Since last October, Tinashe Kajese-Bolden and Chris Moses have been serving as interim artistic directors of the Alliance Theatre, filling in after Susan Booth left to become artistic director of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.
The board of the Alliance Theatre announced today that after a national search, Kajese-Bolden and Moses will assume permanent roles as artistic directors.
It marks the first time in the Alliance’s 55-year history the appointment of two artistic directors – working in tandem to set the artistic and educational offerings of the theater. The announcement also was made as the Alliance is presenting its latest musical – “Water for Elephants” – hoping it is bound for Broadway.
Kajese-Bolden, who moved to Atlanta 10 years ago, has been the BOLD Associate Artistic Director for the past four years. Moses has had a 20-year career with the Alliance, most recently as the Dan Reardon Director of Education as well as Associate Artistic Director.
The Alliance conducted a “robust national search” with the help of the Russell Reynolds firm for a new artistic director. Kajese-Bolden and Moses jointly applied for the role.
Mike Schleifer, managing director of the Alliance Theatre, could not hide his enthusiasm about the choice.
“I’m absolutely euphoric,” Schleifer said. “I’m smitten. I’m thrilled.”
Schleifer said he adored Booth and was devasted when she announced she was leaving Atlanta.
But since October, a true partnership has developed among the three top executives of the Alliance.
“In a perfect world, you get to test drive the model,” Schleifer said. “For the last eight months, we have built a partnership. It has been joyous.”
Plus, the Alliance did not have to go outside Atlanta to hire someone.
“It takes some time to figure out a community, the mood of the place,” Schleifer said. “Tinashe and Chris have been here for years – long enough to be deeply embedded in the community.”
In an interview before the announcement, Kajese-Bolden and Moses said they focused on the task at hand rather than the possibility of being named to the permanent role.
“The gift of these last 10 months is that we were really able to demonstrate proof of concept, proof of how we work together, proof of how we move through decisions,” Kajese-Bolden said. “Day one, Chris and I came to this with deep respect, love and friendship for each other. But we were clear-eyed that we couldn’t rely on that and take it for granted.”
The presence of Schleifer also has been essential.
“It forces us to make a decision. Somebody is always going to be the tiebreaker,” she said. The three of them working together ensures “radical transparency with very little daylight” on the decisions they make.
Both Kajese-Bolden and Moses credited Booth for helping mentor them. They also spoke of the leadership and influence of Kenny Leon, who preceded Booth as artistic director. They know they are following two national role models.
Moses said they all are driven to fulfill the mission of the Alliance – to be Atlanta’s national theater, expanding hearts and minds on stage and off.
“The best trait I have is a deep and unapologetic abiding love for this theater and this city,” Moses said.
While he has been focused on theater education and Kajese-Bolden has been a director, actor and producer, they are two human beings leading artistic change.
“What I love about this statement is it blurs the lines of what is art and what is education until these two things are not separate entities,” Moses said. “They are both vital to the mission of this theater.”
The new leadership structure will support the expected growth of the Alliance over the next five years and strengthen its role as a cultivator of new works for all audiences and a leader in arts education.
“Three things make them the ideal candidates for this role,” said Jocelyn Hunter, board chair of the Alliance who also chaired the search committee, in a statement. “First, each is extraordinarily talented. Second, they have had a remarkable impact on the Alliance during their period of interim leadership. Third, their vision for the theater’s continued relevance and growth is ambitious and compelling.”
During their tenure as interim artistic directors, Kajese-Bolden and Moses embarked on a campaign to fund the building of a new performance space devoted to expanding the Alliance’s programming for youth audiences.
They also programmed the Alliance’s 2023/24 season, which will include four world premieres, two recent Pulitzer Prize-winning works and multiple partnerships. The two, working with the respective selection committees, also chose the winning play and finalists of the 20th Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition and the projects to be developed in the 9th Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab.
Schleifer said it is not taking two people to succeed Booth. Rather he said, “what Tinashe and Chris have done is taken two people to grow the artistic expectation of the Alliance.”
Background info on Kajese-Bolden and Moses:
Tinashe Kajese-Bolden is an award-winning Director, Actor, and Producer. She is a recipient of the Princess Grace Award for Directing. Recent directing credits include “Toni Stone” (co-production between Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Alliance Theatre), “The Many Wondrous Realities of Jasmine Starr-Kidd” and “Nick’s Flamingo Grill” (World Premieres at the Alliance Theatre), “School Girls,” “Or the African Mean Girls Play” (Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre), “Ghost” (Alliance Theatre), “Native Gardens” (Virginia Stage Company), “Pipeline” (Horizon Theater), and “Eclipsed” (Synchronicity Theatre, Best Director Suzi Bass Award).
She has also worked as a director and actor regionally and on and off Broadway. As the BOLD Associate Artistic Director at Alliance Theatre, Kajese-Bolden stewarded the Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab, cultivating new works for Atlanta-based artists, and oversaw the Spelman Leadership Fellowship, the first mentorship program of its kind partnering a regional theatre with a historically Black college and university to offer paid career opportunities for students interested in arts leadership positions.
Chris Moses has worked in professional theater for twenty years and was awarded the Governor’s Award for Arts and Humanities for his work in the field. After working at the Alliance for ten years, he became the Director of Education in 2011, overseeing the Alliance Theatre Institute (twice recognized as an Arts Model by the Federal Department of Education), Theatre for Youth and Families programming, and the Acting Program.
Under his leadership, the Alliance launched its Kathy & Ken Bernhardt Theatre for the Very Young program, providing fully interactive professional theater experiences for children ages newborn through five; the Alliance Teen Ensemble, performing world premiere plays commissioned for and about teens; Palefsky Collision Project, where teens produce new work after colliding with a classic text; and Alliance@work, a professional development program designed for the business sector.
Moses also expanded the Alliance’s summer camp program to serve over 3,000 children in multiple locations across Atlanta. In 2014, Chris added the title Associate Artistic Director and has continued to expand the Alliance’s commissioned works for youth and family audiences.
SaportaReport’s Megan Anderson contributed to this report.