A big change is underway right now in American theater. More women and people of color are being appointed to lead theatrical institutions.
A recent survey called American Theater Leadership Change finds that of 85 artistic director positions that have opened since 2015, 41% have gone to women. People of color have been named to 26%.
Long Wharf Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. have all named producers of color to lead their institutions.
Long Wharf’s new artistic director Jacob Padron called it “a historic moment."
"The conversation we’re all having is how we can use theater as a catalyst for meaningful systemic change in our communities and really across the landscape," he told Connecticut Public Radio. "I think we’re all united in the idea that art and activism can live side by side, that actually when we look at the body of work that has come out of the American theater, some of the most exciting theater that we’ve seen, has come out of an activist spirit."
Padron succeeds Gordon Edelstein, who left Long Wharf amid accusations of sexual misconduct.
Before coming to Connecticut, Padron worked at the Public Theater in New York City. He’s founder of The Sol Project, which works to amplify the voices of Latinx playwrights.
In deciding what stories to put on Long Wharf’s stage, Padron said he’ll think about how a play is in conversation with the world we live in.
“Theater has the power to change people’s lives,” said Padron. “And I think that we are in a moment right now where we need that balm to heal so many wounds. I think that theatre can be a place where we come together and lock arms and say, ‘I see you. You matter.’ And bring us together.”
Long Wharf’s first show this season, called On The Grounds Of Belonging, is about forbidden love in 1950s Jim Crow Texas. It runs through November 3.