PRINCETON, N.J., and MINNEAPOLIS: Sarah Rasmussen, artistic director of the Jungle Theater, will be the next artistic director of McCarter Theatre Center as of Aug. 1. Rasmussen, who has led the Minneapolis company for five years, succeeds longtime McCarter artistic director and resident playwright Emily Mann, who has been at the helm since 1990. Beginning May 15, Jungle associate artistic director Christina Baldwin will be the theatre’s interim artistic director. In addition, the Jungle has announced that Robin Gillette, who served as managing director in an interim capacity for eight months, stepped into the role permanently on April 13.
During her tenure at the Jungle, in which she succeeded founder Bain Boehlke, who had led the theatre for 25 years, Rasmussen commissioned new work and directed acclaimed early stagings of The Wolves, The Oldest Boy, and Ride the Cyclone. In 2018 the Star Tribune named her Minnesota’s artist of the year. Also that year, she became an inaugural recipient of the BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle grant, which supports the development of women in theatre who serve as artistic leaders.
Before starting at the Jungle, Rasmussen, who has directed at theatres across the U.S., was resident director for the Black Swan Lab at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and head of the University of Texas at Austin’s MFA directing program .
“The search committee was impressed with Sarah’s commitments to inclusive artistry and inventive storytelling,” said McCarter board chair Robert Caruso, who co-chaired the search with board member Jill Dolan, in a statement. “McCarter looks forward to how she—partnering with managing director Mike Rosenberg—will expand the theatre’s audiences with innovative programming and original content.”
On succeeding Mann, Rasmussen said, “I have long admired Emily and her legacy of commissioning and developing new work.” She added, “I am energized by the conversations I’ve had with McCarter board, staff, and community about this next chapter. And, as a former professor, I look forward to the possibilities between the theatre and Princeton University.”
“I am so very happy to light the torch of my successor, Sarah Rasmussen, and wish her a glorious tenure as McCarter’s new artistic director,” said Mann.
“Sarah transformed the Jungle over the past five years, bringing inclusive and bold stories, diverse talent, and gender parity to our stage,” said Craig Ashby, president of the Jungle’s board of directors, in a statement. “Under her leadership, we took smart risks that paid off with critical acclaim and growing audiences. We are deeply grateful to Sarah and proud that she will be taking the helm of one of our country’s largest and most respected theatres.” Regarding Gillette’s appointment, Ashby said, “Robin’s steady administrative and financial leadership is exactly what we need, both during this time of COVID-19 and with this leadership transition.”
Established in 1991, the Jungle Theater makes “courageous, resonant theatre that challenges, entertains, and sparks expansive conversation.” As a neighborhood organization that has received national attention, the Jungle concentrates on programming that features urgent stories, and strives to stage such works with great attention to detail. In recent years, the Jungle has been recognized for bringing new voices and gender parity to the stage, and for renewing its commitment to commissioning and producing new work.
McCarter Theatre Center, founded in 1972, aims to “create world-class theatre and present the finest artists for the engagement, education, and entertainment of the community.” In 1994 the organization received the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Among the troupe’s world premieres are Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike , which went on to win the 2013 Tony for best play; Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays; Emily Mann’s Having Our Say; and Danai Gurira’s The Convert.