Sarah Rasmussen, the artistic director who revitalized Minneapolis’ Jungle Theater during her five-year tenure, is moving on.
The Star Tribune’s 2018 Artist of the Year and director of plays including “The Wolves,” Rasmussen will lead the multistage McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J. Rasmussen will take over from Emily Mann, who made McCarter a prime venue for new plays, also a specialty of Rasmussen’s. Such Broadway hits as “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike” originated at McCarter. Its 2020-21 season includes a new adaptation of “The Scarlet Letter” by Kate Hamill, whose “Little Women” Rasmussen commissioned at the Jungle.
At the same time, the Jungle’s interim managing director Robin Gillette has had the “interim” removed from her title and artistic associate Christina Baldwin has been named interim artistic director. All of this has been in the works for two months, but announcements were put on hold as theaters closed and altered plans.
“I’m so proud to have been working alongside Robin and Christina so much during my time here. The theater is in such good hands,” said Rasmussen, who said she’ll miss Twin Cities artists and audiences most. “Hold tight. We’re keeping the light on and we’re going to come back better than ever at the Jungle. The loyalty of our audiences is really special and we want to keep doing the kind of work audiences have come to love.”
The Jungle board of directors’ appointment of Baldwin tables a decision about permanently filling the job until the world is more settled. Baldwin, a Jordan, Minn., native who studied music and theater at Lawrence University, has been in a leadership role at the Jungle for two years, while acting in productions such as “Small Mouth Sounds” and directing “Miss Wickham.” She has performed throughout the Twin Cities, including at the Guthrie Theater and the Moving Company.
Rasmussen will assist with the transition, including raising funds to pay artists who lost work when theaters shuttered. She expects to be on the job in New Jersey on Aug. 1. Baldwin plans to hold course and keep the Jungle’s piece of the arts community thriving.
“Sarah is a remarkable person who doesn’t just give a man a fish but teaches him how to fish,” said Baldwin. “I have been one of the many people she creates space for in this community, so I am thrilled to have the chance to continue that legacy.”
The theater will launch its next season with “Redwood,” the March opening of which had to be canceled. The 2020-21 season announcement has been postponed, given the leadership change and uncertainty about when theaters will reopen, but Rasmussen said one upcoming show will be an adaptation of the board game “Clue,” since audiences are likely to want laughs when theater returns.
Baldwin, who is slated to direct that comic mystery, agreed. “It’s a nutty time,” she said. “But the sun is shining and we have to keep that positivity going.”