City Theatre Creates Shared Artistic Director Structure

Pittsburgh’s new play company forms Co-Artistic Director Model: Clare Drobot and Monteze Freeland join Marc Masterson in joint artistic leadership.

The City Theatre board of directors has announced a restructuring of the artistic director position, elevating current staff members Clare Drobot and Monteze Freeland to Co-Artistic Directors alongside Marc Masterson. He had held the title of singular artistic director since 2018. The new model goes into effect on September 6, 2021.

Marc Masterson.                               Clare Drobot                      Monteze Freeland

Photos provided by City Theatre

At City Theatre, Ms. Drobot, Mr. Freeland, and Mr. Masterson will rotate as “lead” artistic director for a year, serving as the point person for staff and the Board for a given season. Masterson will serve in the “lead” role for the current 2021-22 season, with Drobot following in 2022-23 and Freeland in 2023-24.

James McNeel continues as Managing Director, the fourth Board report.

Across the field, there are ongoing discussions around “flattening” top-down artistic decision-making. Especially as it relates to what voices are presented on stage and which artists receive institutional resources.

All three Co-Artistic Leaders will work through consensus in determining programming and to ensure implementation of the organization’s season selection, education and community engagement initiatives, and new play development.

“I deeply believe in the power of group creativity. That is the power of theatre as an art form,” commented Masterson. “I am excited by the opportunity to collaborate with these excellent artists in realizing an exciting vision for City Theatre.”

“I am so thrilled to join, Monteze, Marc, James, and our wonderful colleagues on the staff and Board in shaping the next iteration of City Theatre. The heart of our work is building community through storytelling,” continued Drobot. “By crafting a leadership model that champions consensus, we will be able to expand the voices at our theatrical table. Fostering community connections, artistic collaborations, and a bright future for new plays in Pittsburgh.”

“While this leadership model is a change for our staff, artists, audiences, Board of directors and donors, it embodies the essence of the principle of Ujima: Meaning collective work and responsibility,” stated Freeland. “Arts-makers bear a greater responsibility to our communities than ever before. It will require collective work to break the barriers to equal access and foster an inherent culture of inclusivity.”

City Theatre was the first in the region to publicly respond to the We See You White American Theater Demands (www.weseewat.com) with a series of public commitments in November 2020. A key piece was the establishment of a Succession Planning Taskforce consisting of current and former board members. The City Theatre board of directors, led by Board President Alex Condron, unanimously approved the recommendation of the Taskforce to establish the shared structure, for an initial three-year period, at a special meeting in July. The organization is also implementing other commitments made in response to the We See You White American Theater Demands, including establishing greater accountability safeguards, feedback opportunities, and 360 reviews from key stakeholders.

Since the early months of the pandemic, like many cultural organizations, City Theatre has undergone significant reflection and adaptation. Prioritizing Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (IDEA) practices and anti-racism principles.

City Theatre launches its 47th Season on September 10 with the world premiere production of The Rivers Don’t Knowby James McManus, directed by Michael John Garcés, a community-derived piece funded by a RADical Impact Grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District. Inspired by the stories of local immigrants and refugees, it features members of these communities in the cast. The production is free and will take place downtown at the Pittsburgh Playhouse (through September 19). City Theatre’s five-play subscription season begins in October on its South Side campus.

Check back, we will have more on this story in the coming days.

Categories: Arts and Ideas

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