Jungle names Sarah Rasmussen artistic director

Courtesy of the Jungle Theater
Sarah Rasmussen

Bain Boehlke is winding down 25 years as founding artistic director of the Jungle Theater. He’s about to move to Seattle. And he couldn’t be happier with his successor, Sarah Rasmussen.

“I think this might be the first woman artistic director in Minneapolis appointed by a board,” Boehlke said. “There are not that many women artistic directors. We have four in our town, but these are all founder women; they made their own theaters. … I’m so proud of the board’s choice. I think the selection of Sarah was quite enlightened.”

Rasmussen already has ties to the Twin Cities. A South Dakota native, she fell in love with theater after seeing shows at the Children’s Theatre Company and the Guthrie. She earned her B.A. in theater from St. Olaf. Her directing credits include “Collected Stories” at the Playwrights’ Center, Jason Grote’s “1001” and Josh Tobiessen’s “Crashing the Party” for Mixed Blood, “Seven” for Ten Thousand Things, and Sarah Ruhl’s “In the Next Room” for the Jungle in 2012.

“She came to the theater a number of times, and I knew her as a colleague,” Boehlke said. “She brought ‘In the Next Room’ to me” – she served as assistant director in the Broadway production – “and I really loved the play, and I was keen on designing it, so I asked her if she would direct it. That was our first professional association. She did a great job with the play.” The Jungle’s production of “In the Next Room” won a 2013 Ivey Award for overall excellence.

Boehlke had a feeling that Rasmussen might apply for the artistic director position at the Jungle. “There are a handful of directors who have actually directed at the theater, and of course they were interested unless they had other engagements. We had over 60 applicants from around the country. …We didn’t have that many applicants who are women. That surprised me. … If I were a woman director, I would have made my presence felt, because this is a great place to make theater.”

What impressed Boehlke and the board about Rasmussen was “how she articulated the ongoing vision of the Jungle, the depth at which she understood the theater’s core and what its arc of intention is. … I very much like her energy, but the main thing that sold me on Sarah was the openness of her spirit, how she listens and how carefully she can articulate her thoughts and her perspectives.”

In addition to her work in Minneapolis, Rasmussen’s résumé includes directing and developing new work at the Humana Festival, Marin Theatre Company, O’Neill Playwrights Conference, La Jolla Playhouse, and many more. She served for three seasons as resident director for Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Black Swan Lab, a new work development program; last season she directed “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” OSF’s first all-female Shakespeare production.

A 2011 Princess Grace Award recipient, Rasmussen has her MFA in directing from the University of California San Diego. She currently serves as head of the MFA directing program at the University of Texas at Austin, a position she will leave for her new job as the Jungle’s artistic director.

“I think she chose this without a second thought because the opportunity is so incredible,” Boehlke said. “The Jungle right now is fiscally so successful, and artistically it’s in such a great arc of creative activity. The staff is fantastic and the theater has been all but renewed over the last two years. … It’s great for Sarah to be coming into an organization that is at its zenith. This is a major change in this theater’s life, and I think it is going to flourish and flower in new and exciting ways.”

The naming of Boehlke’s successor at the Jungle comes six weeks after the news that Joseph Haj will take over for Joe Dowling at the Guthrie. Asked when he and Dowling first conspired to step down in the same year, Boehlke laughed. “I know – and on the same day! He is leaving on June 30, and so am I. He’s going to New York, and I’m going to Seattle. I guess we’re getting as far apart from each other as we can!”

Boehlke is wasting no time relocating to Seattle; he departs July 1. “It will be good for me not to be in town when a new artistic director takes over. I am afraid my feet would walk right down there and I would become more of a burden than a help.”

But he’ll be back. “Sarah and I are quite close in our vision, and I know that she respects my work, and we’ve already talked about my coming back to direct some shows.”

The picks

Tonight (Tuesday, March 31) at the Roseville Library: Club Book presents Marisa de los Santos. The author of “Love Walked In,” “Belong to Me” and “Falling Together,” all New York Times bestsellers, reads from her latest, “The Precious One,” about friends at a college reunion. 7 p.m. Free.

Tonight at the Dakota: Eliane Elias Trio. Cool but steamy Brazilian-infused jazz. A five-time Grammy nominee, pianist and vocalist Elias is out with her latest album, “Made in Brazil,” which comes out today on the Concord label. Recorded in Brazil, it’s a mix of originals with songs by Jobim and other standards. 7 and 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25-$40).

Wednesday at the Cedar: A Winged Victory for the Sullen. Stately, elegant, profoundly beautiful ambient music that takes its time, performed on piano, strings, drone, electronics, harp and synthesizers. Composers Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran are touring behind their second album, “Atomos,” commissioned by London choreographer Wayne McGregor (who brought his Random Dance company to Northrop in January). More mood than melody, sounds layer with fleeting emotions: melancholy, bliss, anxiety, wistfulness. Listen here. Locsil (Scott Morgan) opens. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30. All ages. FMI and tickets ($18/$20).

Wednesday at Subtext Books: Stew Thornley talks about his baseball books. An official scorer for Minnesota Twins home games, sports historian Thornley has written more than 40 books including “The Saint Paul Saints: Baseball in the Capital City” and “Minnesota Twins Through Memorabilia.” He’ll talk about the legacy of the Saints, fan favorite memories, and bobbleheads.7 p.m. Free.

Thursday at the Continuing Education and Conference Center on the U’s St. Paul campus: Headliners: “The Future of Robots and Sensors.” Good robots, evil robots, friendly robots, robots that seem friendly before trying to kill us. Who doesn’t love robots? This talk by Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos, a professor in the U’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering, will likely touch on pop culture before getting down to the serious business of exploring how robotics is changing our lives. Register here ($15).

The weekend

Thursday-Saturday at the Cowles: Shapiro & Smith Dance: “Tableau Vivant.” Popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tableaux vivants (“living pictures”) were allegorical or historical scenes, silently posed by costumed actors or artists’ models. For women of the time, they were opportunities to explore new identities during the fight for suffrage. Choreographer Joanie Smith’s tableaux come to life on the Cowles’ stage to original music by Scott Killian and text by Brian Sostek (Sossy Mechanics). Five dancers from the company (Laura Selle Virtucio, Kari Mosel, Lauren Baker, Stephanie Schroeder and Mirabai Miller) will be joined by Zoe Sealy, Erin Thompson, Judith Howard and Mary Moore Easter. Also on the program: the premiere of “Ravel x3,” with music by Ravel. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30).

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