By: Jennifer Mulson Jun 21, 2018
Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, no doubt. But also French classical comedies such as Moliere, Spanish Golden Age dramas, mid-century playwrights, Lillian Hellman and Alice Childress, multigenerational stories, new work and unsung historical works by women. And, of course, William Shakespeare, which comes in handy for her new gig as TheatreWorks’ artistic director.
The New England native comes to Colorado Springs via Chicago and begins her new job Aug. 1. She’ll step into the mighty shoes of founder and artistic director Murray Ross, who died in early 2017, and will become the professional theater company’s second artistic director in its 40-year history. No pressure.
“What I love are plays that have heightened language and physicality and create magical worlds,” Lowans said. “But at the same time, those worlds serve us by exploring real and pressing social issues. I love an audience to feel as if they’ve come to something that’s not just a play but is in some ways an event.”
Lowans, who will finish her master’s degree in directing at Northwestern University over the next year, has more than 50 directing credits to her name in Boston and Chicago, including “Passion Play,” “Doubt,” “The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls,” “A Year With Frog and Toad,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Turn of the Screw” and “Picnic.”
Before Northwestern, she was associate artistic director and director of education at Stoneham Theatre, now Greater Boston Stage Company.
“In talking to her about what she thinks about modern theater – what’s missing, what’s great, what she can do to make an imprint on modern theater – we were impressed by her vision of what theater could look like, feel like and be in the community,” said Lynne Hastings, TheatreWorks’ artistic producer. “Her ability to feel people out makes her perfect for this transition that TheatreWorks is going through. Her spirit and intelligence and artistic eye is right. TheatreWorks, having now had one season without Murray, is ready for her, too.”
Colorado Springs will no doubt be a change of pace from Chicago, but an auspicious one. Lowans hopes working for one of the city’s major arts institutions will springboard a leap into civic leadership.
“It’s exciting to be in a city with as many theater companies as Chicago has, but at the same time, a lot of theaters have to spend energy differentiating themselves from other theaters, as opposed to spending energy getting to know the audience they’re serving,” she said. “I love that the Springs has a robust theater ecosystem. With fewer theaters, it’s easier to concentrate on the audience and supporting the artists and how to serve both artists and audiences.”
Upon her arrival, Lowans will inherit the already programmed 2018-2019 TheatreWorks season, so she’ll spend her time getting to know and listening to stakeholders and supporters and reaching out to the community to meet people who aren’t engaged with the company and deciphering why that is.
“The Ent Center is a beautiful space. Something so beautiful can be intimidating, and I want to make sure something as special as it is is accessible to everyone,” she said. “That’s my most important charge. Theater for me is best when it’s a civic institution and everyone in the community feels they belong there, they’re engaged by the work, they can engage the work and we’re responding to needs.”
In 1976, Ross founded the professional theater company based at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. A passionate Shakespeare lover, his 1984 production of “The Comedy of Errors” under a circus tent kickstarted decades of outdoor summer Shakespeare productions, many of them staged at Rock Ledge Ranch.
“It’s different than inheriting something someone built and moved on from,” Lowans said. “It’s a legacy I’m responsible for.”