For 20 years, John Miller-Stephany was the associate artistic director at the Guthrie Theater, a powerful behind-the-scenes figure who was instrumental in casting at the theater as well as directing numerous productions. This week word was announced that he’s taking the head position as artistic director at the 40-year-old Arkansas Repertory Theatre in Little Rock.
Miller-Stephany was also a familiar face to Twin Cities theatergoers, seemingly ubiquitous in the audience of stages large and small as he kept up with local productions in a way that evinced his deep passion for the theater. He was raised in Upstate New York, and studied acting at NYU before determining that his future lay in directing and administration.
After working as associate producer at New York’s the Acting Company, Miller-Stephany came to the Guthrie in 1996 and stayed until 2015, seeing through the tenure of Joe Dowling, the theater’s longest-serving artistic director. He was part of the major shift when the Guthrie moved from its home next to the Walker Art Center to its current three-stage digs on the Mississippi River.
As a director, Miller-Stephany is known for his meticulous attention to detail. “I love research,” he told Minnesota Playlist in 2014. “I’m a bit of a nerd for research and dramaturgy.” The proof is evident onstage; his shows have a particular kind of polish that comes to be familiar with those who have seen his work over the years.
On a personal note, I was a co-worker with John Miller (as everyone calls him) for two years, and he’s a graceful and kind presence in the day-to-day workings of a big-time theater. I join many voices in the Twin Cities community in wishing him the best at Arkansas Rep, and looking forward to seeing the direction the theater takes under his leadership.