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Apodaca tapped to lead Ashland New Plays Festival

Ashland New Plays Festival is in the midst of a major change in artistic leadership.

Kyle Haden will be completing his sixth and final season as artistic director for ANPF in December so he can devote more of his energies to the leadership team at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama, where he was recently named interim senior associate head, ANPF officials announced this week.

After several months of deliberation, ANPF’s board appointed an artist familiar to its audiences to take the helm. Jackie Apodaca will become ANPF’s fourth artistic director in January, the festival said.

“I am beyond thrilled to be stepping into the role of artistic director for such an earnest and community-focused arts organization,” Apodaca stated in a press release. “It’s a special privilege to take up the mantle vacated by my dear friend and colleague, Kyle Haden, to whom I am forever grateful. Kyle led ANPF with passion, humor and humility, and I will call on his wisdom and support as I step into my new role. This is a challenging time for theatre in our country, and I am committed to building our organization’s resiliency while growing our artistic ethos and anti-racist practices. I look forward to deepening the ways I serve playwrights, artists, our community, our readers and the audiences in our diverse and evolving field.”

ANPF, which began in 1992, was held virtually this year Oct. 18-25 in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering a playwriting workshop followed by readings of the five winning plays. See ashlandnewplays.org for more information.

Since joining ANPF as associate artistic director in 2016, Apodaca has served as casting director and regularly acted and directed for the company. The festival board said she brings an impressive background to her new role.

As a professor of Theatre Arts and the head of performance at Southern Oregon University, Apodaca has worked as an actor, director and producer in theatre, film and media, with companies such as Roundabout Theatre Company, Denver Center Theatre Company, National Geographic, Modern Media (head of production), Venice Theatre Works (associate artistic director), and Shakespeare Santa Barbara (producing director).

Apodaca is the author of the book “Answers from the Working Actor,” published in 2018, and spent more than a decade at Backstage Newspaper, where she was a contributing editor.

She earned her MFA from the National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center Theatre Company. Locally, Apodaca facilitates Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Acting Trainee Program and is a former board member of the Ashland Independent Film Festival. For ANPF, she directed “The Night Climber,” “Go. Please. Go.,” “Constellations,” and “The Bottle Tree,” and played roles such as Kit in “EdanEv,” the title role in “Sofonisba,” and Beth in “Cold Spring.”

Board president Peggy Moore, who shepherded the transition in ANPF’s artistic leadership, stated in a press release, “We look forward to Jackie’s leadership in the coming years and are so grateful to Kyle for his important contributions to our company. Kyle brought contacts from across the country to the region, and led ANPF with a depth of experience earned from his work as both an actor and director. He helped ANPF grow and become a more successful incubator for exciting new works.”

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve as ANPF’s artistic director the past six years,” Haden stated in the press release. “I’m appreciative of every reader, volunteer, board member, staff member, and patron who has contributed to our success during my tenure. Telling stories is a passion of mine, and it’s been thrilling to be right in the middle of the process, helping playwrights hone their work and perfect it for future audiences. In accepting this new position at Carnegie Mellon, however, it quickly became apparent that it was time to pass the baton to new leadership, to allow the momentum we’ve built up here at ANPF over the last six years to continue. I leave with a sense of pride in what we’ve been able to accomplish: from the success of our playwrights, to our Women’s Invitational in 2016, to our anti-racist initiatives put forward this summer. I will always appreciate ANPF taking a chance on a young guy who simply wanted to help people better tell their stories.

“Jackie has been an integral part of ANPF’s success since she came onboard,” Haden continued, “and I think she’s the perfect person to lead the organization into its thirtieth year. Jackie is committed to community, diversity, and equity, and I’ve witnessed her brilliant work as an actor, director, teacher, and leader over the years. I can’t wait to see where ANPF goes under Jackie’s leadership, and despite our uncertain times, I think the future is bright.”

Jackie Apodaca has been appointed Ashland New Plays Festival’s new artistic director. She’ll start her role in January.
Jackie Apodaca and current Ashland New Plays Festival Artistic Director Kyle Haden work on casting.{ }Photos courtesy of ANPF