RICHMOND, VA.: Virginia Repertory Theatre has named Desirée Roots as its co-artistic director for community. She is the first of three co-artistic directors the theatre plans to announce as part of a new leadership model that will steer all artistic aspects of central Virginia’s flagship professional theatre, according to Phil Whiteway, managing director and co-founder. Replacing Nathaniel Shaw, who served as the company’s sole artistic director from 2016 to 2020, these directors will lead three co-equal, mission-mandated focus areas of operations with the aim of enhancing Virginia Rep’s wide-ranging impact to ensure a strong and stable business model, with education and adult audience programming artistic directors to be announced in 2022 after careful vetting by a selection committee.
Roots has worked with Virginia Rep since she was 16 years old, beginning as a high school intern with Theatre IV, which merged with Barksdale Theatre to form Virginia Rep in 2012. Her first professional engagement was Theatre IV’s 1988 production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 1988. Since then she has starred in numerous Theatre IV, Barksdale Theatre, and Virginia Rep productions, most recently The Color Purple, Dreamgirls, Caroline, or Change, and Ella and Her Fella Frank.
“In 1975, we were decades ahead of our time,” Whiteway said in a statement. “The pressure then was to be focused solely on the art. Today, we are proud to recommit to the entirety of our community. We believe it’s more important than ever to provide excellence in all areas. Desirée’s artistic leadership will anchor our connection to children’s health and community leadership.”
Roots has worked with schools and businesses in the Richmond area to build community awareness and appreciation for the arts. She previously served as program coordinator for Richmond Jazz Society and as booking manager for Downtown Presents (now Venture Richmond). She studied musicology at the University of Michigan and has a B.A. in art education and performance from Virginia Union University. She was honored with the 2005 Theresa Pollak Award for Outstanding Vocalist in Virginia. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and a panel judge for the Virginia Commission for the Arts.
“I am deeply honored to be appointed to this leadership position with Virginia Rep, which, along with the Richmond Jazz Society, has been my artistic home for 30 years,” Roots said. “I know my work is cut out for me, and it will not be easy. The events of the past two years, and Virginia Rep’s powerful history since the founding of Barksdale Theatre in 1953, inspire, energize, and challenge me. I greatly look forward to continuing the work that I love in the community I love.”
Virginia Repertory Theatre is a regional professional theatre headquartered in downtown Richmond, and one of the largest performing arts organizations in Central Virginia.
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