Courtney Sale, assistant artistic director at Indiana Repertory Theatre, has been chosen to fill the shoes of longtime SCT artistic director Linda Hartzell. Sale will begin work at SCT this summer.
Courtney Sale has the golden ingredient.
She was recently chosen out of a large pool of applicants to replace the iconic Linda Hartzell, who is retiring this summer after 32 years as the artistic director of Seattle Children’s Theater (SCT).
“[Sale] is innovate and creative, but she also has a heart and that is something that Linda has shown,” SCT Managing Director Karen Sharp said. “That is the golden ingredient that is so important.”
She will be coming to SCT from the Indiana Repertory Theater in Indianapolis, where she’s been the associate artistic director since getting her master’s in directing at the University of Texas. She’s directed dozens of plays and has created and developed new works in New York City, Austin and Indianapolis — though she is no stranger to Seattle’s arts scene.
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Sale saw Seattle as a city brimming with artistic possibility when she first arrived in 1997 to attend Cornish College of the Arts. She had made the bold decision to move from Amherst, Va., where there was no arts programming whatsoever, to pursue playwriting and directing.
She remembers the amazing storytelling that went on inside SCT while she was at Cornish, surprised that a children’s theater would have been on her radar at age 19.
“It’s in a different growth spurt than when I was there,” Sale said about Seattle. “I feel like there is this vibration and hum of excitement that is a connector, that can be a connector. I lean into that.”
Hartzell brought SCT to a new level during her tenure, expanding it significantly in size, budget and reputation. The theater was named in 2012 as one of the top five children’s theaters in the country.
Inclusivity is important to both directors. Hartzell and her staff have made sure every kid who wants to be a part of SCT, can be. For kids in Seattle public schools on free or reduced-price lunch, SCT provides reduced-price or free programming. And for every 10 tickets sold, one ticket is given away for free, Hartzell explained.
In keeping with SCT’s mission, Sale wants everyone in Seattle to feel connected to the theater — like they are neighbors and partners of the institution. Also atop her to do list is successfully engaging older kids, which she says is always difficult in the theater business.
As a mom to a 10-year-old son, she has learned first-hand how hard it is to keep the digitally native generation off their devices. Technology has made that age group even more discerning, a blessing and a curse for theater and those working in it.
“I feel like my son knows so much more about story making than I ever did at age 10,” Sale said. “They are incredibly sophisticated consumers of story…What we offer on stage must have beauty, complexity, ritual and humor.”
During her time at Indiana Repertory Theater, Sale spearheaded the young playwrights program, in which middle and high school students write plays, then go through a real professional development process.
She is considering incorporating programs like it into the SCT directory to capture the attention of older kids.
Hartzell will work closely with Sale through the summer to smooth the transition. She will return next season to direct two shows, and likely more in the future.
“I am there to help the theater and Courtney in any way I can,” Hartzell said. “That is a place that is so part of my being.”
Now on stage at SCT: “Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat,” through May 22. Info: sct.org.