- Luke Awtry
- Erin Evarts and José Rincon
Erin Evarts has been enamored of theater, both onstage and off, since she was a kid. Now the Hinesburg native has landed the role she was born to play. Last month, Evarts, 35, was named the new executive director of Vermont's Lyric Theatre.
"I'm absolutely stepping into my dream job," she says.
Evarts, who lives in Colchester, succeeds outgoing ED José Rincon, who took over in 2017 from longtime ED Syndi Zook. Rincon will leave Vermont this summer to pursue a PhD in arts management at Florida State University.
"You're gonna come back and take your job back," jokes Evarts in a recent interview alongside Rincon in the latter's office at Lyric Theatre's South Burlington headquarters.
For the next several weeks, Evarts will shadow Rincon, learning the ropes at the local nonprofit theater company in preparation for officially assuming her new role on April 29.
It's not the first time the two have worked side by side. "We played brother and sister [Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert] when I was in eighth grade in Anne of Green Gables," reveals Evarts with a smile.
That Mater Christi School production gave Evarts her introduction to the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd. She continued pursuing theater at Champlain Valley Union High School under theater arts teacher Robin Fawcett, then graduated from Boston's Emerson College with a BFA in theatrical production and stage management.
Evarts worked backstage at her first Lyric Theatre show, Crazy for You, in 1999 and has volunteered for the organization ever since. Her handful of production credits includes The Full Monty in 2009, and she directed the company's sold-out production of White Christmas in 2015.
Evarts isn't directly involved with the production of Lyric's next show, Mamma Mia!, which runs this Thursday through Sunday at the Flynn MainStage in Burlington. While she's got her hands full readying for the transition, she will share each show's opening curtain speech with Rincon, introducing herself to Lyric audiences.
An extensive theater background certainly helped prepare Evarts for the position, but she cites her previous job, as the executive assistant to the CEO of Wake Robin, as providing equally useful experience. She describes the organizational hierarchy of the Shelburne retirement home as a "three-legged stool" composed of the residents, the board of directors and the administrative staff.
"At Lyric it's the same thing," she says. "We have a board, we have our administrative staff and we have our volunteers. And, much like the residents [at Wake Robin], our volunteers are a huge constituency group that we're serving. So it's about balancing those pieces," she continues. "Making volunteers feel empowered and listened to seriously is something I did every day with the resident population at Wake Robin."
When Rincon came on board in 2017, he oversaw the final stages of a capital campaign to build out Lyric Theatre's expansive South Burlington headquarters. The finishing touch, and crowning achievement of his tenure, was the completion of a new rehearsal hall. Mamma Mia! is the first Lyric show to make use of it.
"I feel proud of what we've been able to do in my two seasons here," says Rincon.
Among his other successes, he highlights an increase in collaborations among Lyric Theatre and other Burlington-area arts organizations. "Burlington Does Broadway: A New Year's Celebration," for instance, was a collaboration with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra that was coproduced with the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts. Lyric has a long relationship with the Flynn, but that show was the first one they'd presented together. Last weekend, Lyric presented a program that highlighted movie musicals in collaboration with the Vermont International Film Foundation.
Evarts says she intends to continue expanding Lyric's relationships with local arts organizations, including dance groups and the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association.
"A rising tide lifts all boats," she says. "The more we can reach out, the better."
Evarts also believes Lyric has an obligation to give back to the community that has supported it for more than four decades. To that end, she aims to deploy the organization's expansive roster of volunteers.
"It's a numbers game," she says. "We have an advantage in that we have so many volunteers, and to be able to use that advantage for good — I'd love that. There is a lot of room within Lyric's mission to reach out and give back," she continues. "And I'm excited to find new and interesting ways of giving back to the community."
Evarts' other goals include establishing an endowment for the organization and gearing up for its 50th anniversary in 2024.
"That's gonna take, like, three years of planning," she says.
She's also excited to find creative new ways to use Lyric's headquarters.
"Now that we're finished with the capital campaign, and the whole organization isn't focused on that one thing, we have opportunities to look into new programming," Evarts says. "We have this great space — what else can we do with it?"
Accomplishing those goals will present Evarts with notable challenges — starting with time management, notes Rincon. Because Lyric is a volunteer-based organization, he says, most of the work on new shows, from rehearsal to set construction, happens during nonbusiness hours — nights and weekends.
"To get face time with the cast and crew and volunteers goes beyond the normal nine to five, but there is still so much work to be done during regular business hours," he says. "So, to balance all of that and also, you know, maintain a social life is challenging."
He offers a nugget of advice to his successor:
"This is all supposed to be fun," says Rincon. "We're doing this to bring enjoyment to people. So if you can keep a little kernel of that, even when things get stressful, it's a comfort. Trying to remain kind and calm has served me well."