Allen Grimm, Instructor of Theatre and Dance, will replace Judith Wombwell, Theatre and Dance Department Chair of six years, in the 2020-2021 school year. During his tenure, Grimm hopes to facilitate interdisciplinary programming to provide more opportunities for students to articulate their self-expression through various types of performing arts.
Grimm aims to partner with institutes like the Brace Center for Gender Studies and the CAMD Office to evaluate how artistic themes manifest beyond the stage. He would like to shape an inclusive environment where students see their identity represented in productions like the ‘Identity’ show performed during Fall and Winter Term.
“I would like to work with [LaShawn] Springer [Director of Community and Multicultural Development] and [Linda Carter Griffith, Associate Head of School for Equity, Inclusion, and Wellness] on the identity show, [and] when possible, I would like interdisciplinary programing with both the Brace Center and CAMD. Perhaps, we will be able to coordinate performances and guest artists around the 2020 election, voting rights and many other current events,” wrote Grimm in an email to The Phillipian.
According to Jeffrey Steele ’20, Grimm is committed to understanding individual students and their experiences.
“He’s just culturally aware, which is definitely appreciated in theatre when you’re out-putting different shows and showing things to different groups of people. It’s very important to be aware of the implications with what you do, and I think he does an excellent job working with people who are different than him and have different experiences,” said Steele.
Although Steele believes that the administrative change may prioritize the theatre community over dance groups, he knows that Grimm will strive to balance the two.
Steele said, “I know that Ms. Wombwell will still have great passion for the Dance Department and advocate for it. I do have a few concerns, just because there tends to be an emphasis on theatre, but if I know anything about Mr. Grimm, I know that he tries very hard to make things inclusive for everyone. I think that’s something great that he can bring to the dance department, because I think sometimes as dancers we struggle to make sure everyone’s included just because of varying experience levels.”
Throughout her tenure, Wombwell has emphasized diversity in production by seeking out playwrights who tell stories reflective of various cultures and heritages. Wombwell also encourages student choreography in dance, which allows students to express themselves and teach others.
“We have moved our focus to present a more diverse and inclusive program on our stages. Our goal is to try and represent our student body in our playwrights. An Asian American playwright, an Asian playwright, an African American playwright, an African playwright, a female playwright. There should be more female playwrights, period, and they should be on our stages,” said Wombwell.
Steele hopes that Grimm will continue to delve into the experiences of marginalized communities, as personalized stories allow both the audience and performers to reflect on their own experiences and find a deeper passion for theatre.
“When we do shows that focus on [marginalized communities], they often do really well and they’re well received, so I wish that we did more. There are many students who wish that they had a chance to be apart of a show that actually told their story versus one with experiences that they know nothing about and are foreign to them,” said Steele.
According to Shannon Liu ’20, the theatre department’s approach to embracing all aspects of identity, including the difficult ones, makes them unique. Once Grimm assumes his new responsibilities, Liu hopes that he will support the theatre community’s goal to continue exploring such topics.
“What the current theatre department prides ourselves on is that our productions tackles a lot of difficult questions that other boarding schools definitely will not put on, and I would not want to see that change,” said Liu.