New leadership is in store for both Shakespeare Dallas and Dallas Children's Theater
Two storied Dallas theater companies have new leadership on the horizon.
Dallas Children's Theater, which is approaching its 40th anniversary season, has announced that founder Robyn Flatt will be stepping down as executive director in 2023, as soon as her replacement has been selected.
Meanwhile, Shakespeare Dallas has marked its 50th anniversary with the appointment of Karen Raehpour as the company’s new executive director, effective November 14, 2022. Raphael Parry had previously been covering the role in addition to his position as artistic director.
Dallas Children's Theater
Flatt is planning to refocus her energies in service of the Baker Idea Institute, a special DCT initiative, as well as continue directing plays and taking on special projects as needed for Dallas Children’s Theater.
In communicating her decision to the board of trustees, Flatt paid homage to her father, Paul Baker, the founding director of Dallas Theater Center and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, saying, “As you all know, thanks to my father, theater will forever be a part of the fabric of my life. It is what inspired me to take on what some said was the impossible mission of starting Dallas Children’s Theater in the early '80s. I am very proud that both he and I have been able to make significant contributions to the North Texas cultural landscape, contributions that I expect to continue for decades to come.”
Flatt co-founded DCT in 1984 with start-up funds of $500. Over the years, the theater presented shows and officed out of the old Withers Elementary building, El Centro Community College, and The Crescent Center when it was owned by Caroline Rose Hunt.
In the early 2000s, with the help of a strong board of community leaders, Flatt and the DCT team raised more than $14 million to purchase and renovate the old Don Carter Bowling Alley on Northwest Highway and Skillman. From its modest financial beginnings of $500, DCT has grown to a pre‑COVID annual budget of more than $4 million. The theater has 27 full-time staff members, 75 part-time employees, and currently 39 seasonal employees.
DCT has served more than 5 million children and families through a critically lauded annual season of plays and an arts-in-education school for children ages 3.5 to 18. Pre-COVID, DCT also produced a sought-after national tour that traveled to 31 cities and 26 states each year. DCT is considered one of the leading professional family theaters in the nation, and has always had a deliberate and visible commitment to diverse casting, culturally specific plays, and using the power of theater to spark important conversations.
In November 2020, DCT initiated an important first step in its succession plan when Nancy Schaeffer was elevated to the role of artistic director. Schaeffer’s association with DCT dates to its beginning days in 1984, when she was not only a leading actress in many productions but also took on the administration of its fledgling school of theater classes. With her energy and expertise, DCT’s school has grown to become a highly sought-after academy serving up to 4,000 students a year, and now includes a vibrant musical theater conservatory as well as the Blue Pegasus Players classes for children with sensory sensitivities.
The appointment of Karen Raehpour as executive director of Shakespeare Dallas was made after a national search was conducted under the guidance of professional search firm Martin Bragg & Associates.
“The Shakespeare Dallas board is thrilled to welcome Karen as our new executive director. Karen has impressive business acumen and a track record of leading successful teams,” says Lauren York, Shakespeare Dallas board chair. “We are excited to see what new heights Shakespeare Dallas will reach under Karen’s leadership as we enter the next 50 years as a company.”
Raehpour has an extensive business and theater background. With 25 years of business management experience, she has led the sales and marketing arms of several multi-million dollar manufacturing companies, traveled the globe mounting trade shows and corporate trainings, and owned and operated two event planning businesses. Most recently she served as the managing partner of RK Meetings and Events. Raehpour has a theater degree from Northwestern University, has worked as a professional equity actor in Chicago and Los Angeles, and has participated in over 100 productions.
As executive director, Raehpour will be responsible for strategy and leadership of the staff and the board of directors, marketing and audience development, company management and sustainability, fundraising, audience engagement, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She, along with artistic director Raphael Parry, will make up Shakespeare Dallas’ guiding management team.
“I have always been a great lover of Shakespeare’s timeless stories. These classics still resonate in today’s complex and often volatile world. His poetry teaches, inspires, and informs, touching hearts and minds. It is imperative that we continue to make this author available and accessible to Dallas audiences for many years to come,” says Raehpour. “The position of executive director marries my business skills with an abiding passion for the theater arts. We all need a mission, and with Shakespeare Dallas, I have found mine.”
Adds Parry, “I am excited to partner with Karen to continue serving Shakespeare Dallas by providing the highest quality programming with Shakespeare as our cornerstone. Karen’s appointment to executive director will allow me to focus on the artistic aspects of our company, which I look forward to.”