Michael Kahn, the Artistic Director, director and teacher whose work has dominated the theatrical landscape in Washington for thirty years and has had a national impact, will retire as Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in July of 2019, the company announced Monday night.
“Michael is an extraordinary talent and we are profoundly grateful to him for his passion, leadership and dedication.” STC Executive Director Chris Jennings said. “Over three decades, he has built STC into an internationally acclaimed home for classic theatre and has cultivated a wonderful community of artists, patrons and supporters. Shakespeare Theatre Company would not exist without his vision and artistry.”
Kahn assumed the STC helm in 1986, when it performed in the Folger Shakespeare Library on Capitol Hill. In 1992 he moved the company to the Lansburgh Theatre in Penn Quarter, and in 2007, he opened an additional venue — in the 774-seat Sidney Harman Hall, across from the Verizon Center. STC continues to play in both the Lansburgh and Harman Hall.
Prior to his work with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Kahn directed several Broadway productions, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, (1974-5), Whodunnit (1982-3) and Showboat (1983). He was nominated for a Tony Award, Best Direction of a Musical, for Show Boat.
Among other honors, Kahn has received the John Houseman Award (1988), the First Annual Shakespeare’s Globe Award (1990), the GLAAD Capital Award (2002), the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre (2002), the Shakespeare Society Medal (2004), Person of the Year from the National Theatre Conference (2005), and the Sir John Gielgud Award for Excellence in the Dramatic Arts (2007). He was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2013, the same year in which he was also recognized as a Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
“Michael will leave an institution, a theatre scene, and a city barely recognizable to what he found here,” said WSC Avant Bard Artistic Director Emeritus Christopher Henley.”It is hard to overestimate his part in those changes.”
In addition to his work in classical and modern plays and musicals, Kahn is an accomplished director of opera. He directed Bizet’s Carmen in 1982 and Vanessa in 1995, both at the Kennedy Center, and received Opera Music Theater International’s Bravo Award in 1996.
Kahn has established a reputation as a vigorous, exacting Artistic Director with a lively gift for innovation. Recent STC surprises include all-male casts of Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet and a startling Othello in which the titular character was played by a white man (Patrick Stewart) and the remaining cast were African-Americans.
“From the day I arrived in Washington, I have been determined to make this city a destination for lovers of theatre and performing arts,” Kahn said. “I wanted to make STC accessible to all and introduce new audiences to classic theatre. Thanks to the work of many great artists and collaborators, I believe I’ve achieved these goals. After three fruitful and challenging decades I feel it’s time to step down and let a new energy and creative talent take the Shakespeare Theatre Company into the next era.”
The company will conduct a national search for a new Artistic Director, and intends to name one in July of 2018. This will give the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s second Artistic Director a year to work with the first.