Patrick McDonald will hand the artistic reins of Green Thumb Theatre to Rachel Aberle in January. (photo from Green Thumb Theatre)
After a distinguished 32-year tenure, Patrick McDonald recently announced that he will be stepping aside as artistic director of Green Thumb Theatre at the end of 2020. After several seasons working closely with McDonald, Green Thumb’s associate artistic director and award-winning theatre artist, Rachel Aberle, will assume the role, effective Jan. 1, 2021.
McDonald has led Green Thumb Theatre since 1988. The theatre organization, which was founded in 1975, tours to schools and other venues across the country and internationally. McDonald’s dedication to placing youth engagement and artistic integrity on an even plane has underpinned the organization’s mission of providing socially engaged professional live performance to young people, regardless of geographic or economic status.
“I am proud of how, as a company, we have stayed to course over the last three decades continuing to create new, engaging and challenging work about the issues young audiences are dealing with,” said McDonald. “ I am especially proud of the number of scripts we have brought forward that are now a part of the growing canon of theatre for young audience scripts produced worldwide.”
As performing arts organizations across the globe face uncertainty and calls for innovative programming, McDonald is confident he is leaving the theatre in good hands, stating: “Rachel Aberle, in collaboration with general manager Breanne Harmon and our current staff, will, without doubt, continue this legacy and meet the current challenges head-on. They are ready, and they will do well.”
Aberle, who made her professional performance debut with the company, has penned two critically acclaimed plays for the organization. Her play Still/Falling, which explores themes of adolescent mental health, premièred in 2015 and has been performed more than 180 times across North America and received a Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for significant artistic achievement. The Code, which explores themes of consent and cyberbullying, premièred in 2018 and was recognized with a Jessie Award for outstanding production, the Sydney J. Risk Prize for outstanding original script by an emerging writer, and was included on Tapeworthy blog’s Best of Stage 2018 – selected out of almost 200 shows worldwide. Aberle has held the position of associate artistic director with Green Thumb since 2017.
“I am humbled and honoured to be asked to serve as Green Thumb’s next artistic director,” remarked Aberle, who is a member of the Jewish community. “I have grown up at Green Thumb, under the mentorship and guidance of Patrick McDonald. During these difficult times, I take this role on with a deep appreciation of the complex challenges the company faces. I believe that now, more than ever, young people deserve opportunities to explore the struggles they face on a daily basis. This is the work that Green Thumb has always done, and work that I am excited to continue to do.”
During his tenure, McDonald has commissioned more than 50 new plays from emerging and established playwrights, and has directed more than 75 productions. He has been recognized for his work, including the 2009 Jessie for career achievement and, in 2013, the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award. In addition to the school touring program, McDonald established mainstage production partnerships with more than 20 arts organizations nationwide and internationally.
“We are humbled to have worked with Patrick and marvel at his creativity and tenacity in moving youth theatre forward,” said Cheryle Beaumont, chair of the board. “With a long and committed history with Green Thumb and a wealth of experience to bring to her new role, we are most pleased to welcome Rachel Aberle to the position of artistic director this coming January.”
Harmon, said, “Patrick’s long history at Green Thumb has seen him mentor hundreds of emerging artists, administrators and playwrights, offering endless opportunities and truly elevating theatre for young people across the country. He will be leaving Green Thumb with a strong legacy.”
Looking to the future, Harmon, who is also a member of the Jewish community, added, “Rachel is passionate, knowledgeable and a true champion of ensuring young voices are represented truthfully. I look forward to our new partnership.”
Alison Klein has been accepted to the master of arts, interdisciplinary studies, in the faculty of humanities and social sciences at the University of Athabasca. The focus of her learning is disability and how services are offered to persons with disability in Canada. She plans to use her studies to inform her work on The Self Advocate, her podcast featuring people with cognitive disabilities who advocate for themselves.