RED WING -- Jeff Larson’s new role as Sheldon Theatre executive director was announced during the Sheldon Theatre Board’s Tuesday, Feb. 16, meeting.
Board President Nancy Dimunation stated, “When the executive director search committee reassembled this year to discuss next steps, we concluded that interrupting the reopening momentum, the community work that was in progress, was not in the Sheldon’s best interest. In our discussions with Jeff, it became evident that we had a shared interest in continuing this relationship on a permanent basis.”
Larson became interim director last spring after Bonnie Schock stepped down in February to take a job in Arizona.
While the theater was closed for the majority of 2020, Sheldon staff remained busy. Dimunation listed a variety of jobs Larson did last year including guiding the staff, board and stakeholders through the challenging year; working to set a path out of lockdown; partnering with the Red Wing School District for weekly arts lessons; and looking forward to diversified programming to ensure that everyone in Red Wing feels welcome at the Sheldon Theatre and art events.
Q&A with the new executive director
Q: How do you feel about staying in Red Wing?
A: I feel excited and a bit in awe of the responsibility. I’ve never worked with an organization that is so central to its community and so well known. You never run into someone in Red Wing who hasn’t been to a live performance in this theater, which is definitely not what I’m used to. It’s easy to remember here what all the work is for.
Q: What was the process of moving from interim to official director?
A: The board surprised me with the idea of staying on permanently after some conversations about extending my interim contract until the end of this year. I’ve enjoyed the Sheldon and the Red Wing community so much that it wasn’t a difficult decision.
Q: Will your job/responsibilities change at all now that you are the official executive director? If so, how?
A: As time has gone on, I’ve needed to take on the full responsibilities of the role beyond what would have been needed as an interim, so there won’t be a change in duties now. It feels different to me though because I’m no longer building a season of shows that I wouldn’t be present for. I’m glad I’ll get to still be at the Sheldon to show off everything we’ve been working towards.
Q: What are you hoping to do for the first few months to a year at the Sheldon?
A: We’ve just announced streaming shows for this spring, but my main goal for the next few months is a return to normal. I want to get artists and audiences back into the Sheldon and for the theater to get back to drawing people to support all of our neighbors downtown.
Q: How do your past experiences prepare you for this role?
A: Working in live theater at any level teaches you to be quick and infinitely adaptable. With the pressure of a fixed opening night, any problem needs to be met with an attitude of “what is possible right now to make this happen?” We’ve been faced with the opposite of a fixed opening over the last year, but it turns out that kind of urgency and creativity can get you pretty far in any kind of crisis. I’m looking forward to getting past COVID, but am very proud of the blood drives, video projects and arts classes for kids we’ve done while we wait.
Larson’s new title will be effective Monday, Feb. 22.