DETROIT: Detroit Repertory Theatre has named Leah Smith as its new artistic director. Smith, who currently serves as the theatre’s marketing and development director, will succeed Bruce Millan in the leadership role. Smith will be the company’s first new artistic director in 61 years.
The theatre will hold a $500,000 fundraising campaign to support the leadership transition and the company’s ongoing operations. The Kresge Foundation Detroit Program has granted $50,000 to kick off the effort. As part of the transition, the staff will grow from five to seven. Smith will take the reins once the transition team is fully in place.
“The goal is to make the transition as smooth and visionary as possible to ensure the existence of the Rep for the generations ahead,” said Smith in a statement.
Smith, who started with the company in 2003, is currently training for the leadership role.
“As a native Detroiter it had always perplexed me that there wasn’t theatre that looked like and spoke to the people who live here, to the issues that are important to the people in this city,” said Smith in a statement. “Then I found the Detroit Repertory Theatre and I knew instantly I had found my theatre home. The founders of the Rep have created a unique Detroit cultural institution. I look forward to ensuring that the Repertory’s important mission of producing indigenous, union, socially relevant and diversity-centered theater lives to celebrate its 100th anniversary season!”
Millan, 88, is passing the baton after 61 in the post, entrusting the new leader to uphold the company’s commitments to inclusive casting.
“It’s about the belief that we’re all human beings,” said Millan in a statement. “If two people are sisters in a play and one happens to be black—as Martin Luther King said, it’s the content of the character, not the color of the skin. We’ve been a symbol not only in Detroit but nationally for our orientation, for fighting racism, and the power of diversity.”