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Shermona Mitchell Named Sound Theatre Co-Artistic Director

Mitchell's appointment resumes Sound Theatre's long-term arc of shared leadership.

Beginning January 1, Shermona Mitchell will ascend to Sound Theatre's co-artistic director position, serving alongside founding artistic director Teresa Thuman. Effective immediately by unanimous board vote, Mitchell will also step down as Board President - where, in a historic first for the organization, in 2021 she became the first Black womxn to lead the board.

"As we head into the new year, I am thrilled about this extraordinary opportunity - and appreciative of the many ways Sound Theatre has continuously bolstered my artistic growth," said Mitchell, who uses she/they pronouns, in a statement. "Serving as Board Chair has been an invaluable opportunity for me, as I look back on my time of being in service to artistic practitioners and uplifting artistic pathways."

Board vice president Andrea Kovich will succeed Mitchell in chairing the new board term.

Founded in 2006, Sound Theatre is one of few Seattle theatres with a codified, collective leadership - a model adopted in 2020 with the historic appointment of Jay Woods to co-artistic director. Woods has since transitioned to 5th Ave Theatre as Associate Artistic Director - Artist Engagement.

While Sound Theatre did not name an immediate successor, it continued building its own arc for long-term collective leadership.

"This past year without Jay revealed the essential importance of shared leadership, particularly in this time of rethinking theatre's power structures. We want to move away from a culture of individualism, the idea that success is driven by a singular artistic vision or a sole pragmatic manager," said Thuman, adding that this new model "formally vests Shermona with power to shape our organization's aesthetics and culture - something they've done in many capacities since 2015."

That was the year Thuman and Tyrone Brown (artistic director of Brownbox Theatre) persuaded Mitchell to audition for a Sound Theatre/Brownbox Theatre co-production (... AND JESUS MOONWALKS THE MISSISSIPPI).

"I'll never forget Shermona stepping into the audition room, warily saying, 'So you two are really gonna do this?'," Thuman said. "We all laughed, assuring that indeed, we were doing this very Black-centered play by Black playwright Marcus Gardley."

That sparked a seven-year journey Mitchell winkingly likens to "collecting Sound Theatre infinity stones": a Gregory Award for Outstanding Performance By Actor (LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT '16, CITIZEN: AN AMERICAN LYRIC '19), acting/directing in staged

readings (ILLUMINATE '18, THE PASSION OF BOBBY '17, BLACK LIKE US '16, AN ISSUE OF BLOOD '15), and assistant directing (REPARATIONS '19, GOBLIN MARKET '17). Mitchell led the board in creating an artist task force, a Code of Conduct, wrangling a near-tripled budget, and a pandemic.

A power-sharing model allows both to pursue multidisciplinary endeavors. Next February, Mitchell will perform as Jack's Mother INTO THE WOODS (The 5th Ave Theatre). Thuman will direct Sound Theatre's COST OF LIVING in June.

"'Booked, busy, and blessed!' are words I often used when asked over the last year about my artistic career," Mitchell said, rattling off a few projects: associate directing PIPELINE (Seattle Public Theater), BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE WIZ (The 5th Ave Theatre), CHOIR BOY (an ACT and The 5th Ave co-production), adapting books into plays (Book-It Repertory Theatre). Mitchell also directed Andrew Lee Creech's RIVERWOOD at Seattle Public Theatre - where she will exit the Associate Artistic Director role held since 2019.

"While we are sad to see Shermona go, we know she will bring great artistic vision and collaboration to Sound Theatre. She is an undeniable asset to everything she participates in," said Annie Lareau, Seattle Public Theatre artistic director. "We are so grateful to have had this extraordinary artist and leader be a part of our artistic team at Seattle Public Theater."

While still a rarity, co-leadership models are increasing as theatres reinvent traditional systems (per American Theatre's "Why Lead a Theatre When You Could Share One?"), as seen in recent artistic leadership news from Philadelphia Theatre Company, Steppenwolf, NOLA Project, and Curio Theatre - plus tripartite artistic director models at Wilma Theatre, Impro Theatre, and Virginia Rep.

Sound's new co-artistic director team will lead with an exciting, yet familiar collaborative energy that's been decades in the making: "I've worked closely with Teresa in many capacities for 20 years, and look forward to continuing to learn from each other as we reimagine what theater can be in 2023 and beyond," said Mitchell.

As the pair plans out focus areas, one thing is already certain: Mitchell will lead Sound Theatre's 2024-25 season planning.

Sound Theatre's mission is to empower artists to amplify the dignity and diversity of the human experience - moving audiences toward a more just and compassionate world. Founded in 2006, Sound Theatre has built a community of 400+ artists and engages 4,000 audiences annually. A four-time Theatre Puget Sound Gregory Award winner for Outstanding Theater of the Year ('14, '16, '17, '19), our legacy includes dozens of awards and nominations for excellence in acting, directing, playwriting, design, choreography, musical theatre production, and filmmaking (including wins for Superfest Disability Film Festival, Local Sightings Film Festival, and Together! Disability Film Festival). In 2020, we were nominated for the City of Seattle Mayor's Arts Award.



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