The tour revolving door at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College continues to swing.
But despite the widening leadership gap at one of the state’s oldest and once most stable arts institutions, the foundation remains solid, says one of its most reassuring names.
“I’m pretty confident that we’re going to get through this and be great again,” said Christopher Sheley, executive producer and interim artistic director for FAC’s performing arts department. “I’ve invested two decades in this place and I’m in the process of winning it.”
While the FAC has not issued an official word, Pirronne Yousefzadeh announced her retirement as Producing Artistic Director on social media on December 31 after just 18 months on the job. No one speaks (logs) about why she left, which is never a strong indication that circumstances were kind.
The upheaval at the FAC has continued since Colorado College professor Idris Goodwin was named executive director in February 2020, becoming the first person of color to lead the century-old FAC. Goodwin announced an ambitious agenda: build a bigger tent. Say hello to more underrepresented voices. Adopt anti-racist practices. And a month later… the world went into pandemic shutdown.
A year later, longtime producing artistic director R. Scott Levy left the company under sudden and never fully explained circumstances, only to be replaced by Yousefzadeh, the daughter of two Iranian immigrants growing up in Iowa City.
Yousefzadeh pledged to take a collaborative, community-centric and inclusive approach to programming and civic engagement.
“I think that not only with my appointment, but with so many artistic leaders across the country, we can see that people of the global majority — people who are Black, Indigenous, or in my case, a person of color — have been ready for some time.” to lead,” Yousefzadeh said at the time of her hiring.
In the wake of the pandemic, Goodwin also announced that the theater program, long known for large, professional mainstage productions on the same scale as Arvada Center, would call back to focus more on the FAC’s educational commitment to Colorado College students to concentrate.
But in May 2022, Goodwin left the company in sudden and never fully explained circumstances (and the position remains vacant to this day). A month later, Assistant Artistic Director Nathan Halvorson left the company under sudden and never fully explained circumstances. A month later, Maria Capp was appointed to a new position called Director of Operations and Culture. And on December 31, Yousefzadeh left under sudden and never fully explained circumstances.
Sheley admits: It looks bad.
“We need to fix some fences and fix our image,” he said. “But we are doing everything we can to reassure everyone that the company will continue to do a great job. There is a plan and we are working towards a better future.”
The FAC returns with a full-scale production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, opening March 4, followed by a rare touring production: Woolly Mammoth Theater Company’s Where We Belong, a play that asks what it means to belong in an increasingly globalized world.
Despite the gaps at the top, Sheley said the core of the theater team remains solid. Three finalists have been identified for Goodwin’s position and he expects to appoint a new executive director in about a month. This person will then seek to replace Yousefzadeh as Producing Artistic Director.
Meanwhile, Tim Muldrew, whose FAC roots stretch back to 2008, has been appointed to the newly created position of Company Manager. And Morgan Gatson, who has been with the company for eight years, has been named Artistic Associate.
“We’re working on the next season right now and will be announcing it in March,” said Sheley, who also teased the audience. “I think we’re going to start looking a lot more like our old selves than we did before.”
That doesn’t mean the company will abandon its core commitment to education and anti-racism. “But I can say next year’s season will be bigger and we’ll be making more recognizable titles,” Sheley said. “We believe in telling stories by all people, for all people – and in our community, ‘all people’ is a huge, complicated, and broad spectrum. We want to offer something for everyone.”