Desirée Roots, a Richmond jazz singer and prolific actor in local plays, has been named co-artistic director of community at Virginia Repertory Theatre.
She is the first of three co-artistic directors to be announced in a new leadership model at the theater company.
Nathaniel Shaw was previously the artistic director of Virginia Rep from 2016 until 2020, when he and the company parted ways.
The new leadership model aims to be a return to the theater company’s roots; the company’s mission in 1975, as Theatre IV, was “to seek national caliber excellence equally in four areas: the arts, education, children’s health and community leadership.”
In 2012, Theatre IV merged with the Barksdale Theatre to become Virginia Repertory Theatre.
“Today, we are proud to recommit to the entirety of our community,” said Phil Whiteway, managing director and co-founder of Virginia Rep, in a statement announcing the appointment. “We believe it’s more important than ever to provide excellence in all four areas. Desiree’s artistic leadership will anchor our connection to children’s health and community leadership.”
Two other co-artistic directors with responsibilities overseeing education and adult audience programming are expected to be announced in early 2022. These positions will be chosen by a selection committee, composed of staff and board leadership, and led by William Carter, chair-elect of the Virginia Rep board.
Roots has starred in numerous productions at Virginia Rep, most recently “The Color Purple,” “Dreamgirls” and “Ella and Her Fella Frank.” The Richmond singer and actor has a long association with Virginia Rep. At 16 years old, she was a high school intern with Theatre IV, which later merged with Barksdale to form Virginia Rep. Her first professional engagement was Theatre IV’s production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” in 1988.
“I am deeply honored to be appointed to this leadership position with Virginia Rep, which, along with the Richmond Jazz Society, has been my artistic home for thirty years. I know my work is cut out for me, and it will not be easy,” Roots said in a statement. “The events of the past two years, and Virginia Rep’s powerful history since the founding of Barksdale Theatre in 1953, inspire, energize and challenge me. I greatly look forward to continuing the work that I love in the community I love.”
Virginia Rep is at 114 W. Broad St. For more information, visit va-rep.org.