Ann Arbor’s Wild Swan Theater closing after 40 years

Wild Swan Co-Founders and Co-Artistic Directors Hilary Cohen and Sandy Ryder as Frog and Toad. (Credit: Wild Swan Theater)
Wild Swan Co-Founders and Co-Artistic Directors Hilary Cohen and Sandy Ryder as Frog and Toad. (Credit: Wild Swan Theater)

ANN ARBOR – Wild Swan Theater will be bringing down the final curtain after more than 40 years of live theater performances in Michigan.

One of the state’s oldest professional theaters, Wild Swan was incepted in 1980 for children and families and its troupe of professional actors, musicians, dancers and sign language interpreters have performed for over 1 million audience members over the years.

“When we started, we never dreamed Wild Swan would grow into such a large and loved organization, that we would reach so many audience members,” co-artistic director Sandy Ryder said in a release. “We started Wild Swan in 1980 with nothing but an idea. We didn’t have a nickel. No space. No backers. Just an idea, an idea of a kind of theater that could possibly exist, accessible and affordable for everyone, and of the highest artistic quality.”

Wild Swan Theater was the recipient of numerous awards and grants throughout the years, including the Community Impact Partner Award from Michigan Humanities and the Michigan Governor’s Arts in Service Award. Beyond innovative performances for young people, Wild Swan was also put on the map for its accessibility programs for individuals with disabilities.

The theater troupe’s inhouse playwrights also tackled challenging themes like the Underground Railroad, the role of women in space exploration and more.

Co-artistic director Hilary Cohen said she and Ryder are now exploring how to maintain and archive of their resources once productions cease.

“We have a wonderful catalogue of drama activities for participants with disabilities that we would like to continue making available nationally as well as a number of DVD’s of our productions that we are testing in schools,” said Cohen. “We are just beginning to explore what form that will take.”

Although the pair said the pandemic was a contributing factor to the theater’s closure, the timing also felt right after decades of performances.

“When we began, people asked how long we would do this for,” Cohen and Snyder said in a joint statement. “We replied, we can’t do this forever. We will stop when the time is right. Well, we both feel the time is right now. We feel immense gratitude that we were able to sustain that special theater making for 40 years.”


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