MINNEAPOLIS: After a 20-month national search, the board of Mixed Blood Theatre has announced that director/playwright/organizer/activist Mark Valdez will be the organization’s second artistic director, succeeding Jack Reuler, who founded the company in 1976. Valdez will be in residence starting next month, and will begin full-time on June 6; Reuler’s last day will be July 6, so that his run officially spans 2-2-76 to 7-6-22.
Valdez is hardly unknown to Mixed Blood: He has directed nine shows there, served as a resident artist for two spans, and has participated in planning and producing for the institution. His background and emphasis has been partnering with communities, organizations, civic institutions, and others, using theatre and creative tools to address community needs and to lift up community voices and stories.
“We are thrilled that Mark will become our next artistic director,” said Tabitha Montgomery, former board president, interim managing director, and a member of the succession planning committee, in a statement. “His creative dexterity, curiosity, and approach will help the organization take new strides in activating champions for equity and justice on and off the stage.”
Reuler, who was 22 when he founded Mixed Blood 46 years ago, is equally enthusiastic about the choice of Valdez. “Mark has been a resident artist, guest director, playwright, organizer, advisor, confidant, and friend to Mixed Blood and me since 2006,” said Reuler in a statement. “His belief in what theatre can be—as an art form, tool for social change, and instrument for justice—aligns with Mixed Blood’s new strategic direction and our worldview. I can’t wait to see how this progressive organization will evolve under his leadership.”
Valdez served as associate director of Cornerstone Theater Company, with whom he helped to create plays in, with, and for communities across the nation. He also headed Cornerstone’s Institute and now is its board chair. For seven years, he was the executive director of the Network of Ensemble Theatres (NET), a national alliance of artists and organizations committed to collaborative creation. He grew NET from 50 to 400 members and its budget from $60,000 to $900,000.
Valdez is this year’s recipient of SDC’s Zelda Fichandler Award, Americans for the Arts’ second Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities, and the California Arts Council’s 2021 Legacy Artist Fellow. He was director of Mixed Blood’s production of Vietgone, which received an Ivey Award for its ensemble work in 2018. In partnership with ashley sparks, he created, wrote, and directed Mixed Blood’s most recent work, The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe, about housing insecurity. That show is slated for runs in Los Angeles, Syracuse, N.Y., and Mesa, AZ. He has authored and directed plays for Trinity Rep, the Alliance Theatre, Native Voices, Teatro Vision, East West Players, ChildsPlay, the Center Theatre Group, and more. He has served on the board of Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and the Performing Arts Alliance as well as directed at numerous colleges and universities. He holds an MFA in directing from the University of California, Irvine.
As a consultant, Valdez has partnered with a variety of institutions interested in engagement and creative community development, including Americans for the Arts, Center for Performance and Civic Practice, Opera America, EMC Arts, LISC, the Irvine Foundation, Community Engagement and the Arts, and Arizona State University.
“Mixed Blood has been an artistic home for me, and I’ve had the privilege to see firsthand how the company lives its values of equity and inclusion,” said Valdez in a statement. “I am eager to build on this work. We can use the tools and skills of theatremaking—imagination, consensus building, meaning making—to support our communities and our peoples. Mixed Blood’s new strategic direction asks us do just that. This is the work I care most about and I’m lucky to have found a home in Mixed Blood that shares these priorities.”
To carry out the search process, seven board members, led by Artistic Logistics of Georgia, comprised a succession planning committee that created a plan, raised funds, and conducted an extensive nationwide search for the artistic director. In addition, Seema Sueko (then deputy artistic director at Arena Stage), Michael Rohd (founder and former artistic director of Sojourn Theatre), Laura Zabel (executive director of Springboard for the Arts), and Michael John Garces (artistic director of Cornerstone) participated in the interview process.
The city of Minneapolis has proclaimed today, Feb. 22, 2002, as “Mixed Blood Theatre Day in the City of Minneapolis.”
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