in downtown Santa Rosa in September 2022. Prior to that, Thompson was artistic director of Left Edge Theatre for seven years. Previously housed at Luther Burbank Center, the company is now part of The California operation.

Age: 55

Hometown: Santa Rosa (fourth generation.)

Why Thompson is someone to watch:

Thompson has long been committed to advancing local theater, previously serving in leadership positions at Actor’s Theatre and the 6th Street Playhouse. As founding artistic director at Left Edge Theatre since 2015, he has led the company to receive numerous awards for contemporary plays never produced in Sonoma County before. Now at the California Theatre, Santa Rosa’s newest downtown performing arts center, he is presenting an ambitious lineup of events, including regular music nights, variety, burlesque and comedy, as well as theater.

What others say about Thompson:

“The arts are a fundamental economic driver that I don’t think people really think about … unless you’re someone like Argo. He is forward- thinking and a collaborator. For him, it’s not just about what he needs or wants for his theater, but it’s about what will benefit our community. The California Theater has quickly established itself a critical enhancement to the fledgling entertainment district on the north side of downtown and Santa Rosa’s nighttime economy.” -- Raissa De La Rosa, economic development division director for the city of Santa Rosa.

What Thompson says about 2023:

“Coming out of a pandemic has never felt so good! In all seriousness, it is a privilege to do the work I do and with people who care like I do – and it gives me faith in humanity to receive such amazing support in pursuit of building a space for artistic expression and community gathering. In 2023, I look forward to continuing to champion the performing arts in Santa Rosa for all, connecting people with one another and with art that can enrich their lives. Thank you for the recognition!”

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

For more people to watch in 2023, go here.

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