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Meet Our New Chief Artistic Programming Officer

Imagination Stage is thrilled to welcome Joanne Seelig Lamparter–formerly our Artistic Director for Education and Theatre for Change–into her new role as Chief Artistic Programming Officer. We spoke with Joanne to learn more about her history with Imagination Stage, her goals as a leader of our organization, and her vision for the future. 

IS: What was your first interaction with Imagination Stage and why do you continue to work here?

Joanne: I started as a student! I was a member of our Deaf Access program, back when we were the Bethesda Academy of Performing Arts (BAPA). It was my first introduction to the value of our access and inclusion programs and the bridge that theatre can build between cultures. And I LOVED performing for young audiences.

I then joined our staff in 2014 as Director of Education. I have loved working at IStage because I’m a lifelong learner, and when you work with youth and in theatre, you are always learning about the world, about different types of people, and about the value of community.  

IS: As Artistic Director for Education and Theatre for Change, how did you bring  a social justice lens into the work Imagination Stage does?

Joanne: I am concerned with what kids think and feel and how they respond to what's important in THEIR world. Whether it’s an issue of being in a new community as a migrant youth and encountering difficulties in school, whether it's about community policing or mass incarceration---these are all LOCAL issues that impact our young people. Our programs provide tools for students to showcase their resilience and to grow conversations between groups, allowing them to better hear each other, empathize with each other, and make their communities better.

My background is in applied theatre, and as such, I have felt that we should go beyond simply teaching theatre technique and provide students a space to learn positive risk taking, imagine new scenarios, and step into someone else’s shoes. This is what is needed to make healthier and happier communities, and today’s youth deserve hope for a better future. Our programs can provide that.

IS: What do you envision for the future of Imagination Stage and what do you hope to achieve in your new role?

Joanne: I believe we have a solid foundation at our Bethesda location, but our future is really beyond our four walls. Our future is in non-traditional community spaces: libraries, prisons, school classrooms, museums, community centers, etc. It is where young people gather.  We can no longer rely on people to come to our theatrical home; we need to come to them. 

Our goal is to increase access to the arts, and we aim to boost our number of participants who receive programming free of charge from 30% to 50% over the next five years. I firmly support this and believe arts education can help in reducing the achievement gap, so our work with schools and communities has an important part to play in changing the landscape of education.  

IS: How will the work you have been doing in Education and Theatre for Change influence how you lead as Chief Artistic Programming Officer?

Joanne: I intend to center the youth voice in every programming decision I make. We are a positive youth development organization at our core, so that is what needs to guide programming decisions: How is this program good for a young person? How does it center the youth voice?

IS: What are you most looking forward to in your new position?

Joanne: Getting to work even more closely with our incredible stakeholders (internal and external) to ensure Imagination Stage's programming has meaning within our local community while being a national leader in arts education.

To learn more about Joanne and her passion for theatre education, check out this video.

Join us for our 2024 Annual Gala: Celebrating the Women who Made Imagination Stage to honor Joanne along with so many other amazing women! This event will take place on Friday, May 10 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC. Single tickets are now on sale in addition to sponsorship opportunities; more information on these can be found on our support page.

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