Former Folksbiene CEO quits 6-figure job after résumé-padding investigation
The former CEO of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, who was recently found to have padded his résumé with fake jobs and professional honors, is resigning from his post at the University of Utah’s Pioneer Theatre Company, citing mental illness.
“Despite many good things that have happened over the last two years under my direction, effective Aug. 20, 2021, I will resign my position at Pioneer Theatre Company in order to address issues in my personal and professional life, stemming from untreated and at times an incorrectly treated mental health condition,” Christopher Massimine, who produced the Folksbiene’s award-winning Yiddish production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” wrote in a statement published by American Theater on Tuesday. In the statement, Massimine emphasized his successes in the role and alluded to in-patient treatment sought in May due to suicidal thoughts.
Massimine — who reportedly goes by the self-assigned moniker “the mastermind” — appears to have lied about his education, his involvement in viral ad campaigns and marquee video games on his website and résumé both before and after landing a six-figure job at the University of Utah. As Adam Herbets of Salt Lake City’s Fox 13 reported, Massimine, 35, who worked at the Folksbiene for more than six years, made a number of dubious claims on his résumé in applying for his job as managing director at the university’s on-campus Pioneer Theatre Company.
Herbets obtained a copy of Massimine’s CV and deconstructed it bullet point by bullet point, finding it brimming with tall tales of exploits in various industries. It lists around 100 employers.
Massimine was the first non-Jewish CEO of the Folksbiene, telling the Daily Beast in 2018 that he earned his post by being the “right goy for the job.” He held various titles in the company’s leadership, including that of Chief Operations Officer, before taking the organization’s reins.
“The culture, camaraderie, brotherhood and sisterhood, the emphasis on artistic culture — all clicked,” Massimine said about his easy transition to the company. “Here, we’re using Jewish culture as a bridge to other cultures and identities.”
Massimine left the Folksbiene after securing the Utah job in 2019, following a 19-month search by the university to fill the position. Among the claims the university broadcast at the time of his hire was that he was a two-time nominee for a Tony Award, once for the Folksbiene’s involvement with Paula Vogel’s play “Indecent,” and once for the Green Day musical “American Idiot,” both of which he claimed to work on as a producer.
In a statement to Fox 13, a spokesperson for the Tonys said that because the Folksbiene was a “below-title associate producer” on the Broadway production of “Indecent,” they were not recognized by the Tonys. The spokesperson also refuted the claim that Massimine had been recognized as a nominee for “American Idiot.” (There is no evidence he worked on the production in a producer capacity, nor is the show listed on his Internet Broadway Database page.)
Fox 13 found that Massimine had lied about completing a master’s degree at NYU and developing iconic advertisements for Old Spice, KFC and Coca-Cola. His résumé also claimed that he had worked on the long-anticipated remake of the video game “Final Fantasy VII” and a recent installment of the horror game “Resident Evil” in the last decade — years when he was leading the Folksbiene. He is not listed in the credits of these video games, and spokespeople for the advertising companies responsible for the Old Spice, KFC and Coca-Cola ads told Fox that he was never employed by their agencies.
Massimine was helped along in building his hype, Fox 13 discovered, by his practice of paying pay-for-article websites to post flattering pieces about him, some of which he authored. One referred to him as “real life’s ‘most interesting man in the world,’” a reference to his alleged creation of a character used to advertised Dos Equis beer. That character first appeared in 2006, when Massimine would have been around 20.
In a follow-up, Fox 13 reported that Massimine continued to puff up his achievements after getting the Pioneer Theatre job. In 2019, he appears to have invented an award for himself — buying a phony medal and allegedly filing an expense report to fly to DC for a ceremony — from the National Performing Arts Action Association, described on Massimine’s website as a “political action committee.” Herbets found that no organization with that name was registered with the Federal Elections Commission, and that it is likely nonexistent.
In March, he wrote in American Theatre magazine that during the COVID pandemic the Pioneer Theatre Company faced a potential $1.4 million deficit but ended the year only $66,000 in the red. After reviewing records, Herbets found that the actual deficit was in excess of $102,000.
American Theatre admitted the mistake and appended a correction. Massimine’s IMDB page was scrubbed of credits after the Fox story broke.
What this report says is true. We let Pioneer Theatre’s Christopher Massimine publish at least one apparent falsehood on our site. We regret this & will be more vigilant in the future. We have appended a note to the piece but have left it on our site as a matter of public record. https://t.co/08SokxGLK0
— American Theatre (@AmericanTheatre) July 7, 2021
In a New York Times article that appeared just a day before Massimine announced his resignation, Maggie Massimine, was quoted as saying that her husband did not mislead people or exaggerate his accomplishments.
“Our side of the story has not been told,” she told The Times. “I really wish I could say more.”
The Folksbiene declined to comment through a representative, but former publicist Beck Lee told The Times that Massimine’s work for the theater was admirable — if at times untruthful.
“He did a great deal to raise the profile of the company,” Lee said, “and was sometimes prone to exaggeration, which I have learned is typically a tool of impresarios and showmen.”
Updated: August 17, 2021, 2:00 pm: This story, originally published on July 8, 2021, after the allegations against Massimine were first reported, has been updated in the wake of his resignation.