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meet our new producing artistic director
Playhouse Merced and its Board of Directors is happy to announce that Stephen Carver will become the theatre’s new Producing Artistic Director. Carver will take the helm from Anthony Braxton who served as Interim Managing Director since the departure of the former Artistic Director Alysse Neubert, just over a year ago.
“On behalf of Playhouse Merced, I am pleased to announce that Stephen Carver has been selected to provide executive and artistic leadership for Playhouse Merced,” said Emily Langdon, Board President. “Stephen is a highly accomplished artist who will bring decades of theatre artistic and management leadership experience. I am sure he will bring renewed life to our vision to engage, enrich, educate, and entertain. I very much look forward to the Playhouse’s growth and community impact under his leadership.”
Carver earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from Denison University in Granville, Ohio. In 1983, he went to Hollywood. Among his many credits are appearances on television and in movies (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Liar Lair with Jim Carey, and roles in The Golden Girls, Diagnosis Murder, and Ellen). He also directed over 30 plays, worked in radio and television production, and co-founded, with actor and comedian Steve Carell, the Skyline Theatre Company in Chicago where he served as the company’s Artistic Director. Carver led the Longmont Theatre Company as Artistic Director for 12 years and most recently served as Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre for 5 years managing a $2.6M annual budget and 35 full-time employees.
Carver chose to return to community theater because it is where he was born. Well, not literally, but Stephen’s father and grandfather were also leaders in community theatre. “For me, the business of community theater is a family business. It’s what we talked about since I was 6 years old.” He feels the greatest learning he did was in community theater. “I appeared on stage and learned how to direct and act as well as do staging, lighting, set design, and recruit volunteer pools.”
Carver is a longtime leader in the America Association of Community Theatre and serves as one of their principal adjudicators. While in Kalamazoo, he created and implemented Theatre for All, a program to foster equity and inclusion.
Carver’s selection comes after a month’s long nationwide search. Interim Managing Director Anthony Braxton led the board in creating a comprehensive selection process that attracted over 40 local and national candidates. After an initial screening, 10 were interviewed (virtually) by a selection committee composed of board members, staff, community members, and patrons. That committee recommended the three top candidates for consideration by the Board of Directors that made a final selection.
“At the end of the day, we felt that Stephen was the right person at the right time. He has a vision for the Playhouse’s future, he recognizes and affirms what we have done well, and he has the experience to provide the strong and steady leadership we need as we emerge from the past 18 months of pandemic. We’re all very excited to work with him in this next phase of the Playhouse’s life and feel very fortunate that his desire to bring his artistic leadership to a community theatre like ours came at a time we needed leadership like his.”
Carver’s first day on the job will be Monday, July 12th. “He’ll hit the ground running and I’m confident we will feel his leadership impact immediately,” Braxton said. Braxton, who was originally tabbed to lead the theater for “a few months” at the height of the pandemic is expected to continue assisting Carver as he transitions. “I’m looking forward to having a new leader here who will build out the rest of the leadership for the Playhouse. As our season theme says, the story is us, and we, our community theatre, have a very bright future with Stephen's leadership. As he grows his team my tenure at the Playhouse will come to an end and I can get on to my delayed retirement bucket list.”
“Meet and Greet” events will be scheduled at the Playhouse throughout the coming month for our volunteers, creatives, patrons, and staff. "The Board wants to provide these informal opportunities for our community to get to know Stephen and for him to get to know us and his new artistic home," said Langdon.