Issaquah Village Theater Begins Its Next Chapter
Following the retirement of executive producer Robb Hunt and the departure of former art director Jerry Dixon, village theater ushers in a new era with the shift to a dual leadership model led by new Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr, a position that previously reported to Executive Producer and will now report to Village’s Board of Directors, and the first-ever General Manager of organization, Laura Lee. Lee and Immerwahr began working with the company, known for producing a mix of classic and new musicals as well as its youth education program, in July.
Immerwahr called stepping in to lead the company after Hunt’s 43 years as an “extraordinary gift” and responsibility as he and Lee lead the organization’s next stage of growth.
“How are we working to make Village a more equitable, caring and loving place to work for everyone – its staff, its artists – as well as its audience,” Immerwahr said. “How can we take the incredible youth education program, new works program and main stage work and take it to the next level?”
Board Chair Jill Klinge in a statement sees Immerwahr and Lee poised for success due to their “unique energy, experience and vision”, Immerwahr’s “ability to imagine theater canon classical music in new and innovative ways” and Lee’s theater administration, marketing and marketing. and financial management skills.
Most recently, Immerwahr served as Artistic Director of Theater J in Washington, DC, for over six years, and prior to that was Associate Artistic Director at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey. Lee has more than 30 years of experience in finance, marketing and fundraising, including serving as the managing director of ArtsWest in Seattle and the founder of her own sports production company, Production Sports.
Earlier this month, Immerwahr and Lee discussed what the new leadership model means for the future of the Village Theater and what audiences and artists can expect from the next phase of the organization. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
What are the differences between having this person at the top and having two people sharing leadership?
Immerwahr: He’s a pretty amazing person who can be just as good in the rehearsal room as he is at reviewing finances and creating a marketing plan. Laura brings a wealth of experience – I can’t even imagine how much she brings to the areas she will be overseeing. Fundraising, marketing, operations, finance, customer experience, all of it. The dual leadership model allows her to focus and be a specialist while I spend my time in the rehearsal room meeting artists. Together, we assume joint leadership in the community and strategically of the organization.
Laura, I would like to know what is the most important thing that Adam needs to know about the theater scene in Seattle?
Lee: We are a close community. Even working at ArtsWest, there was no competition between theaters. It was: How can we lift each other up? I got to see the theater specter in Seattle. It’s a huge spectrum and we really want to uplift each other.
Adam, are there things you’ve learned during your time in DC, which also has its own very special theater scene, that you’re looking forward to bringing to Seattle and the Village?
Immerwahr: I was in one of the biggest culturally specific theaters in the country. I ran the J Theater, which is the main Jewish theater in the country. From that perspective, it really helped me understand the incredible power of theater to be both universal and particular, and the joy that comes with sharing the stories of a particular group, of a particular people. , universally.
Looking to the future artistically, do we expect to see programming similar to past seasons?
Immerwahr: Programming is like a Venn diagram of what excites you as a producer and as an artist, what engages your audience in what they want to see and what [stories] artists in your community need to share. We’re not going to give up on big splashy musicals. But, we’ll start, I’m sure, to adjust the flavor slightly. I hope the audience will start to take a journey that will move us slightly towards things that are at the center of all our interests. A big part of that for me will be learning about the arts community and knowing who has stories they’re dying to tell, who has projects they’re dying to work on, and helping them find a time for that here in the Village.
I would add that, what I have learned in my journey with Village so far is that the youth education program here is not only the heart and soul of Village, but regard, the heart and soul of this community. As you walk through this building, you meet artist after artist, staff member after staff member, board member after board member, who got their start either in our youth education program, or their children were in our youth education program.
Lee: Education [program] is a big reason I applied for this job. As a mother of kids who grew up in the arts…the skills they learned in terms of being able to present themselves to the world as a nice person, all of that. It’s been such a blessing that I can’t imagine kids not going through it and being able to be part of a theatrical process, and Village is an amazing place to do that work.