ST. PAUL, MINN.: Park Square Theatre has announced the first members of its new cohort of artistic associates, who have been instated as collective replacement for the position of artistic director. That position was eliminated in late January, and artistic director Flordelino Lagundino was dismissed. The confirmed associates, who will help shape programming in 2022, are Rick Shiomi, Ellen Fenster, and Kim Vasquez, with an open call for additional associates to be announced this spring.
The board’s reason for eliminating the single artistic director position was described at the time as a matter of “streamlining the organization’s leadership structure.” Lagundino, who had only served in the position since August 2018, told American Theatre that there were “financial difficulties” that predated his tenure, which were part of why the current season’s planned productions of Evita and Miss You Like Hell had to be canceled.
The new team of artistic associates, according to a statement from Park Square’s executive director, Michael-jon Pease, are “working professionals who direct, write, teach, produce, and perform. They come to us with rich careers, distinct histories, personal networks, and perspectives that will keep expanding Park Square’s circle of artistic relationships. We live among many different histories, cultures, and people; the community is always enriched whenever new voices are added to the conversation.”
Rick Shiomi is the co-artistic director of Full Circle Theater in St. Paul, Minn. A playwright and director, Shiomi received the 2015 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, 2012 Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement, and 2007 Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Vision. Shiomi was a co-founder and artistic director of Theater Mu (1993-2013). Ellen Fenster is a director and arts educator in Minneapolis who is an associate artist at Pillsbury House Theatre, an artistic associate at Illusion Theater, and the artistic and executive director of Twin Cities Theater Camp, a summer theater intensive for children. Additionally, Fenster has directed at Yellow Tree Theater, Mu Performing Arts, Artistry, Gremlin Theatre, and U of MN/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program. A native of North St. Paul, Kim Vasquez specializes in the development of new plays and musicals. Vasquez was a founding producer for the New York Musical Theatre Festival and is currently a producer for Be More Chill and Austen’s Pride.
For his part, Lagundino is proud of his time leading the theatre, saying he was most proud of his efforts to “create equity in pay for designers, actors, and the backstage crew. There had been a wide disparity in those areas.” He also said that while some box-office projections during his time were not met, “There were new audiences coming,” as well as funding support from new sources. The 2020-21 Park Square season was announced last week.
Park Square Theatre was founded in 1975 to enrich communities with theatre that touches the heart, engages the mind, and delights the spirit. Park Square developed its artistic associates model in 2014-18 as a way to expand the range of its storytelling.