A change in leadership is in the works at Durham’s Common Ground Theatre, a performance and teaching space that has nurtured and supported many Triangle theater artists. On July 1, a new executive director, Shelby Hahn, will replace Devra Thomas, who is relocating with her family to Morehead City.
“Common Ground serves a really unique purpose within the Triangle theater community,” Thomas told the INDY on Friday. “It was a joy to be able to serve that community by helping people figure out how to do theater, figure out what they wanted to do and what they wanted to say.”
In recent years, Hahn has been most active in the regional theater community in sound design and stage management, working with Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, Common Wealth Endeavors and Manbites Dog Theater, among others. In the past year, he has also been increasingly visible on stage, in Little Green Pig’s HMLT, Manbites Dog’s Paris 76 and, just last month, Common Ground’s Chamber Music.
Rachel Klem and Michelle Byars, who wanted to create an intimate, versatile and affordable space for local theater artists to show their work and build their audiences, founded Common Ground in 2005. In January 2014, Klem handed the reins to Thomas, formerly the manager of Deep Dish Theater Company in Chapel Hill and a co-founder of Ladies of the Triangle Theatre.
Under Thomas’ leadership, the theater raised its rental fees in the fall of 2014 for the first time since its inception, in a successful attempt to stabilize the company’s finances. Thomas also spearheaded projects including Improv Percolator and the inception of a new theater company, Skydive Productions.
“I feel there were voices in the community that were able to be heard that might not otherwise have been,” she said. “I think we did some really great art while I was there.”
Hahn was selected by the company’s board of directors: Klem, Paul Paliyenko and Balfour Smith. The change in leadership will not affect Common Ground’s already-scheduled productions, and we can expect to hear later this summer what Hahn has planned for next year.
“I’m excited about the road ahead,” Hahn said in a press release. “Common Ground is vital to the community and I look forward to strengthening the relationships we already have and fostering new relationships with different artists.”