Soho Rep. Has Announced Victoria Meakin as Board Chair and Claudia Rankine as a New Board Member
Soho Rep. today announced technology entrepreneur Victoria Meakin-a board member of seven years-as the organization's new Chair, and acclaimed poet, playwright, and MacArthur Fellow Claudia Rankine as a new board member. Meakin succeeds longtime Chair Jon Dembrow, who will now serve as Chair Emeritus. The news follows the addition of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury and lifetime educator Susan Dunn to the board in April 2019 and the announcement, last month, of another significant structural change for the institution: the appointment of Meropi Peponides as Director, Artistic Development and Producing, working in a shared leadership structure alongside Sarah Benson (Director, Artistic) and Cynthia Flowers (Director, Executive). With these developments, Soho Rep. demonstrates their readiness to approach the next decade of theater-making with an ever-broadening impact, a desire to reach wider audiences, and a continued interest in uncompromising, socially probing works that captivate audiences.Victoria Meakin joined the Soho Rep. board in 2012 after falling in love with the theater's work via Annie Baker and Sam Gold's reconsideration of Uncle Vanya. She says, "Although they're an arts institution, in getting to know the company, it struck me that their social impact and their presence as a civic institution was equally important and equally a part of their place in NYC. The season after I joined, Soho Rep. produced Jackie's We Are Proud to Present..., which was brilliant and powerfully posed a set of questions about race, representation, and complications and responsibilities of performance. I think the notion of re-centering-and telling stories by and about-people who are underrepresented in theater in the U.S-has been key to Soho Rep.'s vision, and to the leadership of Sarah, Cynthia, and Meropi. I'm inspired and energized to begin my tenure as Chair at a time of evolution and growth, as we expand the board and map out ways to extend our impact in the future." Of Dembrow, Meakin says, "I can't imagine a more compelling mentor to have helped prepare me for the role of Board Chair. Jon has become a dear friend and someone I admire and respect deeply, and I am grateful that he will remain active and engaged in the Chair Emeritus role." Jon Dembrow has chaired the Soho Rep. board for 20 years, leading its growth from a small theater with an annual budget of less than $90K to its role as one of this country's foremost sources of innovative, vital theater works, with an annual budget of $2M. He oversaw the appointments of Sarah Benson as Artistic Director and Cynthia Flowers as Executive Director and shepherded the organization through the renovation and reopening, in 2018, of its home on Walker Street. During Dembrow's tenure, Soho Rep. has produced dozens of internationally acclaimed new plays, including Sarah Kane's Blasted, Young Jean Lee's The Appeal, Melissa James Gibson's [Sic], and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' An Octoroon. In this time, Soho Rep. productions have garnered numerous OBIEs and the theater won a special Drama Desk award, and, last year, Jackie Sibblies Drury received the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Fairview, developed and premiered by Soho Rep. and directed by Sarah Benson. Dembrow decided to step down as Chair so he could spend more time with his grandchildren, their family, and his wife, Lou. Soho Rep. will host an event to celebrate him this year (details TBA). Dembrow reflects, "It's been a privilege to help facilitate the careers of such dedicated and brilliant young people in our community. I am deeply proud to have steadfastly cultivated an atmosphere of unfettered creativity at Soho Rep." Of Meakin's appointment as Chair, he says, "Victoria is an incredible advocate and spokesperson for the theater. Working with her closely over the last seven years, I've seen her passion, expertise, and level-headedness benefit the theater immeasurably. I have complete confidence that she is the right person to guide Soho Rep.'s Board."Claudia Rankine has long been a fan of Soho Rep.'s work and the artists the theater supports and produces. She was an early advocate of her MacArthur classmate Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' An Octoroon and an enthusiastic fan of work like Jackie Sibblies Drury's Fairview. Known and widely celebrated for her poetry, Rankine published her first play, The White Card, earlier this year, via Graywolf Press. The work explored, among other themes, the art world's (and its patrons') whiteness and what that gaze means for artists of color-questions similarly examined through her ongoing project The Racial Imaginary Institute. Jackie Sibblies Drury collaborated on The Racial Imaginary Institute's On Whiteness in 2018, and after seeing Fairview multiple times, Rankine wrote an essay about the experience (which will appear in her upcoming book). Rankine looks forward to her new role as a Board member and advocate for Soho Rep.
About Victoria Meakin
Victoria Meakin co-founded PhoneCharge, one of the earliest players in the electronic payment space, which transformed the way households pay their bills. After being acquired by CheckFree, the PhoneCharge platform continues to support individuals and families in meeting their monthly financial obligations. Meakin's current endeavor, Ocrolus, which has raised over $30 million in venture-capital, is a growth-stage fintech that employs Artificial Intelligence and crowdsourcing to automate document analysis. She has intentionally invested in the power of data and technology to transform "business as usual" by fostering transparency and accountability among institutions and stakeholders across a range of sectors. Victoria strives to be an engaged citizen on both the cultural and civic fronts. In addition to her work with Soho Rep., she serves on the Board of a non-partisan women's political organization. She is also the proud parent of two college-age children.
About Claudia Rankine
Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don't Let Me Be Lonely, two plays, and numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. For her book Citizen, Rankine won both the PEN Open Book Award and the PEN Literary Award, the NAACP Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry; and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category. Rankine's numerous awards and honors include the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Poets & Writers' Jackson Poetry Prize and the Lannan Foundation Literary Award. In 2005, she was awarded the Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement by the Academy of American Poets. She is a 2016 United States Artist Zell Fellow and a 2016 MacArthur Fellow. Rankine is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University.
About Jackie Sibblies Drury
Jackie Sibblies Drury is a Brooklyn-based playwright. Her play Fairview was awarded the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Other plays include We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915, Really, and Social Creatures. Drury's plays have been presented by Lincoln Center Theater, Soho Rep., New York City Players and Abrons Arts Center, Victory Gardens, Trinity Rep, Woolly Mammoth, Undermain Theatre, InterAct Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Company One, and The Bush Theatre in London, among others. Her work has been developed at The Bellagio Center, Sundance, The Ground Floor, Manhattan Theatre Club, Ars Nova, A.C.T., The Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, NYTW, PRELUDE, The Bushwick Starr, and The MacDowell Colony. Drury is a NYTW Usual Suspect, a United States Artists Gracie Fellow, has received a Van Lier Fellowship at New Dramatists, a Jerome Fellowship at The LARK, and a Windham-Campbell Literary Prize in Drama.
About Susan Dunn
Susan Dunn is a retired elementary school teacher who has spent the past 15 years as an active volunteer and philanthropic supporter focused on educational opportunities for children in under-served communities. She volunteers twice a week in the KIPP schools in Newark, NJ with students in elementary and middle schools. Although raised in California and Washington state, Susan lived in New Jersey for 2 decades and continues to have strong connections there through her board service with Teach for America: New Jersey, The Nature Conservancy, and Big Brothers / Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson & Union Counties. Susan is herself a "Big Sister" and she and her "Little Sister" have been matched for 8 years. Susan serves on the Board of Trustees for Spelman College the women's HBCU in Atlanta, GA. She is on the national and Newark boards of BRAVEN, a program to empower college students with skills for strong first jobs. In New York City, where she now lives, Susan serves on the board of Soho Rep., an innovative small theater. Susan taught at Kent Place School and The Montclair Kimberley Academy in New Jersey. Prior to her career in education Susan worked at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising in Media Planning on accounts like Mattel Toys, Kimberley Clark and American Express. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Sociology from The University of Chicago and a Masters in Elementary Education from Bank Street College.
About Soho Rep.
Soho Rep. is dedicated to cultivating and producing visionary, uncompromising, and exuberant new plays, performing to one of the youngest adult audiences in New York City, with over half aged 18-40.
Critics continue to herald Soho Rep. as a go-to theatre destination for new and original works. New York Magazine says, "this indispensable theater offers more excitement per chair than any space in town," Time Out New York says, "Soho Rep. is the best theater in NYC," and The New York Times describes Soho Rep. as "form-twisting, boundary-breaking, and acclaimed" and says, "The downtown powerhouse...regularly outclasses the work done on many of the city's larger stages." In 2015, The Village Voice named Soho Rep. the "Best Off-Broadway Theater Company," and the company was listed in Travel Magazine's 2016 "10 Essential Off-Broadway Theaters."
In 2014, Soho Rep. was honored with a Drama Desk Award for Sustained Achievement. Over the last decade, Soho Rep. productions have garnered 21 OBIE Awards; the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical; 13 Drama Desk nominations, two Kesselring Awards, The New York Times Outstanding Playwriting Award for Dan LeFranc's Sixty Miles To Silverlake and, a special citation in The New York Drama Critics' Circle's 2012-13 awards. In recent years, Soho Rep. has presented plays by established and emerging theatre artists such as David Adjmi, Annie Baker, Alice Birch, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Debbie Tucker Green, Aleshea Harris, Lucas Hnath, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Daniel Alexander Jones, Richard Maxwell, Sarah Kane, Young Jean Lee, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, and Anne Washburn.
Founded in 1975, and in its theater on Walker Street since 1991, Soho Rep. has built an outstanding reputation for being at the forefront of new and innovative theater, serving as a vital center for contemporary theatre artists.