Southerland's appointment was announced in October. Artistic director Jason Loewith stepped into the position of artistic director emeritus on Oct. 1 after six seasons. Having tripled the subscriber base and budget, Loewith continued to work with Next Theatre through this leadership transition from his new home in Washington, DC. Next Theatre is based in Evanston, IL.
Southerland is an award-winning director and producer who comes to Next Theatre from Boston, MA, where he served as the founding artistic director for Boston Theatre Works since 1998. During his tenure, the company produced the world premieres of a dozen plays and developed over 60 scripts through commissions, development agreements and BTW Unbound, an annual festival of new plays.
As a director, Southerland has staged several award-winning productions including the New England premieres of Homebody/Kabul, Not About Nightingales, Angels in America: Parts I & II and The Laramie Project. Other notable regional premieres include Pulp, The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, Four Baboons Adoring the Sun and I Am My Own Wife. He spent five years in New York City, where his affiliations included BACA Downtown, Circle Rep Laboratory, BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, Alice's Fourth Floor and the Sanford Meisner Theatre. Regional credits include productions at Long Beach CLO, Albuquerque CLO, Diversionary Theatre and Moxie Theatre (both in San Diego), Foothills Theatre, Stoneham Theatre, University of Kent at Canterbury, Emory University, Cal Berkeley and several others.
Southerland studied directing at the American Repertory Theatre/Harvard University Institute for Advanced Theatre Training, working with Ron Daniels, Bob Scanlan and Robert Brustein. He holds a B.A. cum laude in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a two-time winner of the Joe Hardy Directing Fellowship, received a Drama League Fellowship, was honored with an Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Direction for his 2008 production of Angels in America and was chosen by Boston magazine as No. 3 on their list of the "40 Bostonians to Watch."
"I'm thrilled to be partnering with Jason Southerland," stated managing director Kevin Heckman. "Over the last six seasons, Next Theatre has become a stable and well-regarded metropolitan company with a growing national presence. Southerland and I are ready to capitalize on that strength and take this company to an entirely new level. We are extremely fortunate to gain a cutting-edge artist with such a deep commitment to new, progressive works, vital experience in institutional leadership, and excitement for the Chicagoland theatre community." Next's board president Judy Kemp stated, "This was a tremendously exciting search process, into which there was a great deal of input and engagement on the part of all of Next's constituencies. The large number of qualified candidates coming from all over the country speaks to the incredible reputation Next has now built. I know Jason will be the ideal person to continue that remarkable growth on both the national and local level."
"I am so honored to be taking the reins of Next Theatre at this time," Southerland previously stated. "Chicago is a mecca for theatre and new play development. I am thrilled to join the community, build on the great work Jason Loewith has done there and move Next into a new phase of growth and artistic achievement."
A winner of over 30 Joseph Jefferson Awards — including an unprecedented string of Best Ensemble Awards for four years running — Next "strives to become a destination for artists and audiences who share the belief that theatre can promote awareness and provoke change with more power than any other medium of expression."
The Next Theatre is located inside the Noyes Cultural Arts Center at Noyes and Ridge in Evanston, right next to the Noyes street stop on the Evanston "el."