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the U.S. were not being well served by man- title comes from W.E.B. Dubois’ quote:
Theresa Holden ’69
agement companies on the east or west coasts.” ‘the problem of the twentieth century is the
Within a year, their business grew to include problem of the color line.’ We wanted not
companies far beyond the southwest: Ore- only people’s memories but also their ideas
The Artist’s Way
gon Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Repertory of how the movement has affected the pre-
Theater, Montana Repertory Theater, and sent,” explains Holden. Collecting and
NYC’s The Acting Company, among others.
archiving the plays, songs, and projects “illu-
wo days after theater pioneer Paul Baker
The Holdens were determined that their minated the role of racism in this country
passed away at age 98, Theresa Ripley Holden
and how incredibly
is reminiscing about her days studying under
institutionalized it has
the legendary professor, saying she chose
become. It reinforced
Trinity “because of its fine theater program.
how much work we
Paul Baker really grounded us, talking to us
still have to do.”
about having a landscape of who you are
For their efforts,
and where you come from, and that you’re
Holden and O’Neal
supposed to reach into that and see how that
won the 2002 Ford
helps you become a better person and there-
Foundation Leader-
fore a better artist.”
ship for a Changing
In the ensuing years Holden has not only
World Award. Holden
reached, but dug deep into that landscape to
also becamea fellow at
help make an entire society better, using the
New York University
arts to enlighten a populace that she feels
in 2007, working with
still has a long way to go in terms of racial
its Research Center for
oppression. Racism, she says, “is such a
Leadership and Action
deeply-ingrained ailment that our country
and publishing Better
still has to figure out a way to deal with it
Together: Peer-led
and grow past it.” Theresa Holden worked in New Orleans with her Junebug Productions
Fundraising Workshops
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves— colleagues Jim Randels, Curtis Muhammad, and John O'Neal, left toright.
She also founded the
easy to do when talking with someone whose
Artist & Community
resume describes her as theater artist, teacher,
roster would represent the artistic and cul- Connection that helps performing compa-
performing arts manager, organizer, consul-
tural diversity of America. “We always had nies hold workshops in the communities
tant, and co-director of Holden & Arts
these great iconic repertory companies,” she where they tour.
Associates (, a booking and
says, “but next to them would be a small Holden is comfortable with her many
management company serving both national
African American, or Pan Asian, or Latino hats—ncluding mother to grown children
and international performing artists and
company bringing to light these incredible Anne and William—and sharing both life
their presenters. And that’s just the first sen-
cultures. It was all about excellent theater, and career with a husband who also enjoys
tence. Talking to Holden in her charming,
and that’s what we were looking for.” “kicking back on our land near Mason. We
airy office—a 1920s-style bungalow in the
That philosophy led Holden to a fateful fish, we camp, we hike, we love anything
Settlement area of Austin—you understand
encounter and one that forever altered her outdoors.” But talk never strays too far from
why she has a giant wall calendar that can
future work. One early client was New her primary passion. She lights up when
probably be seen from space, its pink/purple/
Orleans-based Junebug Productions, headed describing how—coming full circle—they
green squares color-coded to keep track of
by actor, author, and artistic director John are working with Robyn Baker Flatt, artistic
a dizzying array of activities this dynamo
O’Neal, who had also co-founded the Free director of the Dallas Children’s Theater
engages in on a daily basis.
Southern Theater in 1963, the theater arm of and daughter of Holden’s Trinity mentor.
Holden and her husband, Michael, who
the civil rights movement. Holden can’t say “An entire part of our artist roster is dedicated
is also her business partner, a director, and
enough about O’Neal's “huge influence on to those incredible companies that offer per-
actor, met in graduate school at Ohio Uni-
my life, how I work, and how I think about formances specifically for young people. Our
versity in 1973. They founded their manage-
work. His theatrical focus on oppressedpeo- organization works in collaboration with
ment company 26 years ago after working
ple, struggling for rights, showed me the these companies to bring powerful and pos-
together in various professional theaters,
power that theater has for creating healthy itive stories and models through theater into
arts organizations, and teaching in college.
and equitable communities.” the lives of families and youth. And one of
While working at the Western States Arts
The duo collaborated on the Color Line these great companies is right here in our
Federation in Santa Fe, a nonprofit NEA-
Project, a gathering of memories of the civil state.” Holden’s late professor would be proud.
supported arts service organization, they
rights movement using storytelling circles in
observed that “great theater and dance com-
various cities such as Flint, Cincinnati, West Julie Catalano
panies in the western and southern part of
Palm Beach, and Jackson, Mississippi. “The
JANUARY 2010 41
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