Thursday, August 6, 2020

Big changes are coming to Halifax’s 2b theatre company

Recent world events have accelerated the departure of founding artistic co-director Anthony Black, managing producer Karen Gross, and managing director Colleen MacIsaac

After 20 years as one of 2b theatre company‘s founding artistic co-directors, Anthony Black has announced he will be leaving the company.

According to a company media release, while the decisions were finalized recently, the catalyst came from both the COVID-19 pandemic and support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

In a statement, Black says he has been contemplating his departure for several months with several factors contributing to his decision.

“The global pandemic has given me time to stop and think,” he says. “Meanwhile, the uncertainty about when and how theatre will resume has made me feel that, if I’m going to make a change, this is a good moment. I’m not sure what is next for me, and I will be taking some time to figure that out.”

With Black’s departure, founding artistic co-director Christian Barry will become the sole creative leader as the company moves through its revisioning process.

“Some of us are changing our profession to manifest change, some of us are taking a pause to listen, some of us are opening up space at the table,” says Barry. “We are all taking steps forward, seeking a better, more caring world.”

Having co-led the company with Black for two decades now, Barry acknowledges the contributions Black has made to both the company and to Halifax.

“He is irreplaceable, and I’m proud of what we’ve built together,” he says. “Although he won’t be in the rehearsal rooms or the 2b office, his contributions and his impact will be with us in all we do.”

At the same time, managing producer Karen Gross, and managing director Colleen MacIsaac will also be departing.

Gross says she will be moving in a new direction professionally, having prepared for the transition over the past months. “I love theatre because it allows us to imagine possible worlds, and it offers us space to meaningfully be together,” she says. “In these ways, I see the pursuit of justice and care as essential to theatre-making.”

For MacIsaac, the decision to depart is about making room for greater diversity in theatre. “Recently, I had a realization that for the overwhelming whiteness of theatre leadership in our region to shift, people need to step aside to make space, and drastic, transformative changes need to happen. It is hard work, but I believe it is essential work,” she says.”

The three departing members will continue to work with the company in consulting roles through the transition. The company will also use the temporary shut down of the performing arts to transition to a new team and vision for the company while continuing to tour its existing repertoire as conditions permit, and to create original new works.

The company says it will begin re-shaping its staffing model, with preliminary hiring by early fall, and plans to restructure its artistic direction and vision by January 2021.

Over the past 20 years, artistic partners Anthony Black and Christian Barry have led 2b theatre, growing it from a fledgling student start-up into an internationally respected company. Its work has been presented in 61 cities, in 13 countries, on five continents, and in three languages. It has won numerous awards and accolades around the world.

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