The Rep’s new artistic director finds his calling in Milwaukee

Mark Clements was born into a theatrical family. He grew up in the European theater where his parents worked.

However, Clements says he didn’t really take his life in the theater seriously until much later in life.

“I wanted to play soccer,” he said. “I discovered later on in life that that probably wasn’t going to happen, and that I had a natural interest in the technical side of theater.”

Clements is the most recent addition to the Milwaukee Repertory Theater as its new artistic director.

He has directed at more than 100 major theaters around the world, including United Kingdom’s Derby Playhouse, the Moving Theatre Company in New York and the Roundabout Theatre in New York. He is finishing up a season directing “Oliver!” at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre.

He has also been recognized with some of the industry’s top awards and nominations in the United States and Europe.

“I think growing up, I always saw myself working in America. I always had sort of an affinity with the country,” Clements said.

Clements started freelance directing in theaters on the East Coast and for a while hadn’t thought about becoming an artistic director again.

“The position in Milwaukee became available,” Clements said. “I knew of the theater’s reputation throughout the industry, and knew because of its size and that reputation that this was a really great opportunity for me.”

Clements said he was immediately struck by the hunger and passion displayed by The Rep’s board and the staff.

“Milwaukee is so well-respected nationally for its cultural activities,” he said. “The community does and should pride itself on having great theaters and a great arts community.”

Clements said he has been thrilled with his Midwest welcome.

“People have been so welcoming here, it’s fantastic,” he said. “There is just an overwhelming generosity of spirit within the community, as well as within the arts community.”

The reception he has received demonstrates the personality of the Milwaukee arts community, Clements said.

“Milwaukee has the United Performing Arts Fund, which exists because of that friendly collaboration,” Clements said. “It says a lot about the people in the community when they can enjoy each other’s success for the good of the whole art community.”

Clements is finishing up directing “Oliver!” At the Walnut Theatre but is already excited about next season in Milwaukee.

“Collaborations are a really big thing for me. I’m hoping I can add to the quality of talent, and bring in some interesting and unique talent as well,” he said. “Right now, I am learning from Joe (Hanredey, current artistic director) and celebrating the conclusion of his history here. I will be able to take stock of the things that he has done over the past 17 years and learn how we can best add to that and the reputation of the theater.” 

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