ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The American Stage Theatre Company has named Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj as its new producing artistic director, making him the first person of color to ever lead a regional theatre company in Florida.
The playwright, director and activist has already had stints, both on and off Broadway, in Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Brooklyn. He recently was the assistant director for "Fire Shut Up in My Bones" at the Metropolitan Opera, which was streamed live in movie theatres across the country over the weekend.
He is also the former third vice president for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Brooklyn, New York and the founding chairman for the Equity in the Arts and Culture Committee.
On being the first Black, Indigenous person of color (BIPOC) to lead a regional theatre in the state of Florida, Maharaj said he wished he was No. 101 instead, “because there’s so many who were qualified who were willing who, for whatever reasons in the past, were not given the opportunity and access to sit in the chair.”
“I know, as I know my name, that I stand on the shoulders of giants,” Maharaj said.
“Part of that is to allow folks of all walks, but particularly BIPOC children, to see someone like me in this position and know that it is possible — that you can do this in the state of Florida, in the city of St. Pete, in this year.”
Coming from New York, Maharaj told 10 Tampa Bay he's already fallen in love with the beauty and history of the area.
He says he has a big mission ahead of him, which is to make American Stage and St. Pete a premiere regional theatre destination.