Sarah Hunnewell, who joined the Hampton Theatre Company (HTC) in 1990 as an actor, has announced that she will be stepping down as the company’s Executive Director in June at the close of the HTC’s 32nd season, after serving for 20-plus years in the position.
Looking back on her start with the company, Ms. Hunnewell recalled that in February of 1990 she was sitting in her Manhattan apartment contemplating whether or not to continue her career as a NY architect when the phone rang. It was Jane Stanton, a director Sarah had worked with at a New York theater club known as The Snarks. Ms. Stanton—who directed almost all productions in the HTC’s early years and had a major role in creating the company as it exists today—was casting A.R. Gurney’s The Dining Room for the HTC. “Get out here, Sarah,” Ms. Stanton barked, “We need a WASP!”
With The Dining Room as a catalyst, Ms. Hunnewell spent several years acting wherever and whenever possible, appearing with different companies in NYC and Long Island. But her loyalty was always to the HTC. What she saw right away in the company was an extremely talented group that had found a wide audience with very little in the way of marketing efforts or extensive audience outreach.
In 1992, Ms. Hunnewell, a self-described inveterate organizer who had by then joined the company’s board, saw a great opportunity and essentially created a job for herself. She first turned her attention to the administrative side, creating a reservation system and mailing list and establishing ticket subscription packages to support the theater professionals and volunteers already dedicated to the highest standards of presenting live theater.
Over the years, as all businesses learned to incorporate rapidly evolving computer technology, Ms. Hunnewell created and adapted all the internal and external administrative and development systems that are now the core of the company’s operations—beginning by adding to her mailing list the name of every patron who walked through the door.
While enjoying the administrative challenges the company posed, Ms. Hunnewell also always had one foot in the artistic camp. She began directing for the company with The Rainmaker in 1998 and has since directed more than 30 productions. She has also been an integral member of the committee responsible for choosing the plays that the company presents.
Ms. Hunnewell noted that the decision to step aside “is not an easy one after so many years devoted to and absorbed by the HTC,” but said she feels it is time to turn the company over to new leadership and new ideas. She added that it is her hope, as she prepares to embrace new adventures and challenges in her life, that “energetic members of the next generation of theater professionals will join the existing team and help shepherd the already vibrant HTC into a new era of creative and aesthetic excellence in the presentation of exceptional live theater.”