Debra Ann Byrd.

PHOENIX: The Southwest Shakespeare Company has appointed Debra Ann Byrd as the company’s new artistic director. Originally from Spanish Harlem in New York, Byrd is the founder of the Harlem Shakespeare Festival and an award-winning classically trained actress and producer.

“My mother is an African-American from New York; my father from Puerto Rico,” Byrd said in a statement. “My dual culture influenced my way of seeing the world and my way of doing theatre. I’m an Afro-Latina fluent in black theatre, gospel theatre, and classical theatre, with a particular focus on Shakespeare, which has helped shape who I am as a producer, actor, and director…I can’t wait to work with the Southwest Shakespeare team as we strive to create great theater for Arizona and the Southwest.

“This is a great moment for the Southwest Shakespeare Company,” Mary Way, executive director of the Southwest Shakespeare Company, said in a statement. “We worked with Debra Ann as artist-in-residence for three years. She brings a skill set and advanced industry experience… She is carefully decorated and it is an asset to our educational mission to have an artist who shares the Latin American and African American experience with our community.

Byrd, who began in this new position on January 1, is an emerging playwright and scholar best known for an acclaimed one-woman theatrical drama, Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey, which she performed at Shakespeare & Company and Lincoln Center. Byrd has been named Writer-in-Residence at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Artist-in-Residence at the Folger Institute, A’Lelia Bundles Community Fellow at Columbia University, and Virtual Artist-in-Residence at the Center at West. To park. She is also the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Sidney Berger Award, given by the Shakespeare Theater Association for her work on behalf of Shakespeare’s work.

The Southwest Shakespeare Company currently performs at the Mesa Arts Center and Taliesin West.

Founded in 1993, the Southwest Shakespeare Company is on a mission to educate, uplift, entertain and inspire communities in the Southwest.

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