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Ian Gallanar ’87 Leads International Shakespeare Association

Ian Gallanar

Ian Gallanar ’87, founder and artistic director of Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in Baltimore, was elected president of the Shakespeare Theatre Association in January 2019 at the international organization’s 30th conference, taking place in the Czech Republic.

The association’s members are the artistic directors, managing directors, and education directors of nearly 150 theaters worldwide dedicated to producing the works of William Shakespeare.

“Live performances of Shakespeare are among our culture’s richest experiences,” Gallanar said. “It’s such a privilege to help share the conversation about great art with the entire world. It is an unbelievable honor for me to help steward this international organization. The Shakespeare Theatre Association is a remarkable peer-to-peer network for the leaders of the world’s Shakespeare theaters. I am so honored to be able to serve STA as its president over the next two years.”

As a resource for leaders of classical theaters, the association examines the practice, presentation, relevance, interpretation, and application of Shakespeare’s plays on public stages, in universities, and in middle- and high-school classrooms where theater artists support and supplement lessons in literature, language arts, and drama. Though their approaches and languages differ, association members are united in their commitment to explore, question, and even challenge the cultural, social, and political content in Shakespeare’s plays as they cast and direct them.

Many are innovators, pushing the boundaries of the performing arts on and off the stage. While some are devoted to original practices in classical theater, others are exploring and creating modern uses for Shakespeare’s words and works. Many are harnessing the power of the performing arts—and Shakespeare’s plays—in off-stage settings where storytelling creates opportunities for shared experience, common ground, and community.

The association’s annual conference is where the theater directors discuss leadership and management issues, and their nontraditional work in economically disadvantaged populations, in therapeutic programs, in prisons, in programs serving military veterans, in the social justice arena, and beyond. Topics addressed at the 2019 conference include how theaters use classical plays in schools to address issues such as bullying and reflections on how America’s #MeToo movement may affect the public performance of some of Shakespeare’s plays.

“I am proud to represent Baltimore and the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company as part of the leadership of such an important group,” Gallanar said. His involvement with the association began in 1997 when he worked with Minnesota Shakespeare in the Park. In 2002, he founded Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in Maryland. Today, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company performs year-round in a downtown Baltimore landmark building and each summer outdoors in the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City, Maryland. His most recent projects included directing Henry IV, Parts I and II, which opened in February.

During a conference session on theater leadership, Gallanar and Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s managing director, Lesley Malin, told their peers about their company’s growth and success. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company was the conference host in 2017, introducing theater directors from around the world to the thriving arts scene in Baltimore. Attending the conference in Prague with Gallanar were several trustees of Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, representing the Baltimore business community’s support for the arts.

For Baltimore and for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, this is a leap onto the international stage and a tremendous leadership opportunity. The future of classical theater depends on the innovation, excitement, and accessibility of STA member theater companies like Chesapeake Shakespeare Company.

Shakespeare Theatre Association member theaters and festivals large and small include Shakespeare’s Globe (England), Folger Theatre (United States), Stratford Festival (Canada), Bremer Shakespeare Company (Germany), Fundación Shakespeare Argentina (Argentina), Perchance Theatre at Cupids (Newfoundland), Teatro Shakespeariano all’aperto Licinium (Italy), and Seoul Shakespeare Company (South Korea), to name just a few. The 2019 conference host was Prague Shakespeare Company.