Old Globe announces key leadership changes, expands role of Freedome Bradley-Ballentine
Longtime arts engagement director will take on additional role as associate artistic director, replacing outgoing associate artistic director Travis LeMont Ballenger
Freedome Bradley-Ballentine, who arrived at the Old Globe nearly five years ago to lead the newly formed department of arts engagement, has been been named today to the additional role of associate artistic director at the Balboa Park theater.
Bradley-Ballentine will replace outgoing associate artistic director Travis LeMont Ballenger, who is moving to New York to join the producing team on the new Broadway show about Michael Jackson, “MJ, The Musical,” and he will be part of the Broadway incarnation of the Globe-born musical “Almost Famous.”
Like Ballenger, Bradley-Ballentine will share the AAD role with Justin Waldman. Bradley-Ballentine said his goal is to continue expanding opportunities for diverse new theatrical voices at the Globe.
“These are stories not typically told at the Globe. To take the stories developed in the community and bring them to the Globe is something I find thrilling,” he said. “Having these stories be prioritized within the organization is something I find to be exciting.”
Bradley-Ballentine’s expanded role is one of a number of Globe hiring announcements made today. Globe artistic director Barry Edelstein said Ballenger’s departure provided an opportunity to rearrange the artistic management team at the 85-year-old theater. Katherine Harroff, who most recently served as arts engagement programs manager, has been promoted to support Bradley-Ballentine as associate director of arts engagement. And Jesse Perez, who runs the Old Globe/University of San Diego Shiley Graduate Theatre Program, will now be a member of the Globe’s senior leadership team.
Edelstein said that Bradley-Ballentine’s new role, and those of the other Globe appointees, come at a key time in history. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Black theater artists nationwide have called for change in the leadership, hiring and programming at American theaters. Last week, We See You White American Theatre unveiled a 31-page list of demands to diversify the leadership of American theater companies and provide more opportunities and visibility for Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) artists. Of the new team, Bradley-Ballentine, like Ballenger, is Black, Perez is LatinX and Harroff is a woman.
“In Freedome, San Diego has one of the most vital and visionary leaders in the American theater, and he’s in a small group of major Black institutional leaders. He’s unquestionably one of the foremost in the country,” Edelstein said. “That group is going to grow through the work that Freedome and the Globe will do together. This amplifies their voices and positions of power within the administrative structure of the institution. There are not enough Black voices and voices of color in the leadership of these historically white institutions.”
In his new enhanced role, Bradley-Ballentine said he wants to take some of the scripts developed in the arts engagement department’s community programs and build a pathway to bring them to the Globe stage. He also mentioned developing the newly launched Living Room Play Workshop, a home-based storytelling platform that allows diverse artists from around the country to tell their own stories “focused on what’s going on now, what’s going on in their lives, what happened in their past and what’s in their future.”
One of Bradley-Ballentine’s chief initial projects is to develop the Globe’s comprehensive plan for responding to the nation’s civil unrest in the 100 days following Floyd’s killing on May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police. That 100-day plan will be unveiled later this summer.
With the Globe’s three stages now shuttered indefinitely by the pandemic, Bradley-Ballentine said he’s enjoying spending time at home discussing new projects with his wife, nationally renowned theater director Patricia McGregor and playing with their two children, ages 2 and 5. Lately, he’s been reading books about fighting racism and studying the works of James Baldwin, a Black novelist, poet, essayist and playwright who wrote about racial, class and sexual struggles in mid-20th century America. That reading has inspired Bradley-Ballentine’s enthusiasm for the tasks ahead.
“James Baldwin once said ‘Fires can’t be made with dead embers … enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks,’ ” Bradley-Ballentine said. “We have an opportunity to create work that values both excellence and relevance, as well as take major strides to make San Diego arts more equitable. I look forward to developing new artistic relationships, not just in San Diego but throughout the United States.”
-- Pam Kragen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune
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