Shanna Waite is an arts leader, entrepreneur, and strategist with 26+ years of industry experience in production, performance, and business. She is the former Founder and Executive Director of The Studios, Center for the Performing Arts and current trustee at ACT Theatre. As an active and passionate arts advocate/mentor she is dedicated to passing on the sustainability of the craft to future generations.
Waite began her professional career in 1987 and went on to have a robust career as a professional performing artist constantly developing new skills and turning those skills into new opportunities. Her study of the craft began on the stage and screen supported by mentors and innovators in the industry. Between local and touring contracts she continued extensive training in voice and dance. As a teenager she left Minneapolis to train in the Professional Division at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. At 18 she elected to take a hiatus from the professional world to pursue a degree in the sciences. Upon graduation she returned to the industry to carve out her career as an adult further expanding her dedication to the craft. Waite developed a thirst for the world of new works while taking on more physically demanding roles, and building her career as a director/choreographer. As a triple threat she was grateful for the opportunities to work under the helm of industry leaders including Terrance McNally, Jack O’Brien, Jerry Mitchel, Casey Nicholaw, Patti Colombo, and Matt Lenz.
In 2013 Waite founded The Studios, Center for the Performing Arts, creating a hub for artists to challenge, incubate, launch, succeed, and inspire. New opportunities emerged for the local and national arts communities through The Studios’ professional training center and state of the art venue. The Studios training center provided 56 classes/week, monthly workshops, master classes, and intensives. As Executive Director, Waite curated the training center to support the needs of adult artists across the disciplines of acting, voice, and dance from beginners to advanced professionals. The Studios mission daily served its members, rental clients, resident companies, and the 2500+ students participating in the Pre-Professional, Community and Professional divisions. The training center acted as a bridge to the national community with an extensive roster of guest artists and industry intensives. To support local emerging artists Waite created a Work-Study Program employing 40+ artists while providing advanced training and mentorship to navigate their journey as professional artists. As a hub, The Studios successfully created a bar raising culture across the disciplines of theatre, dance, and music providing prime conditions to challenge incubate, launch, succeed, and inspire.