Shannon Jones says people are key to T2’s future success

Shannon Jones says people are key to T2’s future success

“TheatreSquared and Northwest Arkansas have held my heart since I arrived in 2014,” Shannon Jones says. “I’m both honored and humbled to step into the role of executive director.”

TheatreSquared, Northwest Arkansas’ regional professional theater, announced Aug. 24 that Jones will replace Martin Miller, who tendered his resignation in July. Jones has been with TheatreSquared since 2014 and has most recently been general manager. As executive director, she will collaborate with artistic director and founder Bob Ford to lead the continued growth of the company as it enters its 18th season.

Jones took time in her first few days as executive director to answer these questions for The Free Weekly.

Q. Where did you grow up? And who/what inspired your passion for theater?

A. I grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. I was always an artsy kid. I did dance and chorus up through middle school before deciding I wanted to explore different things. I ended up at a college prep high school because I wanted to explore the medical field. Once I was there, I loved it, but found myself missing that artistic outlet. I was introduced to the drama club, led by one of my mentors. Her excitement and passion for theater really spoke to the piece that I was missing, and I began to get involved in theater however I could. Eventually, that mentor noticed my natural affinity for keeping things organized, and keeping people in line, and suggested I pursue stage management. Once I explored that area of theater, there was no looking back — everything just clicked into place.

Q. What was your career path to TheatreSquared? And how did you make the choice to come to Fayetteville?

A. Following undergrad, I went directly into the workforce. I was really interested in freelancing and getting some real world experience. I worked at a number of theaters before landing at Birmingham Children’s Theatre in Alabama. Another of my early career mentors was also a stage manager who had worked with Bob Ford on one of his productions at a different theater in Alabama. She connected me to him. … After just one phone call with Bob, he completely opened my eyes to this beautiful, vibrant community of people and this theater nestled in the heart of Northwest Arkansas. I knew I had to take a leap of faith, but truly, something just felt right.

Q. What did you learn over the past decade at T2 that will guide your leadership of T2?

A. People are your greatest investment — from your staff, to the patrons, to the community as a whole. Theater is a beautiful art form that connects us all. Finding that one touch point can change lives, and when you invest and connect with people, you have a world of options available to you.

Q. What are your priorities right this minute for T2?

A. Community outreach and engagement are high on my list of priorities. The American theater has seen a shift since covid-19, and we have so many people in our community that have never been to a show, or just have not returned since the pandemic. Reinvigorating excitement around going to the theater, and making meaningful connections and providing access to those who haven’t been to TheatreSquared are vital in our growth as an organization.

Q. How does a commitment to diversity and inclusion shape a theater company — and its audience?

A. Theater is an important cultural art form that connects us all. When we commit to sharing stories from all lived experiences, we open our minds and hearts to the world around us. Investing in a diversity of backgrounds and understanding our similarities and differences can lead to greater empathy, compassion for others, and true belonging for all. … Sharing those lived experiences and ideas through our work on stage, through our education programs, and throughout the community can transform the landscape of Northwest Arkansas and beyond.

Categories: Theater