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Civic Ensemble Announces New Leadership

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Civic Ensemble welcomes Julia Taylor as the new Executive Director, and launches the new Artistic Ensemble, a group of actors, directors, educators, and administrators who will steer the artistic vision of the company into the next chapter.

This transition marks a significant moment at Civic Ensemble as leadership shifts from two of the company's co-founders, Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr. and Sarah K. Chalmers, who have led the company since 2012.

Chalmers says, "It's an exciting time for Civic Ensemble. While I am going to miss the people, and the programs we've created here, I am looking forward to seeing how Civic grows under new leadership. The founding visions and values remain intact and are being carried forward and built on as Godfrey and I make way for what's next."

Taylor steps into this role after being a core member of Civic Ensemble over the last two years, collaborating on a multitude of projects including the theatre-in-education work to build anti-racist schools, "Our Stories, Our Solutions;" the new community-based play about the climate crisis, The Next Storm; and helping to launch the much loved Community Soup program. This past spring, she also devised and directed an original play with students at Dewitt Middle School exploring race, identity, and loss.

Taylor comes to Civic Ensemble with over 15 years of experience as an arts administrator, community-based artist, educator, and facilitator. Her theatrical work has been in collaboration with people experiencing incarceration, and young people in schools and community spaces, among other groups, and with organizations such as Appalshop, Cornerstone Theater Company, and youTHink by Sharewell. As a community-based theatre artist, Taylor believes that "Everyone is an artist. Everyone has the capacity to create. Theatre belongs to everyone, and it is our role at Civic Ensemble to create meaningful opportunities for the diversity of stories in our community to have their space on the professional stage." Taylor has a Masters degree in Applied Theatre from the CUNY School of Professional Studies. She most recently served as the Director of Youth Education at The History Center in Tompkins County where she helped amplify community narratives through youth and oral history-based programming.

With this shift in leadership, comes another big change for Civic Ensemble. The company is announcing the formation of an Artistic Ensemble, an artistic and programmatic leadership body who will partner with staff leadership to advance the work of collaborative, community art making.

Ensemble member Sylvie Yntema says, "I am excited to be a part of the Ensemble because I believe that theater and the arts opens up a channel for connecting, having much needed conversation, action, and transformation." Ensemble member Jum Warritay adds, "I'm excited about the plans we're developing as the Artistic Ensemble. Perhaps what I appreciate most is the way we work together, which I feel is caring, thoughtful, and oriented towards justice. I'm honored to be part of the Artistic Ensemble and hopeful we can inspire meaningful culture shifts."

Comprised of actors, directors, educators, and administrators, this group will guide the vision and production of the company in this next phase, and work to center the voices and experiences of BIPOC and other marginalized groups in programming and productions. Working as an ensemble with shared power and decision-making, Civic Ensemble asserts a bold vision for theatre-making rooted in dialogue, imagination, and building towards the Beloved Community. Artistic Ensemble members are: Sage Alia Clemenco, Michael Margolin, Carley Robinson, Julia Taylor, Jum Warritay, and Sylvie Yntema.

Civic Ensemble Board President Anne Rhodes says, "Transitions and moving on from founders are often complicated affairs, but this one is a beautiful collaboration - holding on to the vision and cherished programming of Civic while bringing new ideas and structures. All the members of the Board are excited to support this new version of Civic Ensemble."


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