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Friday, Aug. 23, 2013

Jewish Community Center’s theater director leaves for Shawnee Mission South amid changes

Special to The Star

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The Jewish Community Center’s theater director has quit in the wake of the center’s decision to open productions to other directors.

Mark Swezey moved back to a previous position as director of theater at Shawnee Mission South High School, a job he previously held for 25 years.

Swezey had directed all the the stage productions at the Jewish Community Center’s White Theatre since he was hired in 2005, the same year he retired from Shawnee Mission South. Jacob Schreiber, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, said he appreciates Swezey’s artistic excellence and the time he invested, but the center wants to bring in other directors next year.

“As our growing theater program enters its ninth season, our evolving vision calls for giving multiple directors an opportunity to direct here. This is critical for us to be a true community theater and to inspire more artistic diversity,” Schreiber said. “Mark’s contribution to developing the JCC’s White Theatre program into the finest community theater in Kansas City has been essential.”

The decision to part ways came last month, Swezey said, after he was offered a job managing the White Theatre with the possibility of directing one or two shows. “I want to direct. I wasn’t interested in managing a theater,” he said.

Krista Blackwood, director of cultural arts at the Jewish Community Center, said Swezey had gone to part-time status at the center in August 2012. Swezey said he sensed the center wanted to make changes.

“After I was first informed the JCC had decided to go with different directors I was upset. But I’ve moved on,” Swezey said. “I love being back at South and I absolutely will continue to direct in Kansas City area community theater.”

The school is happy to have him back, said principal Joe Gilhaus

“Mark is top-notch at what he does. There is none better,” Gilhaus said. “We’re ecstatic to have him back. The students, everyone is glad he’s here.”

Swezey is a native of New York City. He attended St. John’s University and studied acting and directing in New York City. He has been honored for his work as a director at the high school and community theater levels.

He’s directed more than 350 shows, including 19 at The Theatre in the Park. His most recent show was “Hairspray,” which was co-produced by the Jewish Community Center and The Theatre in the Park.

The 2013-14 season at the White Theatre opens Nov. 9 with “Les Miserables.” Barb Nichols is the director.

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