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Stuart Carden Named Artistic Director of Kansas City Rep

The former associate a.d. at Chicago’s Writers Theatre succeeds Eric Rosen at the helm of Missouri company.

KANSAS CITY, MO.: Stuart Carden has been named the next artistic director of Kansas City Repertory Theatre after a comprehensive national search. Carden, who succeeds Eric Rosen in the job, is the company’s fifth artistic director. He joins Angela Lee Gieras, KCRep’s executive director, as co-leader of the region’s flagship theatre and professional theatre in residence at UMKC.

“Kansas City’s best days are ahead with the addition of this inspiring arts leader to our beloved community,” said Scott Hall, chairman of KCRep’s board of directors, who also serves as senior vice president, Civic and Community Initiatives at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. “Stuart reiterated throughout the interview process that listening to our audiences and telling Kansas City stories are a priority. We’re impressed with Stuart’s significant artistic and leadership experience in theatres like ours across the country, and we feel triumphant that we have been able to bring Stuart to Kansas City to build on the success of our thriving hometown.”

Stuart Carden. (Photo by Brandon Dahlquist)

Carden is a director, producer, and educator who has worked throughout the United States on works ranging from classic literary adaptations to intercultural drama to lo-fi spectacles. As the associate artistic director at Writers Theatre in Chicago for five seasons, Carden co-produced more than 25 productions, advanced the theatre’s new-play development program, created multiple audience engagement and enrichment programs, and was intimately involved in the design of the theatre’s $32 million Jeanne Gang-designed theatre complex. Prior to Writers, Stuart spent two years in Pittsburgh as associate drtistic director of the new-play focused City Theatre Company.

As a director, Carden has developed and directed plays for many of America’s leading theatres including the Old Globe, the Lyric Opera, the Second City, the Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, New Victory Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Silk Road Rising, Victory Gardens, People’s Light, Northlight Theatre, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, ArtsEmerson, the Wallis, Philadelphia Theatre Company, and Chicago Children’s Theatre.

“My wife Neysa and I are thrilled to bring our family to Kansas City and join the thriving cultural communities at UMKC and in the Kansas City region,” said Carden in a statement. “And our twins can’t wait to mix it up on KC soccer fields. As the new artistic leader of KCRep, I look forward to meeting the people and communities that make Kansas City what it is and learning of their interests, curiosities, passions, and hopes for the future. It is my belief that it is the responsibility and privilege of a regional theatre like KCRep to amplify and celebrate the people, history, and culture of the region it serves. I am ready to take a deep dive into all things Kansas City and translate those conversations into theatrically adventurous programming that illuminates the diversity of perspectives, interests, and people that make Kansas City such a vibrant community.”

With a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusivity (EDI), Stuart has created and advocated for inclusive practices as a freelance director and created institutional initiatives and programs that make space and provide opportunities for underrepresented artists. In addition to his professional accomplishments, Carden is a committed teacher and mentor, often teaching and lecturing at institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, DePaul University, and Loyola University, among others. Stuart holds a B.A. in Theatre from Hanover College and an M.F.A. in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University. He is married to contemporary and public art curator Neysa Page-Lieberman and dad to seven-year-old twins.

Barbara Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, offered her gratitude to interim artistic director Jason Chanos, who advanced the artistic work of the company over the past year during the national search. The 2019-20 season will commence in September with a selection of beloved classics and groundbreaking new titles curated by Chanos.

Bichelmeyer said UMKC is eager to build on its reputation as the arts campus within the University of Missouri System. She predicted “dynamic innovation in KC’s performing arts community in coming years, driven by the combination of new artistic leadership at KCRep, the merger of UMKC’s nationally recognized Department of Theatre with the university’s renowned Conservatory, and the upcoming construction of a new Conservatory building adjacent to KCRep’s home in the Olson Performing Arts Center.”

“With Stuart’s leadership, we have the opportunity to deepen the connection with our professional theatre in residence and to create valuable relationships between professionals in the field and our students, who will go on to be the next generation of artistic leaders in Kansas City and around the world,” Bichelmeyer said in a statement. “KCRep will be a vital partner as we create dynamic energy around our new Conservatory building, which will bring together artists and audiences to celebrate the best our arts community has to offer.”

Founded in 1964 by Patricia McIlrath, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, the professional theatre in residence at UMKC, is nationally recognized as an incubator of new plays and a producer of innovative musicals and reimagined classics.

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