The GREAT Theatre Board of Directors has appointed Lacey Schirmers as the organization’s Executive Director. Over the past six months, the board has been working collaboratively with its leadership staff to determine what GREAT needs in its next Executive Director – for the organization and our community. A process of evaluating the strengths and skills that the current GREAT Theatre staff hold led the Board to the confidence that Lacey Schirmers is the best person for the role of Executive Director as the organization moves into a new chapter.

“We are thrilled to see Lacey take over as Executive Director and look forward to seeing GREAT continue to thrive under her leadership,” said GREAT Theatre Board Chair Cassie Miles. “She is a strategic leader with a deep understanding of the business operations, has developed meaningful relationships within the community, and is genuinely passionate about and committed to GREAT’s mission.”

For the past six months, Lacey has been serving as Interim Executive Director upon the resignation of founder and Executive Director Dennis Wachtler-Whipple. Prior to that, she was GREAT’s Managing Director for seven years, working closely with Dennis and the Board of Directors.

“The founder cannot be replaced, but the passion and care Dennis put into building GREAT over the last 25 years allows the vision to be carried forward and expanded upon,” said Cassie. Lacey elaborated, “We are a resilient organization, much to Dennis’ credit. He undoubtedly was the driving force in GREAT’s growth and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside him for many years. One of the greatest things I learned from him was to continually push to do better and be better. I will definitely be carrying that with me as we continue to evolve and move forward”.

Lacey’s business leadership has been integral to GREAT’s recent success – financially, strategically, and in building meaningful relationships both internally and externally to bring our community together through the transformative power of the arts. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Marketing from St. Cloud State University and has excelled in overseeing all aspects of the organization’s internal operations including finance and accounting; marketing, communications and design; fund development; and general administration. Lacey’s proven track record, particularly in financial management, has been essential in making the artistic vision possible to grow GREAT’s Broadway quality reputation and community impact to what it is today.

“This is good news for the community. I’m excited for GREAT and for Lacey Schirmers. She’ll bring intelligence and good judgement to the role of Executive Director. We’ve collaborated over the years, and I find Lacey to be creative, thorough, and always respectful of others. She’s a terrific partner in the arts.” said Bob Johnson, Executive Director for the Paramount Center for the Arts.

GREAT’s recent work has been grounded in cultivating a culture of equity that’s rooted in collaboration and building a strong sustainable foundation while pioneering innovative solutions to continue meeting the needs of our ever-evolving community.

Lacey expressed, “We’ve been working towards this and growing our team intentionally over the past several years. I am humbled and grateful to step into this role for GREAT knowing we are so well- positioned for continued success.”

The leadership team supporting Lacey includes Kendra Norton Dando as Artistic & Education Director, Allyson Richert as Artistic Director, Nick Loweree as Production Director, and Colin Jarrell as Technical Director. With the depth of knowledge and breadth of experience the leadership team has, they are well poised to lead GREAT Theatre into the future.

Kendra has been GREAT’s Education Director for nearly four years. During the interim she has also been acting as Artistic Director and will continue in this new role collectively leading these two areas to be more cohesive, effective and impactful. Kendra holds a Master of Theatre in Production and Design and has over fifteen years of experience in education and theatre. Prior to GREAT, she built multiple successful theatre programs for middle and high schools from the ground up, directed youth and adults in over 50 productions in a variety of genres, and presented nationally on the topics of social justice and theatre.

The other voice leading artistic direction is Allyson Richert. She got her start with GREAT as a choreographer for Cinderella last year and it wasn’t long after working with her that a permanent full-time position was created specifically for her. Allyson holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater Performance, has performed in three Broadway national tours as well as many regional tours, has over ten years of experience teaching dance, and is well connected in the industry. Together, Kendra and Allyson bring unique perspectives and multiple voices to the artistic direction, supporting GREAT’s commitment to equity, collaboration, and sustainability.

GREAT’s first hire upon rebuilding from the pandemic last spring was Nick Loweree, in a new position for the organization. As the Production Director he is responsible for all aspects of show production ensuring a high quality and safe production process that puts people first. Nick has a master of Fine Arts in Stage Management and over 14 years of experience working with professional opera and theater companies nationally. Rounding out the leadership team is Colin Jarrell, who holds the longest tenure as he enters his 12th season with GREAT Theatre. Colin has a Bachelor of Science in Theater and has been instrumental to the increased production quality as GREAT has grown exponentially over the last decade.

“It’s the collective strength of our entire team that will lead GREAT into a sustainable future. I’m honored to lead a strong team of leaders themselves”, concluded Lacey. “I am proud of all that GREAT Theatre has accomplished and I am excited for what the future holds as we continue to bring people together through the power of the arts, building a more vibrant community for everyone”.