No drama behind changes in leadership coming to Actors’ Shakespeare Project
Wrapping up its 11th season and looking forward to September’s “Othello,” December’s “The Winter’s Tale,” February’s “Richard II” and Sheridan’s “The School for Scandal” in April, the Somerville-based Actors’ Shakespeare Project is also swapping out an executive producer and board president, renewing its focus on education and looking for its first director of marketing in nearly four years.
“This year will be about planning,” the company’s Joanne Barrett said Saturday, noting that an intensive new round of strategic planning had already begun, although the leadership changes technically arrive for the organization with the start of its fiscal year Aug. 1.
Founding executive producer Sara Stackhouse will move on from her role but keep consulting on fundraising and strategy, according to a Monday press release. Kim Dawson has begun to train as interim executive producer to take over alongside artistic director Allyn Burrows and Mara Sidmore, director of education programs, projects and partnerships as the theater’s board conducts a formal search for a permanent executive producer.
Board president Rev. Cynthia Good will be replaced by current vice chairman David Sandberg for the 2015-16 season. Sandberg is former general counsel of ITA Software, now a part of Google, and co-owns Porter Square Books in Cambridge.
There was no drama involved in the changes, Barrett said.
“No, [Stackhouse] just decided it was 10 years and it was time to move on. And on the board, [Good’s] term was up,” Barrett said.
Stackhouse leaves after leading the company in acquiring the Not 2 Be Rehearsal Studio and Forest of Arden Youth Studio at the Charlestown Working Theater, increasing its operating budget by 1,500 percent and helping to develop youth programs, Sandberg said.
“We are sad to see Sara leave this role,” he said, crediting Stackhouse for the company’s “excellent audience support and critical praise” and becoming “firmly established as a creative fixture in New England and beyond.”
He also welcomed Dawson, a Boston University grad with a master’s degree in arts in education from Harvard University who founded an independent theater company of her own, the Allston Brighton Arts Bridge, in 2009. “We are confident and delighted to welcome Kim as she steps into these substantial shoes for the next year,” he said.
Stackhouse was equally enthusiastic:
“Actors’ Shakespeare Project has shaped my life and my thinking in profound ways. I am forever changed by the past 11 years of collaboration with a true ensemble of actors, teachers, artists, youth, audience members and leaders who are dedicated to creation, risk-taking, young people, our city and each other. Having known Kim Dawson as an arts leader in Boston for many years, I am thrilled with the board’s decision to bring her on as interim executive producer and confident she will do great things.”
Explaining the changes the company might expect with educators such as Dawson in charge, Barrett said she believed “the team of Kim, Allyn and Mara Sidmore will emphasize more publicly how important the project side is and, as Allyn says, help people look at Shakespeare in the modern day.”Many present for the forming of the company were educators, leading to an emphasis on teacher instruction and and a youth-intensive approach, so “it’s always been there. It’s just getting more attention.”
Finally, the publicist role Barrett has taken on temporarily, along with a few others in the past three years, will be filled with a full-time director of marketing, she said, part of a strategic plan for artistic, educational and financial growth for a maturing troupe.
This season included “The Comedy of Errors,” performed at the Brighton High School Auditorium; “Phèdre” at First Church in Boston; “Measure for Measure” at the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge; “God’s Ear” at the Davis Square Theatre in Somerville; and “Henry VI, Part 2” at The Modern Theatre at Suffolk University in Boston, ending with a 2 p.m Sunday performance.
The final event this season is a free “Women of Will” reading and book signing at 7 p.m. June 26 at Porter Square Books, 25 White St., Porter Square. Author Tina Packer, who traces femininity through the writings of Shakespeare, will take questions.