It has only been a few weeks since Sarah Rayer moved to Dupont Circle from Philadelphia, but she is already settling into the neighborhood and into her new position at Theater J. As managing director of the performing arts organization, Rayer will oversee staff and handle all contractual aspects. She will also manage the budget of Theater J among other responsibilities. Theater J is at the D.C. Jewish Community Center, 16th and Q Streets NW.
Currently, Rayer and the team at Theater J are preparing for the organization’s benefit scheduled for Monday, February 28. The event includes Vaudeville-style entertainment, a reading of The Sunshine Boys by Neil Simon and a dessert reception. They are also hard at work on the theater’s upcoming production of The Chosen at Arena Stage, opening March 8.
If you had asked Rayer a couple years ago where she pictured herself living and working in the near future, the answer would not have been D.C. A native of northern Minnesota, she had only visited our nation’s capital a few times and had little connection to the city. What attracted her to the District, however, was the great opportunity to work with Ari Roth, Theater J’s Artistic Director for 14 seasons.
“I’ve always been interested in Ari’s work,” she said. “I like that he chooses stories that can be hard to tell and takes on thought-provoking theater that is challenging. There is so much that is appealing here.”
Although Rayer is new to theater in the District, she is no stranger to the industry. For more than 10 years, Rayer worked in the theater scene of New York City starting in casting and later moving on to production. Some highlights include running The Shakespeare Lab at The Public Theater and working as an Associate Producer for Eve Ensler’s Borrowed Light Benefit at Lincoln Center.
Although she accomplished a lot in her career in New York City theater, Rayer wanted to build upon her experience and find ways to expand how she could help the performing arts. She applied and was accepted into St. Joseph University’s MBA Program in Philadelphia where she set out to further her business knowledge.
After completing her Masters, Rayer worked with a local restaurateur and management company in the Philadelphia area. Surprisingly, she found that the restaurant and theater industries have a lot in common. “Both worlds are remarkably similar, with each night a production geared to your audience and with your success or failure dependent upon the quality of your work – and yes, sometimes the whims of a not-so-complimentary critic,” she said in her cover letter to Theater J.
Now that Rayer is back in the theater industry, she is looking forward to helping Theater J create art for art’s sake while still meeting its business objectives. She hopes to eventually fill the big shoes of the organization’s former Managing Director Patricia Jenson by being involved with both the business and creative aspects of Theater J’s productions. Rayer is excited to meet other local managing directors and also to explore everything the District and Dupont Circle have to offer. For more information about Theater J, visit their website.