Jungle Theater names new artistic director

Sarah Rasmussen
Sarah Rasmussen, new artistic director of the Jungle Theater.
Courtesy of Jungle Theater

The Jungle Theater in Minneapolis has named Sarah Rasmussen its next artistic director.

Rasmussen, a native of South Dakota, has directed and developed new work at the Humana Festival, National Playwrights Conference, and many other venues nationwide. For three seasons she served as the resident director for Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Black Swan Lab, a new work development program. She recently directed OSF's first-all female Shakespeare production.

Rasmussen directed the Jungle's production of "In the Next Room" in 2012. She described the experience as feeling like "coming home."

"I've worked all over the country and I really think [Twin Cities' audiences] are the most wonderful audiences in America," said Rasmussen. "It's an incredibly dynamic place with such a great ecosystem of theaters and it feels like an exciting moment with some big changes at other theaters."

Rasmussen referred to the recent hiring of Joseph Haj to lead the Guthrie Theater, as well as fresh faces Randy Reyes at Mu Performing Arts and Sarah Bellamy at Penumbra Theatre.

"It feels like there's this great energy around both the legacy of what's come before and there's a lot of hope and excitement about the next generation of leadership," Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen will replace founder Bain Boehlke, who has led the theater for 25 years.

Boehlke said if the theater is his "baby," this is the equivalent of it "being all grown up and getting married."

"I think it's just terrific," said Boehlke. "We had over 60 applicants from around the country. I think [the board] made a really enlightened and significant choice."

Boehlke pointed out that in the theater industry it is still relatively rare for a company to hire a woman to a major leadership position. Most female artistic directors are the founders of their own companies.

But Boehlke said she's the perfect choice.

"Sarah's spirit is so wonderful and her ability to articulate the theater's ongoing vision is really quite remarkable," he said. "I know that she'll bring some really exciting new directors to town because she has a national profile."

Rasmussen will take over at the Jungle Theater on July 1, when Boehlke plans to move to Seattle.

"I really felt that it was essential that I not be in town when the new artistic director takes over because I don't want to walk down to the theater — my feet are so used to walking that path — and I don't want to become a burden, a kind of presence hanging around the theater. I just don't want to make everyone nervous!" he chuckled.

Boehlke said he will come back occasionally to direct or to help with fundraising, but he's looking forward to Rasmussen taking the theater in some new directions.

"It's going to be so interesting," he said. "It's like turning a page, a new chapter in an exciting book that one really can't wait to read."

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