Lyric Theatre's acting director named to permanent post

rcopley@herald-leader.comJanuary 7, 2014 

After a year as the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center's acting executive director, Rasheedah El-Amin has been named to the permanent post.

"She showed tremendous resilience when we turned to her as acting director a year ago," Lyric board chairman Abdul Muhammad said Tuesday afternoon. "She engaged with the community, developed a great rapport with the board and showed a lot of skill and growth in 2013."

El-Amin said, "We're still a young organization, and I am looking forward to helping the Lyric be what it should be: a place to see and be seen."

The Lyric Theatre was a hot spot for Lexington's black residents from the 1940s to the early '60s, but it closed in 1963. After years of political and legal wrangling and a $6 million renovation, it reopened in October 2010 as the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center. The following April, Los Angeles actress and producer Yetta Young was named its executive director, a post she held 20 months before departing in late December 2012.

El-Amin, 29, then the theater's cultural arts coordinator, stepped into the role, although at the time she said she wasn't looking to take the job permanently.

"It's been a learning experience, but my passion is the arts," said El-Amin, a Lexington native who holds a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the University of Kentucky. "This summer, when we were planning ahead for upcoming events is when I started to feel comfortable, like I can do this job."

One of El-Amin's major challenges, she said, was overseeing increased bookings after its rental rates dropped in 2013. That included the folk-music program WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour's move to the theater, filling many of the Monday nights on the theater's calendar.

Muhammad said the theater's booking has doubled since 2012, when there were many complaints that the theater was dark most nights.

Muhammad said the theater board was preparing to launch a director search late last year when members realized that they might already have the right person.

"She grew into it," he said. "We felt like we had something that was working."

Muhammad said a bonus in hiring El-Amin to the permanent post is continuity after several rocky years.

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: Copiousnotes.bloginky.com.

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