October 26, 2022

Janet Allen: 'After nearly 40 years of service to the IRT, it's time for change, both for me and the institution'

After a forty-year career at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Janet Allen will retire from her position as Artistic Director next summer - WFYI's Taylor Bennett

After a forty-year career at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Janet Allen will retire from her position as Artistic Director next summer

WFYI's Taylor Bennett

After a 40-year career at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Janet Allen will retire as artistic director next summer. Her final season will also be the IRT’s 50th anniversary season. WFYI’s Taylor Bennett spoke with Allen about her career and what the season aims to bring the community. 

WFYI's Taylor Bennett:  You know, when you look back over your career, what are you most proud of?

IRT's Janet Allen: Oh my gosh, well, in big terms, probably two or three things. One of them is that the IRT is very sustainable, that sustainability, of course, took a big hit during the pandemic as our entire performing arts field did. But the fact that it has an excellent endowment, the IRT is well endowed -- we say laughingly, as well as seriously.

That is certainly something I'm very proud of, because I grew up in central Illinois, where I had no access to professional theatre, and I want people of all generations in this state to have the opportunity to see professional theatre and see it beautifully produced and see it produced for them not for blank national audience, you know, just that roadshows do where they're not performing, or curating for particular community. They're just sending art around the country, which also has tremendous value. But that's not what we do.

Another piece I'm very proud of is the Indiana series. When I became artistic director 27 years ago to what I saw as a void was that all three of my predecessors were New Yorkers, and they wanted to make work that was principally resonant to a sort of national population. And that was a great thing at that point. But I wanted to make play specific work. So we commissioned and or found about 20 plays in the last 27 years that have really been about place, about either a person or a historic moment. Usually some of each of those in those plays. That makes me very proud.

It gave a local and regional audience an opportunity to see themselves in some way or other reflected on the stage and you know, Indiana's the flyover zone. This is the place that people on the coast say, well, there aren't any stories, but, there's deep, deep, amazing stories.

Bennett: When you stay in a career for a long time, you have to have a love and a passion for it. And maybe there's no way around it and I guess they always say you know, if you love a job, then it's never going to be a job. Is that what you think? I mean is that why you stayed so long?

Allen: Absolutely.   It's been a very few number of days that I say boy, it feels like a job today. Most of the time, I feel like just the luckiest human because I get to watch and help artists make art.

Bennett:  Well now it's time for a new chapter. What does retirement look like for you?

Allen: I am really looking forward to just sort of time moving in a different way. COVID has been particularly, particularly hard. My ... I keep calling it graduation, Taylor, I'm graduating. I'm not sure from what I keep that word keeps coming. So when I graduate I'm just really looking at time being different being able to make more choices about how I spend my time to be able to travel more.

I have said sort of tongue in cheek but not really for the last couple years. I'm really looking forward to spending about two years reading only what I want to read -- which as much as I love spreadsheets will not be spreadsheets.  I'm looking forward to spending more time with family and not just in the little few weeks the theatrical schedule allows. 

Bennett: Absolutely. Good luck with everything and thank you for everything that you've done for the IRT. 

Allen:   It's been one my great joys.

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