LaNeshe Miller-White, one of the founders of West Philadelphia’s Theatre in the X, has been named the new executive director of Theatre Philadelphia, the organization that promotes the region’s theaters and runs the Barrymore Awards.
“Having been in Philly working in theatre for over 15 years, this feels like a perfect progression of my service for the city’s artists, audiences, and organizations,” said Miller-White in a statement released Tuesday by Theatre Philadelphia. “I am so excited to deepen my work with the Philadelphia theatre community through Theatre Philadelphia and look forward to helping shine a light on the artists and organizations that make Philly a wonderful hub of creativity.”
Her predecessor, Leigh Goldenberg, left in March to become managing director at the Wilma. The search for a new leader was protracted by the coronavirus pandemic, the organization said.
Miller-White will take over as theaters face extraordinary difficulties because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Even Theatre in the X, which she plans to continue working with and which has traditionally offered free performances outdoors in Malcolm X Park, had to cancel the two plays it had planned for this month, Miller-White said in an interview last week.
“We have no control” over how audiences maintain social distance, she said, noting that the company performs in a public space. “We just want everyone to be safe.”
Beyond the pandemic-forced shutdowns, theaters here and elsewhere have been wrestling with issues of racial justice within their mostly white-led institutions.
“I’m really looking forward to using this unique moment in time to solidify Theatre Philadelphia as the service organization for theater in the region and to use that position to lead the way to a more equitable and diverse theatre community,” she said in the prepared statement.
“LaNeshe has all of the traits we were searching for in a new executive director,” said board president Jason Lindner. “She has leadership and community building experience, is a strong and unifying voice in the Philadelphia theatre scene, and is trusted as someone with integrity and insight. And what’s more, she is just an inspiring person to be around. I can’t wait to see what she does in this role.”
A graduate of Temple University, Miller-White worked as the marketing manager of the Painted Bride Art Center for more than nine years and is a performer as well as a producer. In Theatre in the X’s digital Juneteenth presentation, a partnership with Iron Age Theatre that consisted of 12 short videos, she’s featured delivering Fanny Lou Hamer’s Testimony at the Democratic National Convention 1968.
She was named a 2012 Knight Foundation Emerging Leaders Fellow, is a 2013 National Performance Network Wesley V. Montgomery Memorial Mentorship & Leadership Award winner, and is a 2015 and 2017 City of Philadelphia Performances in Public Spaces grant recipient. She is also a Philadelphia Arts & Business Council Designing Leadership Program graduate.