Soho Rep Directors Sarah Benson and Meropi Peponides to Depart at the End of 2022-23 Season

The Soho Rep board has formed a search committee to appoint two new Directors.

By: Oct. 13, 2022
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Soho Rep Directors Sarah Benson and Meropi Peponides to Depart at the End of 2022-23 Season

Sarah Benson and Meropi Peponides, two of Soho Rep's three Directors, will step down at the end of the current season, after 15 and 8 years with the influential Off Broadway theater. Benson and Peponides depart at a time of artistic vibrancy and organizational strength for Soho Rep, having accomplished a long series of dramatic successes together. In the spirit of a theater that has continually reinvented itself, they have decided to leave so that two new leaders can chart the future of the company and its contributions to the American theater and the civic life of New York City. The Soho Rep board has formed a search committee-co-chaired by board chair Victoria Meakin and playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, including authors and board members James Gleick and Claudia Rankine, and led by Arts Consulting Group-to appoint two new Directors. Soho Rep Director Cynthia Flowers will partner with the new leaders to forge the organization's next chapter.

Founded in 1975 and based at 46 Walker Street since 1991, Soho Rep has continually evolved for nearly 50 years, through leadership transitions that have catalyzed transformation and growth at the organization. It was originally a repertory company of actors and directors making new productions of mostly classic plays. Over time, Soho Rep has opted to focus on boldly experimental new works, most of which are world premieres and commissioned by Soho Rep. (All three productions in the 2022-23 season are world premieres commissioned by the organization.) To name a few from the last decade: Jackie Sibblies Drury's Fairview, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' An Octoroon, César Alvarez's Futurity, and Lucas Hnath's A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney-all directed by Sarah Benson.

Soho Rep not only supports, but is made up of, radical artists and thinkers, and a spirit of continual inquiry guides its own way of operating as well as its programming choices. Motivated by a belief that artistic work, the way it is created, and the conditions in which it unfolds are inextricably linked, Peponides, Benson, and Flowers in 2018 formed a three-way Co-Directorship-a new structure of shared leadership that redistributes power, is more collaborative, and gives equal weight to divergent perspectives. The trio has worked together to further pay equity and anti-oppressive values at Soho Rep. Emblematic of these efforts is Soho Rep Project Number One, which brings artists into the organization as salaried staff members to help envision a more sustainable and equitable theater. Project Number One, created in 2020 to address record unemployment in the field amid COVID-19 closures, continues through the 2022-23 season, with artists Hahnji Jang and Kate McGee on staff. The initiative sets a new industry standard for compensating artists and has been cited as a model for structural change at other institutions, and for shifts in perspective in the field at large. Project Number One, like Soho Rep's shared leadership model, has furthered the theater's reputation as a leader in the off-Broadway community.

Peponides and Benson have worked together closely to curate and produce the work at the theater-from first impulse through full production-with a strong focus on holistic design. They have sought to evolve the theaters' practices to reflect anti-oppressive values in every corner of the theater's creative work. During their tenure, they have produced and/or directed new works by artists including: David Adjmi, César Alvarez, Annie Baker, Alice Birch, Christopher Chen, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Debbie Tucker Green, Aleshea Harris, Lucas Hnath, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Daniel Alexander Jones, Hansol Jung, Young Jean Lee, Mara Vélez Meléndez, Richard Maxwell, Julia Mounsey, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Kate Tarker, Mara Vélez Meléndez, Anne Washburn, and Peter Mills Weiss; and directors Saheem Ali, Lileana Blain-Cruz, Will Davis, Leah C. Gardiner, Taibi Magar, David Mendizábal, Dustin Wills, and Whitney White.

Since joining Soho Rep in 2014, Peponides has produced eighteen new plays and numerous Studio workshops, and oversees Soho Rep's Writer Director Lab with co-chairs William Burke and Jackie Sibblies Drury. She lends creative vision to collaborations with and between artists, with a focus on crafting processes that meet each artist's and project's unique needs. She has expanded the circle of artists involved in all facets of the organization, onstage and off, centering the work of artists of color and LGBTQ+ artists who are asking deep, urgent questions about theater and its role in the world.

When she leaves Soho Rep, Peponides will dedicate more of her time and energy to Radical Evolution, the multiethnic producing collective she co-founded in 2011, which creates artistic events that seek to understand the complexities of the mixed-identity existence in the 21st Century.

Peponides said, "Being a part of Soho Rep has shaped the artist and leader I am today. It is impossible to overstate how transformative my time with the organization has been, and I have immense pride in the body of work we have collectively realized during my time here. It has been a joy and an honor to serve this incredible community of artists, and I have now reached a point where I'm eager to devote more of myself to growing Radical Evolution, and to focusing on my own artistic practice. I'm also excited for this moment of change for Soho Rep, and to see what future leadership will bring to the organization as it continues to thrive."

In her time at Soho Rep, Sarah Benson has directed a wide range of iconoclastic plays and musicals to acclaim, including Sarah Kane's Blasted (OBIE Award for Direction), Lucas Hnath's Disney..., Branden Jacobs-Jenkins An Octoroon (OBIE Award for Best American Play), César Alvarez's Futurity (Lortel Award for Best Musical), and Jackie Sibblies Drury's Fairview (awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama), in addition the Richard Maxwell/Steve Earle collaboration Samara and a David Adjmi's site-specific Elective Affinities. During her tenure, projects at the theater have received 15 OBIE Awards, and the Drama Desk Award for Sustained Artistic Excellence.

In this next artistic phase, Benson plans to focus more on directing and expanding her creative practice. She said, "Soho Rep has changed who I am as a person and artist. It has been an immense gift to have been surrounded for 15 years by brilliant artists who have relentlessly challenged and expanded my artistic and personal assumptions. Soho Rep has been the place where I have found lifelong collaborators and been able to make weird, ambitious work with tremendous artistic freedom. I am ready for more space and time for my own creative work, and I look forward to seeing the imaginative power that I know future artistic leaders will bring to Soho Rep."

Of Cynthia Flowers, Benson said, "Working with Cynthia has been one of the joys of my creative life. She is a visionary leader who pursues rigorous and curious dialogue with artists. She has a remarkably expansive sense of what's possible in running a theater, and she's also a strategy and process genius whose expertise will be invaluable to the incoming artistic leaders."

Peponides and Benson have already programmed exciting and ambitious 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons, which will give the new leadership a runway for their own artistic planning. The 2022-23 season is emblematic of the vision the current Soho Rep Directors directors have realized for the organization. It includes three world premiere commissions: Kate Tarker's Montag, Shayok Misha Chowdhury's Public Obscenities, and Jillian Walker's The Whitney Album. Additionally, a cohort of commissioned artists whose work is in development will be in conversation with new leadership as they begin to imagine the next phase of bold innovation at the theater.

Soho Rep's search committee will release detailed job descriptions and application instructions later in October. Interested applicants may sign up here to receive notification of these and other opportunities.

About Soho Rep

Soho Rep provides radical theater makers with productions of the highest caliber and tailor-made development at key junctures in their artistic practice. The organization elevates artists as thought leaders and citizens who change the field and society. Artistic autonomy is paramount at Soho Rep; the organization encourages an unmediated connection between artists and audiences to create a springboard for transformation and rich civic life beyond the walls of its theater.

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." The Village Voice named Soho Rep the "Best Off-Broadway Theater Company," and the company was listed in Travel Magazine's "10 Essential Off-Broadway Theaters."

Soho Rep won the "Best Theater in NYC" award for the Time Out Best of the City Awards 2021. Time Out New York wrote, "Soho Rep isn't the last word in downtown experimental theater: Better than that, it's often one of the first words, championing major voices at key points in their careers...And Soho Rep's low ticket prices, including 99¢ Sundays, help keep some of the city's bravest, boldest and wildest theater within the reach of all New Yorkers. "

Soho Rep has also been 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. Jackie Sibblies Drury's Fairview, commissioned by Soho Rep and Berkeley Repertory Theatre, won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In recent years, Soho Rep has presented plays by established and emerging theatre artists such as David Adjmi, Annie Baker, Alice Birch, 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.