Washington D.C.'s Arena Stage has unanimously selected Hana Sharif as its next Artistic Director.
Sharif, currently the Augustin Family Artistic Director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, will succeed longtime Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith, who is retiring at the end of June after 25 years with the company. Sharif will work alongside Executive Producer Edgar Dobie to guide the landmark regional theatre, making her the fourth artistic director in the history of the company.
“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,” said Sharif in a statement. “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 theatres, but there’s only one Arena, and I can’t wait to begin the journey.”
As Augustin Family Artistic Director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep), Sharif brought about a cultural transformation, expanding the company's commitment to producing world premieres, including Dreaming Zenzile, Feeding Beatrice, and House of Joy.
In joining Arena Stage, Sharif will be participating in a leadership lineage that has shaped the regional theatre landscape in the United States. Arena, which was founded as the first racially integrated theatre company in the nation's capital, is the largest theatre company in the United States that is dedicated to producing American plays and playwrights. Arena’s co-founder, Zelda Fichandler, was a pioneer of the American regional theatre movement and served as producing director until 1990; Douglas C. Wager led the organization from 1990 to 1998, after 25 years within Arena across a variety of roles; and current artistic director Molly Smith has led the company since 1998, producing more than 200 productions and driving the design and development of the Mead Center for American Theater over her 25 seasons.
“For the last 25 years, I have held magic in my hands,” said outgoing Arena Stage Artistic Director, Molly Smith in a statement. “From the first moment 25 years ago, when I came to Arena, I was blessed with a top-notch production staff and dynamic administration. We can create anything, and we have; and we’ve changed America along the way. Now, it’s time to pass that magic on to the next generation—to Hana. I know her magic will be mesmerizing and I, for one, will be cheering from the audience.”