CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — TEXAS Outdoor Musical announced Stephen Crandall, head of West Texas A&M’s Department of Art, Theatre, and Dance, as the new Artistic Director, according to a press release from WT.

“I am thrilled to welcome Stephen Crandall as the next Artistic Director of such a storied institution of the Panhandle of Texas,” said Dr. Andrew Hay, Executive Director of the Cultural Foundation of the Texas Panhandle (CFTP). “Of course, Stephen is no stranger to the stage in this region, and his expertise both nationally and internationally speaks for itself. But it is his continued leadership as a faculty member of WT, and the respect of his peers, which lends itself to his exceptional candidacy as the next artistic director of TEXAS.”

“I cannot express enough the enthusiasm with which the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation board and WT leadership have received the news of this opportunity,” Hay continued. “I am excited by the prospect of working alongside Stephen, and I look forward to the 56th season of TEXAS under his direction.”

According to WT, the foundation is focused on the cultural heritage of the Texas Panhandle, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, and the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation (TPHF), which produces the outdoor musical in Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

“We are very excited to bring someone with Stephen’s background, talents, and abilities on board as Artistic Director for the TEXAS,” said Mark Hodges, TPHF board chair. “With Stephen, we begin a new and exciting chapter of sharing the history and culture of this region with patrons from around the world.”

“I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity and for the support of TPHF and CFTP leadership, as well as WT,” Crandall said. “TEXAS is a part of my and my wife’s history; we actually met during our first summer with the show. It is more so an important part of the Texas Panhandle’s history, and I look forward to contributing toward enhancing that history further.”

WT stated that Crandall is set to step down as the current head of the WT theatre department but will continue his work as a professor in the department. Dr. Jessica Mallard, Dean of the Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities, explained that Crandall’s replacement will be announced by the end of the semester.

“Stephen has done a remarkable job leading the department for the past six years, and we wish him well on his new endeavor,” Mallard said. “I know he is excited to be putting his artistic hat back on and doing so with something with such a rich and long history as TEXAS.”

Crandall will be the eighth artistic director of the musical since July 1, 1966, according to the release.

“It is humbling to consider the thousands of talented individuals who have been a part of TEXAS over the years,” Crandall said. “I consider myself lucky to be able to once again be a part of it, and to lead the next generation of artists who will help tell this story and continue the legacy of live performance in the canyon. As someone who has experienced TEXAS many times, I can speak to its magical ability to enthrall a diverse audience and build lasting memories for all who see and are a part of it.”

WT added that Crandall auditioned for the musical in 1999 after seeing the show, and landed the role of Calvin Armstrong. Crandall plated the character for the next three summers and returned to be an acting coach in 2002. He also directed the production “Shakespeare in the Canyon.”

Crandall earned his bachelor degree in theater performance in 2003 from WT, then a master of fine art in 2007 from the University of Nevada, where he began to perform internationally in a number of festivals including the Adelaide Fringe Festival in South Australia, and locally with Amarillo Little Theatre, Merely Players, and TEXAS, according to WT.

Crandall returned to WT in 2010 as an assistant professor of theatre and was named the department heat in 2016 after receiving tenure. In addition, Crandall was promoted to professor in 2021.