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Ensemble Studio Theatre Announces Artistic Director William Carden Plans to Depart Organization

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Ensemble Studio Theatre Announces Artistic Director William Carden Plans to Depart Organization

Ensemble Studio Theatre announced today that longtime Artistic Director William Carden will step down from his position. Carden became a member of EST in 1978 and has served as Artistic Director since 2007. Carden will continue with the company until a restructuring process is completed for the artistic and executive leadership, as well as the organization.

"As we headed into 2020, I began talking about leaving because I felt it was time for a change, for the theatre and for me. I didn't know then how quickly our world would change," said Carden. "As our attention was rightfully drawn to the Black Lives Matter movement, alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that my stepping down at this time could create a vital opportunity for our company. Over the last five years our largely white community has been learning about the systemic nature of racism and how - to one degree or another - it exists in each one of us and is embedded in the structure of our institutions. We're also learning that our denial of that fact hinders our ability to fully acknowledge the legacy of oppression we, often implicitly, are perpetuating and to take the actions we need to change it. The Black artists in our community have been generous in collaborating with us as we have worked to become a more inclusive institution. We need to recognize while we have produced their plays and given them space on the stage, the structure of our organization remains almost completely white. We may be empowering our Black artists artistically, but not institutionally. If we are going to become the just and equal community we aspire to be, we have to address and change the implicit racism in the structure of our theatre, and we will be doing that as part of this process."

EST intends to implement significant change throughout the organization and examine and reconfigure the current leadership structure, specifically through the inclusion of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) at the senior leadership and decision-making level. "While the work we do is driven by a shared belief in the process we have created for developing new plays," Carden explained, "we also have a non-hierarchical and collaborative working structure. The directors of our programs are empowered to run them freely and creatively. This gives us a strong foundation for looking at how we can create a more inclusive and equitable structure, including exploring non-traditional leadership positions."

As EST enters the last year of a five-year strategic plan, this leadership initiative will be an integral part of the development of EST's next five-year plan. Arts, Equity & Justice facilitator and consultant Rebecca KellyG has worked with EST since 2019, and now she and her team will lead a committee to guide this process. "In order for EST's transition to new leadership and potential restructuring to be action steps toward dismantling structural racism and oppression, it must be led by EST's artistic community, particularly the BIPOC voices, and by the movement for justice in the theater at large," Rebecca said. "This process of evaluation and review will enable community input to be unearthed, uplifted and integrated into any restructuring of programs and positions." Rebecca's team will work to assess the current leadership roles as well as analyze power structures and pathways to create a hiring plan and process that will allow EST to move forward in their work towards becoming a more equitable and anti-racist organization.

"Having worked with Billy since 2007, I am continually awestruck by his ability to honor the rich history of EST, while evolving it into a dynamic, forward-thinking arts organization," said EST Board Chair Bob Jaffe. "My respect for him and what he has brought to EST, to the lives of the Member Artists and to people who are touched by this theatre, is unparalleled. His legacy has been permanently established and will be a sterling model for future leadership."

No target date has been set for the leadership transition; instead, the internal review & hiring search processes will determine the timeline for succession.



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