New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre has selected Jacob G. Padrón, a major force in new play development, especially among minority writers, as its new artistic director. He begins his new job in February of next year.
In his first interview regarding his new job, minutes before the news was posted on the Long Wharf website Thursday morning, Padrón expressed “excitement and gratitude for this opportunity.”
Two years ago Padrón founded the Sol Project, a national arts initiative whose mission statement explains that it “works in partnership with leading theater companies to amplify the voices of Latinx playwrights and build artistic homes for artists of color in New York City and beyond.” One recent production with which the Sol Project was involved was the new play “El Huracán” by Charise Castro Smith, which premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre in September.
Padrón could not divulge many specifics yet about future programming at Long Wharf, but he did mention several contemporary playwrights whose work he “cares deeply about.” They include Tarell Alvin McCraney (“The Brother/Sister Plays), Charise Castro Smith (“El Huracan”), Shaina Taub (known for her Shakespeare adaptations), Hilary Bettis (“Alligator”), Suzan-Lori Parks (“Father Comes Home from the Wars”) and performance artist/playwright Luis Alfaro.
Padrón says that he intends to continue Long Wharf’s new-works reading series but also sees “a potential to expand and reach new artists” through other new-work development programs.
“There will certainly be new work. We will also breathe new life into classic texts. I am deeply interested in plays that are in conversation with New Haven and in conversation with the world. That’s what theater should be for.”
Padrón, 38, knows the New Haven area well. As a student at the Yale School of Drama a decade ago, Padrón was managing director of the student-run Yale Cabaret. He now teaches artistic producing for the YSD’s theater management program.
Padrón has worked at some of the most famous theaters in the country, including as the senior line producer at the Public Theater in New York City. As a producer at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, Padrón oversaw programming at a new-works space, The Garage. From 2008-11 he was associate producer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Most recently he has worked in the Cultural Investments area at Time Warner Inc.
Padrón says he will spend the time until February “doing a lot of deep listening, getting to know the staff.” He intends to live in New Haven. (One recommendation of the board before setting up the national search was that the new artistic direction be more in touch with the community.)
The Long Wharf’s current managing director, Joshua Borenstein, will continue in that position. Since Edelstein’s departure, Borenstein had been handling the artistic director duties and well as his management ones.
“One of the reasons I was really excited about this,” Padrón says, “was the opportunity to work with Josh.”
The Long Wharf board of trustees voted unanimously in favor of Padrón at a board meeting Tuesday night. The theater said there were more than 160 applicants for the artistic director position.
The Long Wharf lost its previous artistic director, Gordon Edelstein, in January. Edelstein, who had run the theater since 2002, was fired after multiple allegations of sexual assault and harassment were reported by the New York Times.
The Long Wharf formed committees to address concerns and assure better communication among staff. It also commissioned an internal review of its practices, which found management or the board of directors blameless regarding Edelstein’s misconduct.