Molly D. Smith, who co-founded Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska, in 1979 and built it into a distinct American theatre voice during her 18 years as artistic director, has been appointed artistic director of Arena Stage in Washington DC.
She replaces Douglas C. Wager who announced his resignation in Oct. 1996. The formal changeover will begin with the 1998-99 season in July 1998.
Smith will share the duties of running the theatre with executive director Stephen Richard, who concentrates on administrative and financial matters. Of Smith he said, "[She] creates a nurturing environment for artists...an individual of humanism and social conscience."
On accepting the position, Smith said in a statement, "I have been speaking about the beautiful bloodlines which are the legacy of Arena Stage. I am thrilled to become a part of this history... From the Board to the staff to the artists to the audience -- we all have a part to play in the life-blood of this remarkable theatre.
Smith received her masters in theatre from Washington DC's American University in 1978 and spent the past 18 years running Perseverance Theatre. She's directed over 60 productions nationwide, and produced the world premiere of The Baltimore Waltz. Said author Paula Vogel, "To know Molly Smith is to adore her, to work with her is to be inspired, to see her work is to believe in the magic of theatre again." Smith intends to concentrate on American plays, a shift from first artistic director Zelda Fichandler's propensity for Eastern European works and the avant-garde, and Wager's concentration on musicals and classics. Why do we go to Washington?" explains Smith. "To learn what the American mind is: the ideas, drives and passions that make us American."