Bethesda’s Imagination Stage names Janet Stanford new leader

Bethesda’s Imagination Stage names new leader

Theater’s board of directors approved new leadership structure on Monday

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Janet Stanford

Photo courtesy of Imagination Stage

Bethesda-based children’s theater Imagination Stage announced Tuesday that Janet Stanford will lead the organization starting Jan. 1 as its producing artistic director.

The nonprofit organization wrote in a press release Monday afternoon that Stanford, the founding artistic director, will become the theater’s senior leader, overseeing “strategic direction.”

“As Producing Artistic Director, Stanford will lead the organization to reach its mission to empower young people to discover their voice and identity through performing arts education and professional theatre,” the release said.

Board President Patrick O’Neil said in the press release that the organization is facing “some of its greatest challenges” due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Throughout her tenure with Imagination Stage, Janet has led the organization from a community-based arts organization to a nationally significant regional Theatre for Young Audiences and arts education provider,” O’Neil said.

“… The board has full faith that Janet’s creativity, vision, and — most importantly — dedication to bettering the lives of DC-area children and families, will prove to be the right leadership for this unprecedented moment,” he said.

Imagination Stage Executive Director and founder Bonnie Fogel announced earlier this year that she would step down from the role Jan. 1 and take on a part-time role, in charge of fundraising, institutional advancement and entrepreneurial endeavors. She planned to work on two new initiatives — the organization’s expansion into Washington, D.C., and a program it is starting this year with Whittle School and Studios.

Imagination Stage’s main facility is a 40,000-square-foot building in Bethesda.

At the time, the theater planned to conduct a search to hire a managing director. Instead, Imagination Stage’s board voted on Monday to change the organization’s leadership structure.

Meghann Babo-Shroyer, currently the associate managing director, will become managing director. Babo-Shroyer will be in charge of institutional development and financial management, the press release stated.

Imagination Stage Director of Education and Theatre for Change Joanne Seelig Lamparter will take on the title of Artistic Director – Education and Theatre for Change, the press release stated. She and Babo-Shroyer will report to Stanford.

Stanford has worked with Imagination Stage since 1993, according to the news release. She has twice been nominated for the Helen Hayes Awards for best director and has written several children’s plays. In 2017, Stanford won the Harold Oaks Award for Innovation in Theatre for Young Audiences.

Stanford said in the press release that she is honored to lead the organization.

“This new leadership structure not only allows us to reinvest in the team but positions us well to tackle new challenges and opportunities for years to come,” she said.

Fogel founded the organization in 1979 as Bethesda Academy of Performing Arts “in response to the urgent need for arts education for young people,” Imagination Stage’s website says.

Staff writer Caitlynn Peetz contributed to this story.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdsamagazine.com

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