How Hana S. Sharif Made History

How Hana S. Sharif Became The First Black Artistic Director Of The Arena Stage

Realizing A Long-Held Dream

As Hana S. Sharif took the reins as Arena Stage’s new artistic director this August, she made history. After nearly 25 trailblazing years, Molly Smith retires leaving behind an incredible legacy. Now Sharif becomes both the first woman of color and only the fourth-ever leader of the renowned company nearing its 75th anniversary.

For Sharif, joining Arena Stage fulfills a long-held aspiration. Incredibly, she set her sights on the prominent role over two decades ago. While just a 19-year-old undergraduate at Spelman College, Sharif proclaimed she would one day lead Arena Stage.

After gaining experience across respected regional theaters and helming The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, her prophecy manifests. Sharif brings a wealth of expertise to continue Arena Stage’s tradition of innovation and community engagement.

Seasoned Leader Committed To Evolving Theater

Over a pioneering career, Hana Sharif demonstrated exceptional leadership and artistry. Her creative daring produced memorable original works while skillful management navigated theaters through upheaval.

Sharif first displayed instincts as an innovator by founding a production company in college. Later as Hartford Stage’s artistic producer, she ran developmental programs elevating new plays. Her risk-taking as a director also helped reimagine classics for contemporary audiences.

As REP St. Louis’ first female artistic director and then first woman of color leading a major regional company, Sharif fostered inclusion. Now at Arena Stage, she’ll employ her unique experience to further diversify programming and spectators.

Carrying The Torch With Fresh Perspective

For Arena Stage, the appointment of Hana Sharif continues a tradition of visionaries shepherding the company through different eras. As the art form and world evolve, Sharif brings a modern viewpoint leading Arena Stage into its next chapter.

She inherits Molly Smith’s focus on American writers while incorporating new structures. Sharif believes bold experimentation combined with community collaboration sustains regional theater’s purpose.

At just 45 years old, her youthful vigor and lifelong dedication to the craft position Sharif for a long, momentous tenure. She’s been preparing for this opportunity her whole life. Now Arena Stage gains a leader able to meld respect for luminaries like Smith with her own inspirations.