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NEWS: Jungle Theater Head Departing for Storied New Jersey Theatre

The McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey, located on the campus of Princeton University.

The Jungle Theater announced a major leadership change today. Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen, who has led the theatre in Uptown Minneapolis for the past five years, will leave the company in May to head the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey.

If the McCarter Theatre Center name sounds familiar, it’s probably because the theatre has many connections to the Jungle Theater’s past programming. Located on the campus of Princeton University, the 90-year-old theatre company has given the regional and world premieres of works by playwrights from Edward Albee to Christopher Durang to Theresa Rebeck and Emily Mann. Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Anna in the Tropics, staged by the Jungle in 2017, went straight from the McCarter to Broadway in 2003.

The Jungle Theater’s outgoing Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Rasmussen, a native of Sisseton, South Dakota, took the reins of the Jungle Theater in 2015, succeeding its founding artistic director Bain Boehlke. “Sarah transformed the Jungle over the past five years,” said Craig Ashby, the president of the Jungle’s board of directors, “bringing inclusive and bold stories, diverse talent, and gender parity to our stage. Under her leadership, we took smart risks that paid off with critical acclaim and growing audiences. We are deeply grateful to Sarah and proud that she will be taking the helm of one of our country’s largest and most respected theaters.”

Christina Baldwin, the associate artistic director at the Jungle for the past two years, will succeed Rasmussen as interim artistic director, effective May 15. “Sarah’s departure is the Twin Cities’ loss and Princeton’s gain,” said Hanne Appelbaum, the Editor of the Arts Reader for much of Rasmussen’s tenure. “She brought a sterling energy, a compelling vision, and a focus on women’s voices that transformed the Jungle’s seasons into a string of hits and exciting new works. It is impossible to imagine the company’s recent successes and artistic endeavors without her.”

Rasmussen will succeed Emily Mann, a decorated playwright and director who is retiring from the McCarter after 30 years leading the theatre. Mann was one of the first women to run a major U.S. theater, and directed the world premieres of plays such as The Bells by Theresa Rebeck, Last of the Boys by Steven Dietz, Edward Albee’s Me, Myself, and I, and The Convert by Danai Gurira.

“I have long admired Emily and her legacy of commissioning and developing new work,” said Rasmussen. “[And] I am energized by the conversations I’ve had with McCarter board, staff, and community about this next chapter.”

Interim Managing Director Robin Gillette has also been appointed as the Jungle’s permanent Managing Director, formalizing a role she has already been performing for the past eight months. “Robin’s steady administrative and financial leadership,” said Craig Ashby, “is exactly what we need, both during this time of Covid-19 and with this leadership transition.”

Rasmussen’s legacy of programming at the Jungle includes notable productions of The Wolves, The Oldest Boy, Ride the CycloneMiss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, The Wickhams, and School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play, among many others. She was named the Star Tribune’s Artist of the Year in 2018.

Amy Donahue