Shakespeare Theatre Company Artistic Director Simon Godwin has announced that Whitney White and Soyica Colbert—the director and the dramaturg for The Amen Corner—are joining STC as associate directors. Both White and Colbert will work in collaboration with Godwin and the artistic staff on season planning and artistic development.
The associate director model is one that exists at the National Theatre in England, where Godwin remains an associate artistic director. The positions allow STC to extend creative relationships with the best and brightest theater artists, and maintain the richness of artistic excellence audiences expect. The first new associate directorships have been extended to the director and dramaturg who transformed Sidney Harman Hall into a 1950’s Harlem church for the watershed rendition of James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner. Alan Paul will continue in his role as associate artistic director.
“Meeting Whitney for the first time, I was immediately struck by her power, fierce intelligence, and disarming wit. Her production of The Amen Corner, as part of my first season at STC, was one of the high points of my life as a theater maker,” said Godwin. “Whitney steered the production to astonishing heights. Here was a director with no limitations. Combining a fierce commitment to truth, an audacious grasp of spectacle and a deep fidelity to Baldwin’s text, Whitney embodied the core principles that, for me, define a great classical director. Since then, Whitney has continued to be a crucial part of my thinking as I plan for STC’s new chapter, and I am delighted that she has agreed to join my artistic team as an associate director.”
“Soyica Colbert is a distinguished academic and a world authority on the works of James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry, two dramatists STC has already committed to producing. Her fantastic dramaturgical work on The Amen Corner helped the show to soar,” said Godwin. “Since my arrival at STC, Soyica has built up a brilliant rapport with the whole team, as we keep broadening our classical repertoire and championing works such as The Amen Corner and Les Blancs that have, for so long, been overlooked. Soyica will be a mighty asset to our theater and I can’t wait to begin to work with her as associate director alongside our renowned resident dramaturg, Drew Lichtenberg.”
“We are honored to invite Whitney and Soyica to the company, and I look forward to having meaningful conversations with them as we continue to expand the canon of classical theater, redefine ourselves as an anti-racist institution, and work within—and for—our myriad communities,” Godwin continued. “This development will continue to evolve as we invite more associate directors to join us, across a variety of fields, during upcoming seasons.”
Whitney White on her new position as associate director
Finding my own voice as a Black female artist has been inextricably linked to directing and interpreting classical work. For so long I felt that the realm of the “classics”—Shakespeare and beyond—was a closed world that didn’t include me. This feeling was reinforced by years of training and countless productions that failed to reflect the world around me. But that shifted when I read Anton Chekov’s Three Sisters. Here was a snapshot of history, a look at the subtle socioeconomic and familial shifts before a major uprising and a portrait of women surviving against all odds that reminded me very much of the world that I lived in. A world I was eager to question, interrogate, and contribute to. Another big shift occurred when I first encountered Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a student in the Brown University–Trinity Rep MFA Acting program. Once again here was a woman—imperfect to be sure—but with so many modern sensibilities, desires, and needs who was both victim and villain to a world that made no room for her. To this day I find the story timeless, haunting, and invaluable because of the ways the text makes room for the interrogation of patriarchal systems, cyclical violence, rot, and excess in western systems and female ambition.
While working on James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, I was incredibly moved by the theater community in DC. The entire process, from casting to rehearsals to performances to the wonderful festival programming that engaged students and the audience at large, made the work feel incredibly present, alive, and necessary. The total experience was an inspiring reminder that our idea of what a “classic” is must continue to expand and that these great works have necessary lessons for us in the now.
Now I see working on the classics—both New American stories and the timeless titles that have shaped Western theater, to be critical. By engaging with this work, we, as a people, can be in dialogue with our many histories, ever–changing present, and possible futures. Shakespeare Theatre Company, with its mission to explore these works in new ways, provides a space for us to gather and consider universal topics that engage, entertain, and plague us all. It is a creative space where difference can be embraced, where we might challenge our preconceptions and collective fears, where we can affirm each other and reshape historical narratives, which so often have left so many people out of the picture.
I look forward to sharing more work with the DC community and finding new pathways within the incredible audience here.
“Whitney White on directing James Baldwin’s classic ‘The Amen Corner’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company”
“James Baldwin’s ‘Amen Corner’ bears witness to the Beloved Community” by Ramona Harper
“Shakespeare Theatre Company rescues James Baldwin’s ‘Amen Corner’ from the vault” by Michele Simms-Burton