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After six years at the helm of Ten Thousand Things Theater taking first-rate shows to Minnesotans in prisons, shelters and other congregate settings, Marcela Lorca is stepping down as artistic director.

An in-demand artist known for sculpting visual poetry onstage, Lorca will spread her wings across the country with shows upcoming at San Diego's Old Globe theater, Houston's Alley Theatre and Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Fla.

Lorca, who leaves at the year's end, also intends to spend more time with her mother, who's 90 and lives in their native Chile.

"It's sad for me to depart because I have such terrific colleagues and meaningful relationships with community and artistic partners," Lorca said. "But because TTT is very strong and stable post-pandemic, it's a good time for me to have more flexibility in my life."

Lorca took the reins of the company from founder Michelle Hensley. She led the organization "flawlessly" through what often was a fraught transition compounded by the upheavals of the coronavirus pandemic and the post-George Floyd social justice upwelling, said board chair H. Adam Harris.

"It's a testament to her skill, grace and calm that we're thriving today," Harris said. "Marcela uplifted the work that we do with her level of artistry and play, and it's a big loss for Ten Thousand Things."

At TTT, which hews to a barebones aesthetic, her theatrical highlights include the Greek tragedy "Iphigenia at Aulis," which was performed outdoors during a lull in the pandemic infections. For the last performance of the show at a farm in Wisconsin, a wild deer appeared as if on cue at the pivotal moment the messenger describes dying and vanishing, leaving a deer in her place.

Other shows, including the musicals "Thunder Knocking at the Door" and "Into the Woods," also had magical moments. Her all-female production of "Emilia," about the "dark muse" who inspired Shakespeare's sonnets, was a rip-roaring success. And playwright Karen Zacarias cried when she saw Lorca's production of her play, "The Sins of Sor Juana."

Lorca expanded TTT's collaboration with community partners and founded Ten Thousand Voices, which cultivates and enacts stories from people isolated in group-living situations.

Prior to TTT, Lorca spent decades at the Guthrie Theater working in movement, actor training and directing. She developed her aesthetic under the late artistic leader Garland Wright, and the two shared a storytelling approach that includes sculpting poetic images onstage.

For the Guthrie, she memorably directed Tony Kushner's "Caroline, or Change," Seamus Heaney's "The Burial at Thebes" and Ayad Akhtar's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Disgraced."

Harris, who has known Lorca since he was 18 when she taught him in the University of Minnesota/Guthrie BFA program, said TTT is conducting a national search for her replacement.

Lorca will stage the next TTT show, "The Spitfire Grill," starting April 25. She said that she is eager to spend time with her mother, Maria Eugenia Hederra Lorca, also an artist.

"She worked until she was 87 and so I still have a lot of work ahead of me," Lorca said.