jakub | May 9, 2024

AMERICAN THEATRE | Oklahoma City Rep Artistic Director Kelly Kerwin to Step Down

Kelly Kerwin.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA.: After three years as artistic director of OKC Repertory Theater, Kelly Kerwin is stepping down to be closer to family in New York. Kerwin led the organization through the height of the pandemic and through the transition from OKC Rep’s founding artistic director, Donald Jordan.

“Leading OKC Rep has been a privilege,” said Kerwin in a statement. “I’m so proud of the huge strides we’ve made these past three years. We made it through one of the most challenging times in the American theatre. I’m very grateful for my time in Oklahoma City and I’m so proud of all the beauty we brought into the world. OKC Rep is a community of curious, thoughtful, generous dreamers and I look forward to seeing the next chapter of inventive and high-quality work. I’m particularly grateful for the dedication of our managing director, Emily Comisar, and the fearless board of directors.”

Kerwin joined OKC Rep in July of 2021 after a national search. She came to OKC Rep after working as a producer at NYC’s Public Theater and the Under the Radar Festival. Kerwin revitalized the theatre and forged a partnership with Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center to produce shows never before seen in Oklahoma City. Under her leadership, OKC Rep has also increased BIPOC representation amid artists, staff, and on the board.

In January 2022, OKC Rep produced its first in-person show since 2019. Since then, Kerwin has brought in internationally celebrated artists, visionary directors, and fostered opportunities for multitudes of local artists. She also worked with and nurtured many students from area universities. At OKC Rep, Kerwin partnered with the Under the Radar Festival to bring shows straight from NYC to OKC. Since 2022, OKC Rep produced 13 shows, including work by such acclaimed multidisciplinary artists as Roger Guenveur Smith, Inua Ellams, and James & Jerome; she produced six original productions of contemporary plays including the regional premieres of Vietgone, The Brothers Size, and The Great Leap; and she co-created a bespoke theatrical audio tour for downtown Oklahoma City featuring the voices of over 30 local citizens.

Multidisciplinary artist Anthony Hudson (a.k.a. Carla Rossi) said of Kerwin in a statement, “My time touring Looking for Tiger Lily to Oklahoma City was joyful and affirming. Kelly knows how to treat artists—even anxious, DIY drag clowns like me—and her stellar treatment is by no means standard. By bringing together folks from different walks of life, arranging accompanying drag shows, signature cocktails, meet and greets with the community, securing sold-out houses, and even just hanging out for brunch, Kelly gave me one of the best tours of my career.”

“Kelly’s work as artistic director of our theatre has served to raise the bar for OKC Rep and the theatregoing expectations in Oklahoma City generally,” said board president Clifford Hudson in a statement. “Her sustaining impact should be that we continue to offer this level and quality of theatre she has produced. We are thankful for the creative leadership she has provided and wish her the best of luck.”

Kerwin will official leave the theatre at the end of June. OKC Rep’s board of directors, along with managing director Emily Comisar, are working to ensure a smooth transition. Founded in 2001, Oklahoma City Repertory Theater currently has a presenting/producing model that champions artists from around the globe and locally. As of 2022, its budget was around $590,000.

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