After 16 years away from her hometown of St. George, Miranda Wright is back. And, she’s making a “dramatic” impact, locally and nationally. As executive director of the Center for the Arts at Kayenta, Miranda is keeping the Center’s vision—to be a premier venue where diverse artistic endeavors and education can flourish—firmly in her sights.
Following her 2002 graduation from Pineview High School and a 2006 Bachelor of Science in theater from Southern Utah University, Miranda earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from California Institute of the Arts. It was there that she first glimpsed a world in which theatrical productions did not necessarily involve actors speaking on a stage.
“At SUU I’d had a wonderful, very traditional theater education,” Miranda notes. “But I was looking for something more experimental. At Cal Arts I met some incredible artists who really expanded my understanding of the role of theater and what it could do in the world, and I started producing their projects.”
Miranda’s first collaboration with her Cal Arts colleagues saw a partnership between artists in Los Angeles, New York and Havana, Cuba; the import of 14 artists to the latter city for a production entitled "The Closest Farthest Away;" and the subsequent staging of the project in Miami.
“That was my first introduction into being a part of a ‘presenting organization,’ versus a traditional theater,” says Miranda, who has since spent more than a decade working across the U.S. and around the globe, producing and presenting theatrical and dance performances.
In a divine instance of kismet, Miranda happened to be visiting her family in St. George during the pandemic-induced shutdown in Los Angeles, where she was living in 2021. Needing a bit of quiet time to pause and reflect, and weary of her travel schedule, Miranda took a drive out to Kayenta. Following the signs, she glimpsed the then shuttered Center for the Arts, which had not existed when she left the area.
Says Miranda, “I thought ‘how cool; there’s an arts center here now.’ Six months later, the job opening popped up on LinkedIn. The timing seemed incredibly right to come home: I’m really excited to connect with everyone again, and it’s great to be back in this beautiful place.”
When Miranda assumed her new role, she was given two directives by the Kayenta Foundation’s board of directors: To position the Center within a more professional landscape, and to feature performances that are otherwise not found in southern Utah. Both mandates tap into her unique skillset, as her first two productions will attest: In March, the Center will present "N O W I S W H E N W E A R E (the stars),” which will see acclaimed theater, video and installation pioneer, Andrew Schneider, showcasing his latest mashup of technology, performance and human connection.
The production was recently staged at the Brooklyn Academy of the Arts, which described it this way: “Through a darkened space, an unseen narrator guides each participant through a personal and collective cosmos. Five thousand precisely programmed points of light—inspired by seeing the Milky Way for the first time—respond to each individual. Through movement, narrative, and the room’s enveloping sound, “N O W I S W H E N W E A R E (the stars)” invites viewers to explore traces of light in themselves and the universe.”
In April, attendees will gather on the plaza adjoining the Center for the interactive production of “Your Optimism Is Not Required,” staged by Philadelphia’s Team Sunshine Performance Corporation. The two-person show—featuring a father taking his teenaged, biracial daughter on a camping trip—will include narrative from several characters, whose “voices” will be provided by willing audience volunteers, and all attendees will enjoy post-performance s’mores.
While presenting such experimental types of productions, Miranda hastens to add that the Center will continue to offer plays, dance performances, lectures and other, more familiar artistic genres. But she hopes that the pioneer spirit that is the bedrock of southern Utah will guide the Center’s patrons.
“I’d love for people to see the Center for the Arts at Kayenta as an opportunity for artistic adventure; to come with open minds and hearts, and to be ready to have fun conversations and new experiences,” Miranda confides. “St. George is known for offering adventures in so many ways. Hopefully we can be the arts component of those adventures.”
Miranda Wright founded Los Angeles Performance Practice and Live Arts Exchange Festival. A recipient of Center Theatre Group’s Richard E. Sherwood Award, she also received a Cultural Exchange International Fellowship through the City of Los Angeles and the British Council with ArtsAdmin in London. She holds an MFA in Producing from California Institute of the Arts, and an Executive MBA from Hult International Business School.
“I’d love for people to see the Center for the Arts at Kayenta as an opportunity for artistic adventure; to come with open minds and hearts, and to be ready to have fun conversations and new experiences ... St. George is known for offering adventures in so many ways. Hopefully we can be the arts component of those adventures.” – Miranda Wright