Sharif Ends Five Year Tenure at The Rep After Shepherding the Theatre Through the Pandemic
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep) has announced that Hana Sharif is stepping down as its Augustin Family Artistic Director after a five-year tenure leading the top regional theatre and advancing its legacy of artistic excellence to become Artistic Director of Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. Danny Williams, Managing Director, who has worked closely with Sharif since being appointed to his position last year, will work in partnership with The Rep’s Board of Directors and Associate Artistic Directors Becks Redman and Reggie D. White, to oversee the success of the highly anticipated 2023–24 season and put in place a search for the theatre’s next artistic director.
Arena Stage is a Tony Award-winning national center that helped launch the regional theater movement and continues to produce and present diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists in the country. It is committed to commissioning and developing new plays and impacting the lives of students through its work in the community. Sharif will leave her role at The Rep in June 2023.
“Under Hana’s leadership The Rep has made significant strides to ensure that we remain a vital, twenty-first century arts organization that serves all St. Louisans by increasing access to the best emerging and established voices in the American theatre and building bridges across the region,” said Danny Williams, Managing Director. “We thank Hana for moving The Rep forward with her innovative vision that meets the needs of our community and upholds the high standards of artistic excellence which are a hallmark of our productions. Building upon the strong foundation she put in place, we are excited for the reimagined upcoming season that Hana curated, which will continue to offer the full spectrum of St. Louis audiences opportunities to connect, engage, and be thoroughly entertained at The Rep.”
The Rep’s 2023–24 season, led by titles such as Ben Power’s adaptation of Stefano Massini’s The Lehman Trilogy; Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, and The Greatest Love for Whitney: A Tribute to Whitney Houston created by Mark Clements, includes a mix of world-class
self-produced productions alongside co-produced and presented theater works, reimagining the theatre’s programming in order to create a sustainable model on which to build towards the future.
“Over the past five years Hana has brought forth a strong vision for The Rep that showed us what a top regional theatre’s role could and should be within the community, producing and directing critically-acclaimed new works and classics; reaffirming the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; and boldly navigating us through the challenges of the pandemic,” said Gwen Middeke, President of the Board of Directors of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. “We are so grateful to Hana for the immense contributions she has made to The Rep and feel confident that her close collaborator and our brilliant Managing Director Danny Williams will continue to expertly steer the organization forward during this time of transition while we undertake a national search for a new creative partner who will enrich and inspire our community.”
As Augustin Family Artistic Director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Sharif shepherded the organization through a cultural transformation following the retirement of long-time Artistic Director Steven Woolf. Her directorial debut at The Rep was with an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, which was the highest grossing show in the company’s history. She expanded the theatre’s commitment to producing world premieres each season, including Somi Kakoma’s Dreaming Zenzile, Kirsten Greenidge’s Feeding Beatrice, Steph Del Rosso’s The Gradient, and Madhuri Shekar’s House of Joy. Each of the shows she directed are top grossing shows in The Rep’s history including her production of Ken Ludwig’s stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express which recently finished The Rep’s 2022/23 season to rave reviews.
Among other firsts to her credit, Sharif diversified The Rep’s programming to reflect the region’s spectrum of genre, thought, form, and culture, including its first all-Femme design team for Steph Del Rosso’s The Gradient. She introduced a new annual tradition to the St. Louis community in 2021 with a magical version of the beloved holiday spectacular A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and adapted by Michael Wilson, which will continue, now in its third year, as part of the theatre’s next season.
She piloted a range of new programming during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a drive-through illuminated puppet experience (The Snowy Day: A Glowy Snowy Experience based on the book The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, in partnership with StoneLion Puppet Theatre)and a virtual theatrical series that brought together famous local chefs, mixologists, local bands, and media personalities (Cooking, Carols, and Cocktails). In service of the civic life of the community, she launched REPresent STL, a conversation series focused on highlighting and unpacking the issues that matter most to the residents of the Greater St. Louis region. Sharif also created cultural and civic partnerships connected to themes in the performance season, including collaborations with Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis for AIDS and HIV awareness and with the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition to creatively share new voter regulations with St. Louisans.
Additionally, while at The Rep and at the height of the pandemic, Sharif partnered with other regional arts administrators at Baltimore Center Stage, Long Wharf Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theater Company, and the Public Theater in New York to commission short plays from writers struggling financially during the global shutdown. The coalition created Play at Home, a website that offered theatres new plays of 10-minutes in length or less, intended to be performed at home, over video conferencing platforms.
“It has been one of the great honors of my life to lead The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and to build upon the incredible legacy of artistic excellence over the last five years,” said Hana Sharif, Augustin Family Artistic Director. “I have forged deeply meaningful friendships, collaborations, and artistic partnerships in this beautiful community, and will miss the indomitable spirit of St. Louis. This move is not a decision that I took lightly, but it is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I could not pass up. I believe in the transformative power of the arts to uplift our shared humanity and I cherish the opportunity I’ve had to bring The Rep’s new and existing audiences theatrical experiences that have forged and deepened connections across the region. Advancing this work that we embarked on together, I am confident that the future of The Rep is in strong, capable hands with Danny Williams, my longtime friend and a trusted colleague, who will continue to move forward initiatives that reinforce The Rep’s role as an industry thought leader and a home to the most exciting American voices.”
The Rep is beginning to assemble a Transition and Search Committee that will plan next steps to find and hire a new artistic director and will announce additional details in the coming months.
ABOUT THE REPERTORY THEATRE OF ST. LOUIS
The Rep is the St. Louis region’s most honored live professional theatre company. Founded in 1966, The Rep presents innovative and compelling productions with something for everyone on its stages. The Rep delivers creative and thought-provoking theatrical experiences at two adaptable and intimate stages across St. Louis: the Virginia Jackson Browning Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts and the Catherine B. Berges Theatre at COCA. With creative and thought-provoking performances, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is a fully professional theatrical operation belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, The League of St. Louis Theatres, and is a constituent member of Theatre Communications Group, Inc., the national service organization for the not-for-profit professional theatre. For more information, please visit repstl.org.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.