When Nataki Garrett arrived at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts to take on the role of associate artistic director for the theater company, she was hailed as a new voice and an agent for change. She has now tendered her resignation, effective June 30.
Garrett came on board in January 2017, hired by then-artistic director Kent Thompson, who called her “a rising star” and “an industry leader,” and said that acquiring her services was one of the proudest accomplishments of his twelve years with the company. But Thompson himself left in March of that year. After that, Garrett held down the fort amid a lot of speculation about the organization’s artistic future. She “stepped into her leadership role,” says Suzanne Yoe, director of communications and cultural affairs, in a statement announcing Garrett's resignation.
Last October, Garrett made her local directing debut with Smart People, which we called “an intriguing choice that deals with one of the deepest issues in our world, the origin of racism.” She also oversaw a less successful Macbeth, directed by Robert O’Hara.
In her statement, Yoe says of Nataki:
She helped select four remarkable new works for the Colorado New Play Summit and worked with the DCPA to effect positive change both internally and externally through the organization’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. And she worked alongside the company’s actors, artists, administrators, patrons and partners to deliver one of its best seasons to date.
While the DCPA is proud of her accomplishments during her time at the organization, the staff is equally proud of her contributions to the American theatre at large. She recently directed BLKS at Steppenwolf in Chicago, Jefferson’s Garden at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., and the world premiere of Carolyn Bryant, her co-production with Andrea LeBlanc at REDCAT, produced by CalArts Center for New Performance.
When she came to the DCPA, American Theatre had just noted Nataki as ‘one to watch.’ And the industry is watching. Now Nataki is poised to consider the next stage in her career. She has been an advocate for women in theatre, for persons of color in theatre, and for new works and new vision in theatre.
While she set some of her personal projects aside to oversee the company through a period of great transition, she’s decided the time is right to pursue other interests. She will return to Denver next season to direct Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, which will be the culmination to DCPA Theatre Company’s 40th anniversary season.
The DCPA has seen a flurry of staff turnover in recent years.
After Dan Ritchie resigned as CEO in 2014, that slot was taken by Scott Schiller, who started in 2015 and lasted roughly a year. Ritchie then resumed the post until Janice Sinden, who'd served as Mayor Michael Hancock's chief of staff, took over in August 2017.
After Thompson left, inspiring a board shakeup, Chris Coleman replaced him as the artistic director of the DCPA Theatre Company this year. With so much churn at the DCPA, the artistic direction of the organization remains uncertain...but a new theater season is coming.