Filament Theatre Artistic Director Julie Ritchey, who co-founded the innovative theater for young audiences 15 years ago, is stepping down from her leadership post as she and her family embark on a new adventure. Filament’s board of directors is pleased to announce the hiring of Filament resident artists Molly Bunder And Rejinal Simon as co-artistic directors of the Northwest Side theater.
Both Bunder and Simon have worked alongside Ritchey for many years, building Filament into a beloved Chicago institution for young people, their families, and a dedicated crew of collaborators.
“After eight years watching and supporting Filament's growth, I am excited to accept this new role,” said Bunder, who had served as Filament’s education director. “As families return to live performance, we will continue to reimagine theater for young audiences and to make space and time for connection and community."
Both Bunder and Simon view theater as a tool for community engagement and empowerment - a core principle of their shared vision for Filament. In her new position, Bunder will expand and oversee the role of young people as dramaturgs, curators, and essential collaborators on Filament productions - borrowing from her over 10 years of experience as a teaching artist and professional actor. As a casting director, performer, producer, and founding member of Filament’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access committee, Simon’s role will pay particular attention to the experiences of the theater’s adult professional artists.
Simon added, "As a younger performer fresh out of undergraduate school, Filament is the first professional setting in which I felt seen, fully, as an artist and an individual. It is my hope to share this feeling with every single person who walks through Filament’s doors. In joining this graciously bold team of creators, I look forward to continuing to invest in Filament’s stakeholders and expanding our community and the families we reach.”
In recent years, Filament has deepened its artistic vision through commitment to youth leadership, launching the internationally acclaimed SPARK program in which young people curate the theater’s new-work commissions and then collaborate on the projects alongside professional artists. Decentralizing artistic leadership is the next major step in Filament’s efforts to build a business model that authentically centers the perspectives of young people.
“For 15 years, Julie has been an extraordinary founding artistic director for Filament Theatre. Her talent and creativity as a storyteller have won critical praise and built a loyal audience that returns to Filament again and again, even during a global pandemic,” said Jackie Intres, president of Filament’s board of directors. “However, it has been her tireless pursuit of a company that embraces radical collaboration with young people that will truly be her lasting legacy and contribution to the Chicago theater community as well as to the international community of theaters for young audiences. The board of directors is truly grateful for her visionary leadership.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we are thrilled to welcome Molly Bunder and Rejinal Simon as Filament's new co-artistic directors. In her role as education director for Filament, Molly conceptualized and executed several new and expanded programs to welcome young people into the artistic process. In his role as associate artistic director, Reji led and motivated production teams, ensuring that productions could be safe, supportive and fulfilling for both artists and audiences during and after the pandemic. Together, we believe the care and commitment they have demonstrated for the Filament community, their artistic vision and their wide range of leadership experiences make them the perfect combination to lead Filament into our next chapter."
Ritchey will remain actively involved with the field of Theater for Young Audiences on a national and international scope as an independent director, playwright, educator, and advocate for the artform based out of Brisbane, Australia.
ABOUT FILAMENT THEATRE: Filament Theatre, on Chicago’s Northwest Side, has been creating innovative theater for young audiences since 2007. Filament’s mission is to create a more equitable society by celebrating and amplifying the perspectives and experiences of young people through the performing arts.
4041 N MILWAUKEE AVE. CHICAGO IL 60641 - (773) 270-1660 - WWW.FILAMENTTHEATRE.ORG