Concrete Theatre bids fond Farewell to AD Mieko Ouchi
November 24, 2020 (Edmonton) – It is with excitement and sadness that Concrete Theatre’s Board of Directors announces the departure of Artistic Director Mieko Ouchi.
After 31 years, as co-founder and current Artistic Director, Mieko will be transitioning away from full time involvement with the company over the next few months, and stepping down to an Associate Artist role at the company in order to take on the new full time role of TD Associate Artistic Director at the Citadel Theatre.
“Mieko’s passion for bringing theatre to young audiences has helped to drive and grow Concrete for many years. Her vision, right from the beginning, was to create a company that valued diversity and inclusion. She has succeeded immeasurably in amplifying the voices of BIPOC and female identifying artists,” says Board Chair, Emily Vespi. “I particularly admire Mieko’s ability to build community and make people feel welcome. She brings this warmth and humanity to her artistic direction and her work with the Board. While we will miss Mieko’s gentle guiding force, we are so proud of her and are thrilled for her to bring her gifts to a larger stage.”
Mieko’s involvement with Concrete Theatre began at its earliest stages, as one of the original founding five artists who started the company, working as part of the Artistic Collective throughout the early years, then as Co-Artistic Director with celebrated colleagues like Jared Matsunaga-Turnbull, Elyne Quan and Caroline Howarth among others, before stepping into the sole Artistic Director role in 2014. During her time at Concrete, she helped to successfully transition the organization from a small independent company working project to project to a mid-sized, nationally recognized organization with operational funding from all three levels of government, an award winning roster of commissions and new Canadian plays, a national tour schedule, and the home of the 20 year old new play incubator: The Sprouts New Play Festival for Kids .
“I am so proud to have spent my entire adult life, and my entire artistic career to date as part of Concrete Theatre. It has been my north star and my home where I learned to work in community, to collaborate and to become an artistic leader, especially in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, which have been at the heart of the company, and my own practice, since the beginning,” Mieko says. “Seeing the company grow, and the relationships I have developed have inspired and sustained me. I am incredibly grateful to my General Manager Patrick Beagan, my Artistic Associate Caroline Howarth, my Booking Coordinator Heather Cornick, my board chair Emily Vespi, our board, the 3.7% Initiative community, our past staff, and the many artists, stakeholders and community members who have nurtured my development and prepared me for the exciting challenges ahead. I am honored to join the Citadel in my new role as TD Associate Artistic Director, but I am also pleased to leave Concrete Theatre both fiscally sound and as ready as it can be to take on the enormous challenges that face all arts organizations in this unprecedented time. As Associate Artist at Concrete, I will be there to help support in any way I can, as the company moves forward with exciting new leadership.”
Mieko’s work at Concrete has been notable for her deep support of new plays and writers of TYA, including many first time playwrights or writers’ first dives into writing for children and youth. She commissioned and premiered an extensive roster of new plays by playwrights including: Collin Doyle, Mark Haroun, Jana O’Connor, Vern Thiessen, Joel Crichton, and Richard Lee Hsi, Josh Dalledonne and Bianca Miranda and Dave Clarke, as well as workshopping and developing the work of over 60 diverse writers as part of Sprouts . As a playwright, she also wrote four full length plays for children and teens which debuted at the company: Decisions, Decisions , The Bully Project , I Am For You, and Consent .
Directing credits at Concrete Theatre include work that has been performed in school gyms and theatre spaces, but also at the National Arts Centre, the Grand Theatre, YPT, Persephone Theatre, the Kids On the Waterfront Festival and the SOUND OFF Deaf Theatre Festival. These productions include The Incredible Adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito by Tomson Highway, Are We There Yet? by Jane Heather, Collin Doyle’s Dora Award winning Routes , Vern Thiessen’s Bello a bilingual co-production with L’Unithèâtre (translated by Brian Dooley), Consent (which garnered her a Sterling Award for her work as playwright/director) and her co-direction along with Caroline Howarth of the ground-breaking Deaf chamber opera for families Songs My Mother Never Sung Me by Dave Clarke, which will do a national tour post COVID.
As a community builder, Mieko helped found the YEG + chapter of the 3.7% Initiative, as well as creating the Pop Up Theatre Bookstore social enterprise for the organization, which has brought published plays and anthologies to artists and communities across Alberta. Mieko has mentored countless artists with a focus and commitment to BIPOC talents. Mieko’s legacy at Concrete is one of deep community engagement as well as relevant, inclusive and socially impactful programming, distinguished by her vision, her collaborative style of leadership, a commitment to advocacy, mentorship, social justice and community outreach.
On Mieko’s contribution, Patrick Beagan , Concrete Theatre’s General Manager says: “Mieko is a dedicated supporter of emerging artists, and a wonderful role model for people who may not think theatre has a place for them. The Citadel Theatre is both lucky and wise to be bringing her into their fold, and I’m excited to see the impact she will make there. The seed of a company Mieko helped plant over 30 years ago is growing strong, and we’re glad she won’t be far away when it needs that extra bit of water or light.”
An exciting announcement about the next stage of Concrete Theatre’s artistic leadership will be made shortly. In the meantime, a huge thank you, warm congratulations and all our love to Mieko from the whole Concrete Theatre family!