Phillip Chavira, recently hired as the new Executive Director of the Intiman Theater, has a motto: “Keep color on stage.” And he means it.
Prior to moving to the Emerald City some three-and-a-half months ago, Chavira produced Eclipsed on Broadway in New York City, which featured the first-ever all-female cast, playwright and directing team on the famous theatrical thoroughfare. All were women of color, to boot.
“When I interviewed here with the Intiman,” the Mexican-American, 33-year-old Chavira says, “I learned that they care about these [inclusive] practices, too. There’s a pillar in our philosophy here for equality, diversity and inclusion.”
And while many would, on the face of it, believe in diversity and equality, when pushed they might not know why they’re actually so necessary in practice. Chavira, on the other hand, knows exactly why inclusion is important – especially when coming from the top-down.
“Our policies [at the Intiman],” says Chavira, “force individuals to think about hiring practices, the types of productions we’re creating – from the beginning. If you don’t set that tone when decisions are made, it’s not going to happen down the road.”
In his role as Executive Director, Chavira, who’s previously worked with the Broadway production company, Davelle, will have his hands in many business-related and theatrical pots. His job is to help the theater continue to grow in all areas – which, under the leadership of Artistic Director, Andrew Russell, it has been for the past handful of years. The theater will keep its focus, during its dense summer festival, on diversity, creative people of color, and voices that might not otherwise get the spotlight. “I got plans!” Chavira smiles.
And those plans are already starting to pay off. The Intiman recently launched its newest production, Barbecue, a work by Robert O’Hara, which runs through June 25th. The play hinges on a tense and tenuous family gathering, and it’s one Chavira is very happy about.
“Robert O’Hara, in the Seattle Times, said that not of lot of people like to engage his work,” recalls Chavira. “He takes a lot of risks, talks about race, dysfunctional families. He says he’s proud the Intiman has supported two of his works now. To have an author call out that they know they deal with tough works and they know we’re willing to go on that ride – we’re literally doing the tough work that other’s won’t. That’s awesome.”