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Ann Filmer.

16th Street Theater Founder Ann Filmer to Step Down

She leaves after 14 years leading the theatre she founded alongside her husband, Barry Bennett.

BERWYN, ILL.: Ann Filmer, the founder of 16th Street Theater, announced her plans to step down as artistic director this coming August. “It has been an incredible journey founding and leading 16th Street Theater,” Filmer said in a statement. “It will be exactly 14 years at the end of August, and I am excited and ready to explore what is next for me. This is a wonderful time for new leadership at 16th Street. I cannot wait to champion the next artistic director and their new vision.”

Since its founding, 16th Street has focused on staging the work of Illinois artists and amplifying the voices of women and playwrights of color. During Filmer’s tenure, out of 61 productions plus 19 free community Pop Up Readings, 55 were written by female-identifying playwrights and 37 by writers of color.

Under Filmer’s leadership, 16th Street created co-producing partnerships with Teatro Luna, Teatro Vista, Victory Gardens, Jedlicka, Lewis University, Tellin’ Tales, Goodman and Steppenwolf, including Filmer’s adaptation and direction of Tony Fitzpatrick’s This Train and Nickel History. In conjunction with the Lark in New York and National New Play Network, Filmer produced rolling world premieres of Andrea Thome’s Pinkolandia, Karen Zacarías’s Into the Beautiful North adapted from Luis Alberto Urrea’s novel, Sean Lewis’s Dogs of Rwanda, Maya Malan-Gonzalez’s A Xmas Cuento Remix, and Audrey Cefaly’s Alabaster.

 As a producer, director, and dramaturg, Filmer has been an advocate for playwrights being in command of their own work. The 16th Street Theater has provided space and resources for writers to develop and present their new plays best serving the playwright’s voice, including writers such as Rohina Malik (Unveiled and Yasmina’s Necklace), Aline Lathrop (Merchild and The Hero’s Wife) EM Lewis (The Gun Show), Loy Webb (His Shadow), and Natalie Y. Moore (the upcoming The Billboard).

The board of the theatre is working with RGW Consulting in Oak Park and a yet-to-be-named interim artistic director on a plan for the future of 16th Street. Said executive director of North Berwyn Park District Joseph Vallez in a statement, “Ann Filmer has enlightened the community to the gift of theatre. She has confronted subject matter that initiates conversation and debate and invites us to reexamine the world we all live in today. Ann has been a dedicated artistic director that has introduced unique productions to the theatre world.”

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