Several months after the departure of Kwame Kwei-Armah, Baltimore Center Stage has announced its pick to fill his shoes as artistic director. Enter Stephanie Ybarra, currently special director of artistic projects for the Public Theater in New York, and soon to be the creative leader of Baltimore’s largest professional producing theater.
Ybarra starts part-time in October and will be working full-time by December, according to a release. Her hire caps a national search led by a Center Stage Board of Trustees search committee with the help of consultant Barbara Janowitz.
“Serving the Baltimore community and the beautiful state of Maryland with dynamic arts programming is a singular opportunity,” Ybarra said in part in a statement. “And, to say I’m ‘thrilled’ doesn’t do justice to the wellspring of excitement and anticipation I’m feeling right now—I’m standing on some formidable shoulders, and in awe of the view.”
Ybarra spent six years with the Public Theater, starting as an artistic associate. She currently leads the theater’s Mobile Unit, which puts on Shakespeare productions at prisons, homeless shelters and community centers around New York, according to its website. The Public Theater’s artistic director, Oskar Eustis, said in a statement that he’d “miss her terribly,” but called her a “superb choice for Center Stage.”
She’s taking over a top role for a theater sporting a still-fresh facelift, a $7.8 million operating budget and what she in her statement called a “formidable artistic legacy.” Her predecessor, Kwei-Armah, left the artistic director post in May to work for a job at the Young Vic theater in his native London.
Ybarra will start work here just as Center Stage’s 2018-19 season kicks off. The lineup includes Tennessee Williams’ Southern classic “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (Sept. 13-Oct.14); Lauren Yee’s family comedy “King of the Yees” (Oct. 25-Nov.18); Marcus Gardley’s neighborhood tale “A Wonder in My Soul” (Nov. 29-Dec. 23); “Fun Home,” Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel adapted into a musical by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori (Jan. 17-Feb. 24, 2019); Paula Vogel’s “Indecent,” an artistic tribute to a scandalous early 20th-century play (Feb. 28-March 31, 2019); and Christina Anderson’s tale of creative struggle “How to Catch Creation” (May 2-26, 2019).