CHICAGO: Raven Theatre Company has announced Sarah Slight as its new artistic director, effective July 1. Slight served as interim artistic director during the second half of the 2022-23 season, following the departure of former artistic director Cody Estle, who left the company to become artistic director of Milwaukee’s Next Act Theatre in late 2022.
“Sarah’s work as Raven Theatre Company’s interim artistic director as we conducted the nearly seven-month search process was stellar,” said board president Stephen Johnson in a statement. “We are quite confident that she will lead the theatre with grace and insight as it solidifies and expands its presence in the artistic community.”
An ensemble member at Chicago’s Rivendell Theatre and Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, Slight has worked with new-play development workshops at Victory Gardens’ Ignition Festival, New Harmony Project, Phoenix Theatre, the Playwrights’ Center, and American Theater Company. Past experience also includes serving as associate artistic director at American Theater Company, artistic programs manager at Northlight Theatre, literary associate at Williamstown Theatre Festival, and literary manager at Red Eye Theater.
“The longer I stayed, the more I learned about Raven, the more I didn’t want to leave,” Slight told American Theatre about moving from interim to permanent artistic director. “It felt good to make art in a place that supports new work the way Raven does.”
Slight said she was drawn to Raven’s commissioning program, which will launch two world premieres this upcoming season—Paul Michael Thomson’s brother sister cyborg space and the final installment in Joshua Allen’s The Grand Boulevard Trilogy—with two more commissions in the works. As a new-play dramaturg, Slight has spent her career supporting the vision of other artists, and she said she’s excited to use those skills to move writers through the commission and development process and onto full productions in her new role. That said, she’s also excited about providing Raven’s dedicated audience revivals like Lucille Fletcher’s psychological thriller Night Watch, which she programmed for this upcoming season.
“People are showing up, people are buying tickets, and that bodes well for our future,” Slight said.
Slight said that Raven has weathered the pandemic storm pretty well, rebounding from a budget of around $400,000 as of 2021 to a current budget of a little more than $900,000, according to Slight. This is as Raven enters its third season since making the switch to being an Equity company. Though Slight wasn’t there for the transition, Slight said the theatre is in a solid position to continue to move closer to pay equity for all artists, a high priority for her in her newly permanent position.
Slight also hopes to utilize this solid footing to continue to build relationships with the theatre’s local community, including broadening the usage of the organization’s two theatre spaces, the 85-seat East Stage and the 56-seat Schwartz Stage. Slight envisions Raven being able to offer a variety of performances in their building, like drag shows or sketch comedy, alongside their mainstage work. She also hopes the building can be available for community organizations that may need a meeting space.
“I’d really like for Raven to become known as a cultural hub in the Edgewater/Andersonville community,” Slight said. “How best can we utilize our resource, this amazing space, to provide more to the community that’s here? It’s important to me to continue to deepen relationships with our surrounding community.”
With Slight’s hiring complete, the company now pivots to searching for its new permanent managing director following the May departure of Markie Gray. Former Raven production manager and artistic producer Cole von Glahn has been serving in the role as interim managing director as the company searches for the person will join Slight in leading Raven into its next chapter.
“I’m going to be working to continue to make Raven a great place to work and make art,” Slight said. “I’m excited and ready to make art with the Chicago theatre community.”
Raven Theatre has a mission to tell the stories of today and the past that connect us to our cultural landscape. The theatre has been a cultural cornerstone on the North Side of Chicago, and is entering its 41st season.
Jerald Raymond Pierce (he/him) is the Chicago Editor for American Theatre. email@example.com
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