WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VT.: Northern Stage has announced the 2021 recipients of the BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle grant, which marks its fourth year with two new inductees into its unprecedented $3.5 million grant funded by the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation to support and promote women+ artistic directors and their associates in professional theatres across the United States.
Nataki Garrett, artistic director of Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Maria Manuela Goyanes, artistic director of Washington, D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, have each been awarded $250,000 a year for two years. The circle’s previously recipients include Susan V. Booth of Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Eileen J. Morris of the Ensemble Theatre in Houston, Sarah Rasmussen of the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ (formerly of the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis), Christina Baldwin of the Jungle Theater, Lisa McNulty of WP Theater in New York City, and BOLD founder Carol Dunne of Vermont’s Northern Stage.
Goyanes, the first woman of color to run a major D.C. theater, joined Woolly Mammoth as AD in 2018 after serving as director of producing and artistic planning New York City’s Public Theater. She is shepherding Woolly to become an equitable, progressive, and inclusive cultural beacon, with her inaugural season featuring plays written solely by females or BIPOC playwrights, and with the majority directed by women.
Garrett served as the acting artistic director for Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company (DCPA) during the $66 million organization’s 18-month leadership transition, and has made a name for herself by fostering, directing, and producing new artists and works, as well as adaptations of classics. Garrett took the helm of OSF as the first African American artistic director in the theatre’s 85-year history.
Both women have faced unprecedented trials early in their tenures, from the COVID pandemic to movements to combat social injustice, and, in Garrett’s case, wildfires.
Led by Northern Stage’s producing artistic director Carol Dunne, the BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle is an initiative created to bridge career gaps for women artists in the American theatre. A 2016 study by Wellesley Centers for Women, commissioned by American Conservatory Theater artistic director Carey Perloff and former executive director Ellen Richard, revealed that women hold only 17 percent of artistic leadership positions in the American regional theatre, and that the dearth of female theatre leaders is not due to a lack of candidates but rather to a clearly observed glass ceiling preventing women from assuming the artistic helm of professional theatres. The BOLD Circle aims to create a network of female artistic directors, selected every three years in an open application process, empowering them to address the issues preventing women from advancing in theater leadership.
The BOLD Circle offers support of artistic initiatives focused on female artists and creates a formal mentorship program to train and prepare future women artistic directors to lead, to create, to innovate, and to enhance the impact of theater across America. The Circle’s major funding for the mentorship of women directors and producers supports artists at every level: Gurley Brown Fellows join theatres directly out of college, while artists further along in their careers join as BOLD associate directors and producers. Fellows and associates that entered the BOLD Circle in the past year include Rebecca Martinez (BOLD Associate Artistic Director, WP Theater), Nidia Medina (BOLD Special Projects Producer, WP Theater), Nicole A. Watson (BOLD Associate Artistic Director, McCarter Theatre Center), Kerrigan Quenemoen (BOLD Artistic Fellow, Northern Stage), Emma Orme (BOLD Producing Associate, Northern Stage), Skylar Burks (BOLD Producing Associate, Alliance Theatre), Michelle Elaine Ogletree (BOLD Artistic Fellow, the Ensemble Theatre), Krystal Uchem (BOLD Production Fellow-Production Manager, the Ensemble Theatre), and Alison Ruth (BOLD Artistic & Advancement Associate, the Jungle Theater).
In the three years since BOLD’s establishment in 2017 by the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation, five BOLD members have been promoted to major theatre leadership positions, over 60 new works by women have been developed, and five new musicals by women are currently in development.
“Our story proves that when women who have achieved major leadership in predominantly male fields are given the support and tools necessary to focus on mentoring the next generation, they are a powerful force for systemic change,” said Carol Dunne in a statement. “Our artistic directors’ hard-won experience provides leadership training that cannot be learned in any school. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the women who have been supported by our program are more than ready to meet the myriad challenges that face the theater industry. We are committed to creating equitable and artistically inspiring theatre that answers the call to make the world a better place.”
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