NEW YORK CITY: Sarah Benson and Meropi Peponides are stepping down as directors of Soho Repertory Theatre. During their tenure, Peponides, Benson, and Soho Rep’s third director, Cynthia Flowers, created a three-way co-directorship in 2018 with the goal of forming a shared leadership that redistributed power, was more collaborative, and gave equal weight to divergent perspectives. Benson’s resignation comes after 15 years with the influential Off-Broadway theatre; Peponides steps down after eight years with the company.
Under the trio’s leadership, Soho Rep produced full-scale productions by artists such as Alice Birch, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Aleshea Harris, Anne Washburn, Kate Tarker, Sarah Kane, Lucas Hnath, and many more. More recently, the Off-Broadway theatre combated COVID-spurred unemployment with Project Number One, bringing in artists as salaried staff members to help envision a more sustainable and equitable theatre. Project Number One will continue into the 2022-23 season with artists Hahnji Jang and Kate McGee on staff.
Peponides began her work with Soho Rep in 2014; she produced 18 new plays and numerous studio workshops and oversaw Soho Rep’s Writer Director Lab with co-chairs William Burke and Jackie Sibblies Drury. Peponides has also expanded the circle of artists involved with Soho Rep, centering the work of artists of color and of LGBTQ+ community. Peponides next plans to dedicate more of her time and energy to Radical Evolution, the multiethnic producing collective she co-founded in 2011, which creates artistic events that seek to understand the complexities of the mixed-identity existence in the 21st century.
“Being a part of Soho Rep has shaped the artist and leader I am today,” said Peponides in a statement. “It is impossible to overstate how transformative my time with the organization has been, and I have immense pride in the body of work we have collectively realized during my time here. It has been a joy and an honor to serve this incredible community of artists, and I have now reached a point where I’m eager to devote more of myself to growing Radical Evolution, and to focusing on my own artistic practice. I’m also excited for this moment of change for Soho Rep, and to see what future leadership will bring to the organization as it continues to thrive.”
Benson has directed numerous award-winning plays and musicals with Soho Rep, including Sarah Kane’s Blasted, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s An Octoroon, César Alvarez’s Futurity, and many more. During her tenure, Benson’s projects received 15 Obies and the Drama Desk Award for Sustained Artistic Excellence. Benson next plans to focus on directing and expanding her creative practice.
“Soho Rep has changed who I am as a person and artist,” said Benson in a statement. “It has been an immense gift to have been surrounded for 15 years by brilliant artists who have relentlessly challenged and expanded my artistic and personal assumptions. Soho Rep has been the place where I have found lifelong collaborators and been able to make weird, ambitious work with tremendous artistic freedom. I am ready for more space and time for my own creative work, and I look forward to seeing the imaginative power that I know future artistic leaders will bring to Soho Rep.”
Peponides and Benson have already planned the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons. The 2022-23 season includes three world premiere commissions: Kate Tarker’s Montag, Shayok Misha Chowdhury’s Public Obscenities, and Jillian Walker’s The Whitney Album. Additionally, a cohort of commissioned artists whose work is in development will be in conversation with new leadership as they begin to imagine the next phase of innovation at the theatre.
To lead the search for Soho Rep’s new leaders, a committee that includes board chair Victoria Meakin and playwright Jacobs-Jenkins, authors and board members James Gleick and Claudia Rankine, and the Arts Consulting Group has been convened. A job description and applications will be made public in late October.
Soho Rep is a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide radical theatre makers with productions of the highest caliber and tailor-made development at key junctures in their artistic practice. As of 2020, the theatre had an annual budget of $1.9 million.
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