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ArtsEmerson expands leadership team

ArtsEmerson, which has been a game-changing force in Boston theater since debuting five years ago, is now undergoing a change of its own.

Starting in March, the leadership of the presenting and producing organization will expand to a triumvirate, as artistic director David Dower and creative director Polly Carl are joined by David C. Howse. Currently the executive director of the Boston Children’s Chorus, Howse will become managing director at ArtsEmerson, which is a branch of Emerson College’s Office of the Arts.

In a joint interview, Dower, Carl, and Howse indicated that a primary goal is to deepen ArtsEmerson’s civic engagement so that it reflects the more diverse Boston of today as fully as possible, both in terms of its programming and its audience. “We really believe that the theater belongs to everybody in the city of Boston,’’ said Carl, 48. “We’re about creating an environment in the theater that really is an invitation to anyone.’’

Diversity, or the lack thereof, on the stage and especially in the audience is a frequent topic of concern and discussion in theater circles. Dower, Carl, and Howse made clear that reaching out to Boston’s African-American, Latino, Asian-American, and other communities will be key to building a more inclusive institution.


“Our opportunity is to build new narratives within these communities,’’ said Howse, 39. “It’s not about pushing into communities of color, but understanding and celebrating what’s already there. The relationship has to be grown and reshaped, and it starts with listening.’’

Dower, 56, agreed, saying that his ambition is for ArtsEmerson to be “a cultural organization that is focused on a mission of civic transformation through the arts,’’ with programming that brings the story of “who we are as contemporary Boston into alignment with contemporary realities.’’

He emphasized, though, that ArtsEmerson will not retreat from the international programming that has been one of the organization’s hallmarks. By the time this season ends, the tally will be more than 80 productions from 16 countries since its founding.


It has been only a month since founder Robert J. Orchard wrapped up his acclaimed tenure as the head of ArtsEmerson. Dower succeeded Orchard, but he chose to swap the title of executive director for that of artistic director, aiming for a collaborative leadership structure.

Under that structure, Dower will have primary responsibility for the development of “artistic vision’’ and the implementation of that vision through ArtsEmerson programming. Carl will assist with artistic programming and take charge of institutional branding while remaining director of HowlRound, a website that serves as a “commons’’ where theater practitioners can share information and resources. Howse will be in charge of daily operations, fund-raising, long-range planning, and organizational strategy.

Don Aucoin can be reached at aucoin@globe.com.