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Austin Playhouse Expands Leadership Team

Wolfe and Walker both recently served on the planning committee to develop Austin Playhouse’s five-year strategic plan.

Austin Playhouse announces leadership team expansion with the addition of Ben Wolfe and Sarah Fleming Walker as Associate Artistic Directors alongside current Co-Producing Artistic Directors Lara Toner Haddock and Founder Don Toner. As members of the Austin Playhouse Acting Company, Wolfe and Walker both recently served on the planning committee to develop Austin Playhouse's five-year strategic plan in collaboration with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management.

Additionally, Sarah Chong Harmer will become Education and Community Engagement Programs Manager after joining the Austin Playhouse team as Production Coordinator and Safety Manager in 2021. Sarah's promotion will enable Austin Playhouse to return to this programming for 2022 after a lapse due to covid shutdown.

"Austin Playhouse has always been a company that centers artists. Our Acting Company members serve on our Board of Directors, they have a voice in the artistic direction of the company, and as Austin Playhouse grows the leadership opportunities for company members will too. The appointment of Ben and Sarah to leadership positions reflects that commitment," said Co-Producing Artistic Director Lara Toner Haddock. "In many ways, this is a very natural evolution for the company. Sarah stepped up during the pandemic and created and directed our virtual Postcards from Austin series: highlighting artistic voices from around Austin. Ben directed our return to live theatre this December and starred as Hercule Poirot in our full-length virtual production of The Mysterious Affair at Styles. As artists they've demonstrated the creativity and adaptability that are necessary in this moment, and now as leaders, they'll bring that talent to overseeing all of our programming."

In addition to assisting with season planning, the new Associate Artistic Directors will each focus on areas of development identified during Austin Playhouse's strategic planning process. Fleming Walker will focus on highlighting the work of the professional acting company while Wolfe will lead new play development as well as diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

On this new role, Ben Wolfe said, "Austin Playhouse has been instrumental in my personal and artistic growth over the years. I couldn't be more excited to utilize the knowledge gained from our past to shape our future growth - as individuals, as an organization, and as part of our community. I'm especially excited about helping to plan our annual seasons and to get in on the ground floor of our new play development series, getting the chance to elevate voices that may not feel heard yet and to tell new stories in exciting ways."

"Throughout my life I've found the most important values I work from to be connection and authenticity," added Sarah Fleming Walker. "I couldn't be happier or more excited to be in a position that involves listening, collaborating, and growing while creating work that brings folks together with meaningful art so we can all continue to face the world we live in and find the moments of connection we all need to sustain us."

Founded in 2000 by veteran arts leader Don Toner, who previously worked at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Bucks County Playhouse, and Austin's State Theatre Company, Austin Playhouse's year-round programming now includes a new play development program, theatre for youth, and a subscription season highlighting contemporary plays and regional premieres.

Austin Playhouse is committed to being a career-long home for professional theatre-makers in Austin. After 9 years in residency at Austin Community College (ACC) Highland, Austin Playhouse departed in Fall of 2021 upon the completed construction of the ACC Drama Department's new space.

2021 was also the public launch of Austin Playhouse's Capital Campaign for their permanent home. Announcements forthcoming to include information on campaign goals, naming opportunities and all the ways one can be involved in helping to build this new venue that will house Austin Playhouse and serve Austin's creative community.

Austin Playhouse will announce upcoming live productions later this month.

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