By Southwester Staff 

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater announced the selection of Hana Sharif as the next Artistic Director as well as the unanimous election of Catherine Guttman-McCabe to serve as Chair of the Board of Trustees. 

Sharif, currently the Augustin Family Artistic Director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, will succeed Molly Smith, who is retiring from Arena Stage in June after 25 years with the company. In her current position, Sharif led the organization through a cultural transformation also after the retirement of an iconic leader. She diversified programming, piloted a range of new programming during the COVID-19 pandemic, and launched a virtual theatrical series that brought together famous local chefs, mixologists, local bands, and media personalities, preparing her for her new role as only the fourth Artistic Director in Arena Stage history. 

“I have the honor of following three visionary leaders, two of whom are women who have led the organization for 65 of its almost 75 years,” Sharif said in a press release. “I see my appointment as a natural and exciting extension of that leadership; creating, presenting, and producing art that continues to explore how we tell the story of an evolving America. Staying rooted in the American voice is really important, and a mission that truly excites me. There are many theaters, but there’s only one Arena, and I can’t wait to begin the journey.”

“Hana’s own origin story has prepared her like no other artist for this moment at Arena,” said Edgar Dobie, Arena Stage Executive Producer, in a press release. “It’s a great day when human values, grace, and authenticity—which Hana owns in abundance—rhyme with the rich opportunities available at our about-to-be 75-year-young enterprise. Hana brings joy with her, and our arms, minds, and hearts are wide open to that joy.” 

Guttman-McCabe began her term as Board Chair on May 1, after serving on Arena Stage’s Board of Trustees since 2018 and chairing the Artistic Director Search Committee which brought Sharif in to her new role. A partner at Potomac Law Group (PLG), Guttman-McCabe will replace predecessor Decker Anstrom, who led the board since 2019, and who will continue to serve as Immediate Past Chair. 

“I am honored to serve as Chair of Arena Stage, following Decker Anstrom’s tremendous leadership, which deftly brought us through the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Guttman-McCabe in a press release. “As Molly passes her baton to Hana, so too do I take it from Decker, mindful of the work we still have ahead of us as we fully emerge from the pandemic. I have no doubt in my mind that the partnership between Hana and Edgar will be strong and vibrant, and I am committed to supporting them and the entire company as we grow our audiences, expand Arena’s connections to the community, and start planning to celebrate our 75th anniversary season, which begins July 2024.”

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