Amanda Huotari will leaving her role as executive artistic director of Celebration Barn Theater at the end of the year. Photo by Jill Brady, courtesy of Celebration Barn

Amanda Huotari, the longtime executive artistic director at the Celebration Barn Theater in South Paris, plans to leave her post at the end of this year, following a season of open-air performances.

She announced the news on social media on Thursday, saying she was leaving the job she loved to spend more time on her own work. The theater confirmed the news in a press release.

“We are so grateful for Mandy’s remarkable leadership over these past 15 years. She has built on the history of Celebration Barn to create a strong, bright future as we look ahead to our 50th anniversary next year,” board member Davis Robinson said in a statement. “Mandy is leaving the Barn in a great position for a new director to continue to grow the organization, locally and globally, for the next 50 years.”

Based in a restored red barn, the theater and school have served as an inspirational setting for immersive physical theater for generations of artists. They specialize in mime, improvisation, storytelling and other performing arts. The world-renowned mime Tony Montanaro founded the school in 1972, establishing an old horse barn in Oxford County as a summer destination for mimes from around the world. Montanaro died in 2002. Huotari began her duties in 2006.

“I’m happy to share that, despite the unprecedented challenges of the past year, the Barn has remained strong and vital,” she wrote in her message to the Barn community. “New online trainings are making it possible to reach a growing global community. We are working with artists – both live and virtually – to innovate new ways of engaging audiences. We are also investing in capital improvements to secure the property for future generations.”

Board member Tom Fogarty said the Celebration Barn remains strong, despite the challenges of the pandemic, because of Huotari’s leadership. The theater will soon announce a season of on-site, open-air events, he said, and in June the board will begin a search for Huotari’s replacement. The goal is having someone in place by late summer to work with Huotari during the transition, according to the press release.

The Barn celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022.

Under Huotari’s leadership, the Barn has expanded its faculty and school programming for students throughout the Oxford Hills region, and created “genre-defying” and large-scale  performances that have taken over the Barn’s 11-acre property, downtown Norway and toured globally. In 2016, she helped transform the property with the construction of solar-powered cabins for visiting artists, and a new master plan calls for a bathhouse, commercial kitchen and expanded studios, according to the press release.

“With the spirit of the Barn so strong, and my growing desire to spend more time creating my own work, this is an ideal time for new leadership,” Huotari wrote in her letter.

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