Theater Alliance Appoints New Producing Artistic Director

Shanara Gabrielle succeeds Raymond O. Caldwell, who has served in the position since 2019. 

By: Feb. 05, 2024

 The Theater Alliance Board of Directors has announced that Shanara Gabrielle has been selected as the next Producing Artistic Director of the company, succeeding Raymond O. Caldwell, who has served in the position since 2019. 

“The Board and staff unanimously recognized Shanara's ability to propel Theater Alliance to new heights while honoring and expanding upon the company's strengths,” says Cecelia Thomas, Board Chair. “Under Raymond's leadership, Theater Alliance has become known for its commitment to showcasing diverse and complex stories, celebrating artists of historically under-represented backgrounds, and excelling in innovative production design. Shanara has demonstrated from her previous body of work that she can and will build on this foundation, ushering Theater Alliance into an era of growth while continuing to lead with its mission, values, and service to the community."  

Gabrielle has an extensive history in professional theater — particularly work that speaks to the social issues of our time. In 2021, she produced and directed the musical Working, taking a site-specific, multi-disciplinary approach to this theatrical celebration of frontline workers and the American labor movement. Through this project, she forged partnerships with The Labor Heritage Foundation, Allied with Broadway for Racial Justice, and Parent Artist Advocacy League for the Performing Arts to add real-world labor advocacy to the discourse created by the show and provide educational programming and civic engagement. She is also a founding member of Theatre Communication Group's “The Ferguson Moment '' and also the founder of Artists-As-Tutors Ferguson, a non-profit arts and education organization which received support from Talib Kweli's Action Coalition, and earned national recognition in Rolling Stone Magazine.

“Shanara comes to Theater Alliance at the right time,” says Philippa Pham Hughes, DC-based Social Sculptor and Cultural Strategist. “The arts play a vital role right now in bridging the cultural and political divides that plague the American experience, and Shanara's deep care for the broader community, her cultural competency, and her passion for civic connection make her a perfect leader for this company. I couldn't be more pleased for Theater Alliance, and for the DC arts community.”  

Effective immediately, Gabrielle will work alongside Caldwell for the remainder of the season, while planning the programming for the season ahead. 

“Theater Alliance, at its core, seeks to create work that ignites conversation among all parts of the community,” says Raymond O. Caldwell. “Shanara's enthusiasm for exactly this kind of theater is clear: she is someone who leads with her values, and who is eager to get people talking about social issues through the work she creates onstage.” 

Caldwell also notes that Gabrielle's leadership marks a significant first for the company. “We're known for the diversity of our audiences, our artists, our board,” says Caldwell. “When you come to Theater Alliance, you see people of all ages, gender expressions, races, sexual orientations, dis/ability, and more. But we've never had a woman as artistic director.”  

Says incoming Producing Artistic Director Shanara Gabrielle: “I believe in theater that is joyful, visceral, and inseparable from the world around us. Theater that inspires curiosity and makes us laugh with our neighbors. Theater that provokes us to consider our humanity. Theater based in justice, that recognizes itself and its place in the community. Theater that reflects, and therefore invites the fullness of the human experience. Theater for all of us. Theater Alliance is just the place for this kind of artistic work. I look forward to working with the Board and community to guide the theater through its next phase of growth.”

“Shanara is a thoughtful, compassionate, people-centered artist whose creativity and leadership are rooted in curiosity and care,” says Otis Ramsey-Zöe, who has directed multiple productions for Theater Alliance and worked with Shanara at Arena Stage. “Her extraordinary heart, mind, and skill are a gift to the DMV arts community, and I am elated by her appointment as Theater Alliance's next Producing Artistic Director.”

"Shanara is a born leader. And a dynamic one," says Molly Smith, former Artistic Director of Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. She's an innate community builder and as an artist, she has an excellent eye for exciting projects. I have a sneaking suspicion that with her love for community and the art of theater making, she'll build on Theater Alliance's past success and catapult the theater into the future."

The Theater Alliance Board of Directors completed a four-month national search in 2023, following Caldwell's announcement that he would step down on July 1, 2024. Ellys Abrams, Theater Alliance's Treasurer, chaired the search committee.

ABOUT Shanara Gabrielle

Shanara Gabrielle is an arts leader and multi-hyphenate theater artist with a focus on expansive and engaging experiences for all audiences. A purpose-driven cultural producer, Shanara is inspired to shape the future of cultural institutions and artistic practice as essentials of an engaged civic life.

As an artistic leader, Shanara has served as a Producer and Artistic Associate with Arena Stage, The Kennedy Center & ENOUGH! Plays to End Gun Violence, Shakespeare Theatre Company, and was the Artistic Producer of WORKING in DC, which performed on Black Lives Matter Plaza in collaboration with the AFL-CIO and Labor Heritage Foundation. Shanara has been on the artistic leadership and education teams at the Center of Creative Arts, Great River Shakespeare Festival, Sharpfield Films, and on the literary script reading teams for Kennedy Center ACTF, Solas Nua, and Arena Stage. As an adjunct faculty member, she has taught at many universities across the country and is dedicated to mentorship of the next generation of theater makers. 

Shanara is a recipient of the prestigious Princess Grace Foundation Award and her theater work has been nominated for and won numerous Helen Hayes, Kevin Kline, and Critics' Circle awards. Washington, DC theater audiences have seen her work onstage across the region, including at Arena Stage, Signature Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Imagination Stage, Adventure Theatre, Spooky Action, Solas Nua, Olney Theatre, Folger Theatre, Taffety Punk, the Goethe Institut, and the Phillips Collection. Shanara has worked professionally at theaters across the country, including The Guthrie, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The New Victory, Great Lakes Theatre, Southern Shakespeare, Northern Stage, Idaho Shakespeare, Coterie Theater, Chesapeake Shakespeare, the cell nyc, St. Louis Repertory Theater, Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Stages, Theatre for the New City, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Hollywood Playhouse, The Black Rep, Upstream Theater, and many more. Driven by stories of humanity and tales of imagination, she is interested in creating new work and reimagining traditional texts with artists of courage and depth. She is dedicated to creating transparent, joyful, anti-oppressive creative processes. Her directorial work has been lauded as “specific, joyful and a celebration of all that is great theatrical art,” “a terrific mixture of intelligence and instinct,” and “visceral, intimately connected with the audience, extremely smart and utterly engaging.”



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