Stephanie Ybarra is stepping down as artistic director of Baltimore Center Stage April 1 to become Program Officer in Arts and Culture at the Mellon Foundation. While a national search commences to find her successor, Ken-Matt Martin will serve as interim artistic director.
Ybarra leaves following a five-year tenure at the company; she took the reigns from former artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah in 2018 after serving as director of special artistic projects at The Public Theater.
“I’ve spent most of the last 30 years making theatre in some shape or form, so this is not a leap I make lightly," says Ybarra in a statement. "I’m humbled and honored to have the chance to serve the national arts and culture sector during this time of enormous challenge and opportunity. My great comfort as I move forward is that BCS has a staff and board team, community partnerships, and an artistic network that are aligned and collectively reaching toward a bright future of their own imagining. I’m proud to have worked alongside them, and prouder still to introduce my dear friend Ken-Matt to this organization and city, which have become so special to me.”
“Stephanie has been a transformative leader of BCS during her tenure,” adds BCS Board of Trustees President Sandy Liotta. “Over the last five years, Stephanie and her team kept BCS open for storytelling through the hardest moments of the pandemic and amplified the theatre’s relevance and service to our communities by welcoming new voices into new civic conversations. We fully support Stephanie and know she will exceed expectations and make another major impact in her new role at the Mellon Foundation. The BCS family is also lucky to have the incredible Ken-Matt Martin join us in an interim capacity to provide artistic leadership during this transitional period.”
During her time with the company, Ybarra saw BCS give world premieres to 10 works, including The Swindlers, The Folks at Home, Dream Hou$e, Glorious World, Extinction, The Garden, Thoughts of a Colored Man, Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally, Where We Stand, and How to Catch Creation.
Martin is the former artistic director of Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre. In a controversial move, Martin was terminated from the Chicago theatre by its board of directors last year amid criticism of the board's alleged lack of transparency and dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion, along with further allegations of financial malfeasance around a real estate transaction. The theatre industry has largely coalesced in support behind Martin following the controversy, with a number of major regional theatres (including BCS) sending Martin a $30,000 joint commission for a new autobiographical work as a show of support in the days after his firing. Martin was also already set to helm BCS's production of Tiny Beautiful Things, which begins performances in March.