Justin Lucero Named Artistic Director Of Theater Latte Da

Lucero brings deep experience as an artistic leader, academic, and freelance director in the worlds of opera, theater, and musical theater.

By: Aug. 23, 2023
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Theater Latté Da (TLD) announced today that it has chosen Justin Lucero as its next Artistic Director. Lucero will join TLD in mid-October, co-leading the organization with Managing Director Elisa Spencer-Kaplan.

He joins the company from his current role at El Paso Opera in El Paso, TX, where he has worked since 2012 and served as Artistic Director for the past five seasons. He also leaves his faculty appointment as Assistant Professor and Associate Area Chair of the John Wells Directing Program at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama, where he was teaching undergraduate and graduate Directing and was a leader in the strategic advancement of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access initiatives, driving the establishment of a school-wide degree requirement in anti-racist and equitable practices in theater.

In addition to nearly a dozen works directed for El Paso Opera, Lucero enjoys a robust freelance directing career for professional and academic stages, including past work with Abingdon Theatre Company, Pittsburgh Festival Opera, City Theatre (Pittsburgh), Creede Repertory Theatre, University of Texas El Paso, UTEP Dinner Theatre, the University of Houston, and Scaffolding Theatre, of which he was also Co-Founding Artistic Director. As an assistant and associate director, he has worked with such major institutions as Oregon Shakespeare Festival, South Coast Rep, and Asolo Repertory Theatre under the mentorship of industry leaders including artistic director-producer Bill Rauch, director-playwright Lisa Peterson, director-choreographer Art Manke, artistic director Michael Donald Edwards, director-choreographer Peter Amster, Olivier-winning artistic director Timothy Sheader, Tony-winning playwright-director Mark Medoff, and Tony-winning director-playwright Frank Galati. Lucero succeeds TLD's Founding Artistic Director Peter Rothstein, who departed the organization at the end of June after 25 years of leadership to assume a new role as Producing Artistic Director of Asolo Repertory Theatre.

“It is with true enthusiasm that I accept this position and join this inspiring organization and vibrant community,” says Lucero. “I am absolutely committed to honoring Theater Latté Da's rich legacy and bright future. I believe unwaveringly in the power of music-driven theater and I take very seriously the responsibilities we have as culture-makers and stewards of the artform. And I believe deeply in the talents and abilities of my new and magnificent partner, Elisa, and the exceptional TLD staff to harness that power and to take up those responsibilities along with me. I am so thrilled, eager, and grateful to begin the journey.” 

A growing voice in a new generation of arts leadership, Lucero was a 2022-23 Theatre Communications Group (TCG) Rising Leader of Color, a member of the 2023 OPERA America Leadership Intensive, a 2022 member of the artEquity BIPOC Leadership Circle, and currently serves on the TCG Next Generation Task Force. He holds an MFA in Theatre Directing from London's East 15 Acting School, University of Essex and an undergraduate degree from Texas Christian University.

Managing Director Elisa Spencer-Kaplan says, “Justin's extensive knowledge and obvious passion for musical theater and opera, his imaginative artistry, and his kind and collaborative leadership style are deeply aligned with the values that define Theater Latté Da and set it apart. His unique vision is a great match for who we currently are, but also for who we hope to become. I'm so excited to work with Justin to continue building TLD as a resource for our Minnesota community and a leader in bringing new and reimagined musical stories to the stage.”

“Throughout the search process with Justin, he was so consistent around being a collaborator, mentor, teacher and innovator, while expressing his commitment to upholding TLD's mission, vision and values and supporting local artists,” says Board Chair Cara Sjodin. “Our job now is to help Justin acclimate to the vibrant Twin Cities art and culture scene.”

Lucero was selected through an extensive national search led by Tiffany Vega-Gibson and Leandro Zaneti of arts search firm Evolution Management Consultants (EMC), in conjunction with Search Chair Glyn Northington and an 11-member committee including representatives from TLD's artistic community, staff, and Board of Directors. The process also provided opportunities for the organization's artistic community, artists of the global majority, staff, Board and patrons to provide input on the search and help identify the most important qualities for TLD's next artistic leader. 

The new Artistic Director joins the acclaimed Twin Cities company as the organization enters its 26th season of presenting works that make new and impactful connections among story, music, artist, and audience. The new season launches September 20 with FALSETTOS (September 20-November 5, 2023), William Finn and James Lapine's funny, poignant musical about family, chosen family, and unlikely lovers set amid the AIDS crisis of the early 1980s. The holiday production CHRISTMAS AT THE LOCAL (November 21-December 31, 2023), featuring the words of Dylan Thomas and Dr. Maya Angelou set to music by Cerys Matthews, Mason Neely and Chastity Brown, returns for a second season after its hit world premiere in 2022. Marie Jones' Olivier Award-winning comedy STONES IN HIS POCKETS (January 24-February 25, 2024) opens the new year, followed by THE COLOR PURPLE (March 20-May 5, 2024), based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, presented in a co-production with New York's Geva Theatre Center. The season closes with the world premiere of JOHNNY SKEEKY; OR, THE REMEDY FOR EVERYTHING (May 29-July 7, 2024), a reimagining of Giacomo Puccini's comic opera Gianni Schicchi, adapted and directed by Bradley Greenwald and Steven Epp. Summer 2024 will bring the 11th annual NEXT Festival of new musicals, showcasing new works in development on the Ritz Theater stage. Subscriptions are on sale now, starting at $129 for a 4-show package. Single tickets for FALSETTOS are also on sale, starting at $35. Season 26 brings the launch of the Row A for All initiative, which offers variable pay-what-you-can pricing for front-row seats at weeknight performances. Visit latteda.org or call 612.339.3003 for more information.

Celebrating its 26th season in 2023-24, Theater Latté Da is the only nonprofit professional theater in the Twin Cities that exclusively produces musical theater. Since its inception, TLD has presented 87 Mainstage productions, including 16 world premieres and 13 area premieres. These works have garnered substantial critical acclaim and earned its artists and TLD a host of awards, including: seven IVEY Awards for overall excellence, a Drama Desk Award, the Gabriel Award for Broadcast Excellence, and the American Theater Wing National Theater Company Award. Through its annual NEXT Festival of New Musicals and new work commissioning and development programs, TLD is adding to the canon of American musical theater with work that reflects a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives. Since 2016, TLD has had a permanent presence in Northeast Minneapolis as the proud owner of the historic Ritz Theater, which houses the 248-seat Peter Rothstein Stage, administrative offices, rehearsal space, dressing rooms, and box office. 


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