Introducing Contemporary Theater Company's New Artistic Director

Tammy Brown talks performing arts, pandemic challenges, and plans for 2021

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For Tammy Brown, the old adage “all the world’s a stage” rings particularly true – you could say her entire life has played out on one. She started theater in grade school thanks to a thriving performing arts program at Nathanael Greene Middle School and Classical High School in Providence, where classes were offered as both in-school electives and extracurriculars. She majored in Theater Performance (and Psychology) at Rhode Island College and worked as both an actor and director at venues around the state like Mixed Magic Theatre and Epic Theatre Company.

“As is often the case, this artistic life usually meant juggling my desire to practice my art with my desire to pay the bills,” says Brown with a knowing laugh.

In 2012, Brown finally landed at The Contemporary Theater Company for her first show. The rest, as they say, is history. She’s played starring roles in Hamlet, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and Macbeth and served as associate artistic director since 2019, directing productions of The Clean House and Romeo & Juliet. Brown gushes, “I love the welcoming community atmosphere at the theater, I love the spirit of the work we do, and I love that we can maintain those things while also producing some really high-quality work for our audience to enjoy.”

And now, Brown’s passion for theater is going one step further: She has transitioned into the role of artistic director, taking the reins from Chris Simpson, the company’s founder and newly titled executive director.

“As the artistic director, I’m responsible for all of our artistic and educational output, as well as community outreach,” explains Brown of her role. “In normal times, that would mean that I would pick the plays that we produce, choose what classes we offer and when, and create programs that strengthen our connection to the community.” Obviously, that looks a lot different as the theater navigates the pandemic. “For now, I’m working with our ensemble to build a virtual season from scratch,” she says. They kicked off the season with a Virtual 24-Hour Play Festival in late January, and Brown hopes to produce an outdoor, in-person season performed on their patio starting late June. It’s a unique challenge, but for Brown, it’s been a fun one.

“This new position is a huge milestone for me, both personally and professionally,” says Brown. “Having been a freelance artist for about 10 years, this marks my very first full-time job in theater!” After nearly 20 years of acting and directing, she’s ready for the challenge. “It’s the dream job I never knew was possible. I’m so excited and humbled to take the artistic reins at a place I so deeply love and respect.” 

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