Lacey Schirmers is taking over as interim executive director of GREAT Theatre.
Schirmers, who’s been with the organization for eight years, seven as managing director, replaces GREAT’s founder Dennis Wachtler-Whipple.
“It’s definitely an honor to be trusted to lead GREAT during this time,” Schirmers said. “I feel really well-equipped to continue leading GREAT forward.”
Schirmers said she understands the value of a thriving arts community for the greater area as a whole.
Wachtler-Whipple announced his impending resignation from GREAT in November and anticipated staying on board until summer, but an early opportunity had him making the resignation official this week. Whipple was just named the director of operations for the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey. He had been planning a move to New York this summer to be reunited with his husband who took a job transfer there and left Minnesota in September.
Though the leaders and board of GREAT have been planning for his resignation and created a search committee for a new executive director, they haven’t yet identified a timeline for the search. Schirmers said the board wants to make the right hire and is taking time to thoroughly outline the role of executive director within GREAT and the larger community.
In the meantime, Schirmers plans to continue with the organization’s strategic priorities saying GREAT is always planning one to two years out. She’s worked closely with the board and said GREAT as an organization is strong and healthy with a talented leadership team and staff, loyal volunteers and a supportive community.
“We have a really bright future ahead of us,” she said.
While she’s excited for the opportunity to lead the organization, Schirmers acknowledges what a change it will be for a place that’s been led by Wachtler-Whipple for decades. The two worked closely together.
Wachter-Whipple is settling into his new home personally and professionally.
The Papermill Playhouse is known as the birthplace of musicals, he said. The theater premiered Disney’s “Newsies” and has established itself as a pre-Broadway venue for new productions.
The Paper Mill Playhouse, which is located relatively close to Manhattan and as such pulls performers and audiences from New York, received the Regional Theater Tony Award in June of 2016. According to its mission, the Playhouse aims to be internationally recognized as the leading musical theater.
For Wachtler-Whipple, it’s a dream job.
“It speaks to every other person at GREAT who dreams of being on Broadway,” he said. “What GREAT does is really amazing. Hopefully it will make a pathway for some of our kids who want to work professionally.”
The Paper Mill Playhouse is a large operation, it includes a 1,200-seat theater and a restaurant/bar. The organization has 619 employees including actors and technicians.
“It is fun to have a new challenge and while it’s scary to be in the new environment, I’m energized by the opportunities here,” Wachtler-Whipple said. “It’s nice to know that some of the things that worked really well at GREAT are needed in the professional world too. It’s only possible because of the people at GREAT that I have the skills and ability to take this job. GREAT is well-situated, we have been planning for this. It’s a bright day for them and for me.”
GREAT announces its new season on Feb. 15.
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This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: GREAT Theatre names Lacey Schirmers new interim executive director