After a national search, St. Petersburg theater company American Stage and its board of trustees have announced that Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj is succeeding Stephanie Gularte as producing artistic director.
Gularte announced she would be stepping down last year, due to a diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa, an eye condition that can lead to total blindness.
Maharaj recently served as the associate artistic producer of Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Previously, he was the artistic director of New Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia and Rebel Theatre in Brooklyn. He is the former third vice president for the NAACP for the borough of Brooklyn and is founding chairman for the Equity in the Arts and Culture Committee.
In addition to his experience as an administrator, Maharaj is a playwright and director who has received numerous awards, including the Woodie King Jr. Award for Outstanding Direction, four Vivian Robinson AUDELCO Awards, a Barrymore Award, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society Theatrical Moment of the Year, and the New York International Fringe Festival Overall Excellence Award. His award-winning play Little Rock was selected as a New York Times Critic’s Pick. He is currently a finalist for the 2021 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.
As a storyteller, Maharaj has worked on Broadway, on Off-Broadway, and at a number of regional theaters including the Theater at Madison Square Garden and the Kennedy Center.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we are thrilled to welcome Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj as American Stage’s next leader,” Robyn Rusignuolo, chair of American Stage’s board of trustees, said in a news release. “Rajendra is a powerful artistic leader who will inspire the theatre’s next era.”
“I am humbled and honored to become the next Producing Artistic Director of American Stage,” Maharaj said in the release. “I am excited to bring ambitious, innovative new works to the Tampa Bay region that will feature transformative, diverse artists and theatre-makers, as well as find continued opportunities for theatre-practitioners from across the country to develop their work at American Stage. I look forward to meeting and working with the artists and audiences who already love this great theatre while also attracting new patrons and collaborators.”
He went on to say that he is committed to upholding the theater company’s mission and that he looks forward to “charting a course for the future that positions American Stage as an institution that inspires meaningful civic change in its community and across the nation.”
Gularte, who was involved in the search, said in the release that when she met and got to know Maharaj, she knew he was the right person for the position.
“Knowing that the leadership of the organization that I care so deeply about will rest in such highly capable, innovative, and compassionate hands makes my departure a little easier,” she said. “I am confident that this is the beginning of a thrilling new era for American Stage and the Tampa Bay community.”
Gularte planned the 2021-22 season, themed For the Love of Theatre. Before it begins in the fall, the company will debut The People Downstairs by St. Petersburg playwright Natalie Symons from Sept. 15-Oct. 3.
Here’s what’s coming in the 2021-22 season:
Around the World in 80 Days (Oct. 27-Nov. 21, 2021): Jules Verne’s novel gets an update with an adaptation told from a new perspective and follows Phileas Fogg and Jean Passpartout travel the world, meeting colorful characters along the way.
Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol (Dec. 8, 2021-Jan. 2, 2022): Marley, Scrooge’s former business partner, is “escorted by a spritely creature along the pathway to redeeming his soul — by helping to save the one man on earth who was more greedy and sour than himself.”
21st Century Voices: New Play Festival 2022 (Jan. 7-9 and Jan. 14-16, 2022): St. Petersburg playwrights present original scripts in development with readings, panel discussions and workshops.
School Girls; Or the African Mean Girls Play (Feb. 2-27, 2022): In an all-girls school in Ghana in 1986, a new American girl challenges the reigning queen bee.
American Stage in the Park: Footloose (April 6-May 8, 2022): After a two-year hiatus, the park production returns to Demens Landing with the musical based on the movie, which sees a big city teen move to a rural town that has outlawed dancing.
The Tempest (June 29-July 31, 2022): With this production of Shakespeare’s play comes a gender switch for the main character. Prospera conjures a storm to shipwreck her foes on the island where she has been marooned, resulting in a reconciliation with her loved ones.