William Carden to Step Down as Artistic Director at Ensemble Studio Theatre | Playbill

Industry News William Carden to Step Down as Artistic Director at Ensemble Studio Theatre EST intends to implement change through the inclusion of Black, Indigenous, and people of color at the senior leadership level.
William Carden Marc J. Franklin

William Carden, who has been the artistic director of Off-Broadway's Ensemble Studio Theatre since 2007, will step down from his position. A member of EST since 1978, Carden will continue with the company until a restructuring process is complete.

EST intends to implement change throughout the organization and reconfigure the current leadership structure through the inclusion of Black, Indigenous, and people of color at the senior leadership and decision-making level.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Arts, Equity & Justice facilitator and consultant Rebecca KellyG, who has worked with EST since 2019, 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 theatre at large,” KellyG said. Her 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.

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

The mission of Ensemble Studio Theatre, founded by Curt Dempster in 1968, is to develop and produce original, provocative, and authentic new work.


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