Theatreworks has gone through a lot in the last few years. In 2017, founder and artistic director Murray Ross, 74, died unexpectedly after more than 40 years at the helm. Not long after, the company moved into the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ $70 million Ent Center for the Arts.
Now in its 44th season, the award-winning company is led by two women, Caitlin Lowans and Lynne Hastings, who plan to take Theatreworks into new territory. We talked with them about how the future looks.
Caitlin Lowans, Artistic Director
Career at a glance: Twelve years with a Boston area theater company, including the role of associate artistic director. Directed over 50 productions in New England and Chicago. Completing her thesis for master of fine arts at Northwestern University.
Springs: So why Theatreworks? It’s an awful long way from Chicago or Boston.
Caitlin Lowans: Chicago is a wonderful theater city. … I mean, to live in Chicago is to have your own neighborhood theater that’s different than the neighborhood theater that’s eight blocks away. That’s awesome, but at the same time, it means that theaters have to spend a lot of their energy trying to differentiate themselves from each other. … Here, you can have an impact on a community in a way that can be harder in a more saturated market.
You’ve replaced a legend. How do you deal with the inevitable expectations?Murray Ross was a person that took risks and had big ideas and figured out how to make them come to fruition. And if I’m doing the job right, I’m in position to inherit that risk and adventure and that notion that people aren’t lining up to just sit in a comfortable theater seat. They’re signing up to go on a journey. And that’s a great gift.
What’s your vision for Theatreworks in the coming years?
Presenting a wider variety of stories and wider variety of authors—and I’m speaking about different periods, different countries, different racial and ethnic backgrounds, from across the gender spectrum. … The magic of theater is that it’s sometimes a mirror in which we see ourselves, and other times, it’s a window in which we peer into the lives of other people. And while we may see someone whose life is so different, we experience that thread of connection.
Lynne Hastings, Artistic Producer
Career at a glance: Award-winning actress with more than 20 years on local stages, including Theatreworks. Extensive experience in corporate America.
Springs: Could you ever have imagined you’d end up here?
Lynne Hastings: No. (Laughs.) I had worked for my previous company for so long, you just sort of think, Oh, this is what my career will be, and theater will always be a hobby. … You know, I got laid off from my job in October, and I was with Theatreworks in December. Had I not been laid off, it wouldn’t have come to me. At all. It’s crazy.
You and Caitlin represent a real sea change for this revered company. How do you live up to the company’s past?
Because of the Ent Center opening, we talked a little bit about the future of Theatreworks at board meetings. Murray was part of that conversation, and he realized that by moving into this building, we might not be able to do things the same way. So, Murray’s passing, while so tragic, kind of laid the path for us to start having these conversations about transitioning.
And for Caitlin?
While we respect Murray and people talk about him, we don’t want to put pressure on Caitlin so that the legacy overburdens her. We do want her to be herself because that was what we were attracted to. We weren’t looking for somebody to replace Murray.
You know, she and I are very much on the same page. … Everyone deserves to have their story told and for audience members to see themselves on stage. So our philosophy is, who’s missing from the table? Whose stories aren’t being told? And how do we make them feel that we are their community theater?
How do you think your current audience, which is largely white and older, will react to that sentiment?
Maybe people say, “Oh, my God, I don’t see myself enough in the programming.” But Theatreworks represents the whole community, and that’s part of us, our commitment. It’s going to change our programming. It’s going to change our audiences. You know, there may have been only a few faces of color in our audiences a few years ago, but five years from now, I want it to be 30 percent, 40 percent of our audience. … I hope that, based on what Caitlin has shared with our audience and our board, this will not be a surprise.
Theatreworks Season Highlights
A Christmas Carol
Nov. 29–Dec. 24
A new work from award-winning playwright Idris Goodwin
Jan. 24–Feb. 10, 2019
Little Shop of Horrors
April 25–May 19
Find details and tickets at theatreworkscs.org.