The acting artistic director of Seattle Repertory Theatre was hired without a national search, which is unusual for the theater community.
Braden Abraham has been appointed as the new artistic director of Seattle Repertory Theatre.
Abraham has spent his entire career at the Rep, where he’s worked in several artistic capacities since 2003. In 2008 he became the Rep’s associate artistic director. And since the sudden death of then-artistic head Jerry Manning in April 2014, Abraham has served as the theater’s acting artistic director.
His new four-year contract as full-fledged artistic director is effective immediately, and ends in 2019.
“I didn’t really expect things to turn out this way,” said Abraham. “I was always interested in the position but thought I’d have to go away, run a theater somewhere else and then come back.”
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Abraham’s promotion was, however, anticipated by many in the Seattle theater community. Soft-spoken, personable and well-liked, the Northwest native and Western Washington University graduate inherited and carried out successfully the 2014-15 season planned by Manning, his mentor.
As a director, Abraham has staged over a dozen Rep shows, including the 2015 renditions of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and the “The View From the Bridge,” by Arthur Miller (which runs through Sunday, Oct 18).
It is unusual, though, for a major regional theater company to hire an artistic director from within its ranks without first mounting a national search to fill the position. (The Rep’s new managing director, Jeff Herrmann, was hired after a search.)
According to Seattle Rep board of directors chair Terri Olson Miller, a national hunt was considered but deemed unnecessary because Abraham is a known quantity who has much impressed the theater’s trustees with his leadership abilities and future plans.
“We’re very happy with the artistic team he’s identified and brought in, including the new associate artistic director, Marya Sea Kaminski,” said Olson Miller, “and we like Braden’s agenda to put forth more new works.”
“We’ve always done new work side by side with classics,” Abraham said. “I just want to expand that idea with a variety of voices and different ways of presenting shows.” He noted the Rep will soon launch an ongoing program of new play readings and workshops, titled The Other Season.
Abraham also wants to partner more with other local arts organizations such as The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, which recently paired with the Rep for an event.
Seattle Rep, operating on a budget of nearly $10 million, faces financial concerns over a mounting budget deficit, but Abraham speaks confidently about the future.
“We’re in the middle of an exciting and challenging time for the organization, and a big wave of change for Seattle,” he said. “For me it’s a really thrilling time to be making theater in this community.”