After 25 years, Amphibian Stage Founding Artistic Director is Passing the Baton

Jay Duffer to assume role of Artistic Director as Kathleen Culebro steps away to seek new artistic endeavors

Today, Amphibian Stage announces a historic change in leadership: Founding Artistic Director Kathleen Culebro will step down from her current position at the end of their 25th Season. Jay Duffer has accepted the position of Artistic Director. Duffer joined the non-profit as Managing Director in 2019 and was named Co-Artistic Director in December, 2021.

“For 25 years Kathleen has poured her heart and soul into establishing this organization as a creative force in the national theater landscape,” states Board President, Jennifer Jolin.  “Although her departure is tinged with sadness, all of us on the board at Amphibian are cheering her on as she pursues new artistic endeavors.”


“Jay has been a vital part of the staff for five years now and is very familiar with the arts scene in Dallas-Fort Worth and the inner workings of the theater,” Jolin states. “The board at Amphibian is absolutely thrilled that Jay has agreed to transition to Artistic Director and we know that he will take Amphibian to new heights while honoring its proud history.”

The Culebro Legacy


Culebro has spent the last 25 years building the small powerhouse theater company into a thriving, well-respected organization, both regionally and nationally. Amphibian Stage was born on the campus of Texas Christian University, whose support the company lauds as a great reason for its early success. After eight years of producing theater during the summers at TCU, Amphibian shifted to year-round programming at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. Following four years of performances at the Sanders Theatre, Amphibian Stage purchased a building of its own, a former nightclub where Nirvana played in the 90s. In 2012, this black box theater was one of very few operating businesses on South Main Street. The company’s presence on South Main is credited with the flourishing of the neighborhood that quickly followed. Former President of Near Southside, Inc., Paul Paine, remarked “when Amphibian moved in, South Main turned a corner.”

In 25 seasons, Amphibian has produced 83 plays, 13 world premieres, and 40+ stand-up comic residencies, along with developing nearly 70 new plays. Always ambitious and forward-looking, Amphibian’s mission has, at times, even expanded past the confines of a stage. Its augmented reality art-walk (the first of its kind in North Texas), Neighborhood Leap, was launched with great excitement in the summer of 2022, in collaboration with The Blue Zones Project to promote healthy activities while also supporting artists and area businesses. When performing arts organizations couldn’t host live theater in 2020, they turned to radio waves and created an immersive audio adaptation of The True History of Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana, The Ugliest Woman in the World which was warmly reviewed by The New York Times

One of Culebro’s most recent contributions to the national arts scene is SparkFest, an annual performing arts festival that returns to Fort Worth for the fourth time this June. Aiming to shine a light on art and artists that aren’t historically well represented within the industry, SparkFest’23 celebrated Middle Eastern, North African, and Middle Eastern (MENASA) art. SparkFest’24 will uplift the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Not only is the festival a hub for dynamic and varied live entertainment, SparkFest now hosts a Van Cliburn-style acting competition, new play readings, community projects, lectures, and more.  

Culebro is not only a renowned arts leader, she is also a playwright whose work has been seen across the United States and beyond. Two of her plays, La Llorona and Leopard Complains Of Its Spots, premiered in New York, the latter receiving an extended run. Her most recent work, The Amazing, Fabulous, and Spectacular Untruths of Juan Garcia, was one of 6 plays chosen for development at Orlando Shakespeare Festival and was named a semi-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference. Juan Garcia will receive its world premiere at Amphibian Stage this fall. 

“After profound soul searching and thoughtful planning alongside Jay Duffer, I’ve made the decision to embark on a new chapter outside of my role at Amphibian Stage,” Culebro said.  “While this change will be bittersweet, I’m genuinely excited about the prospect of exploring fresh horizons in the arts. I will always be a part of this company that means so much to me, but soon it will be as an enthusiastic donor and patron watching with pride as it continues to grow and evolve with fresh talent and leadership.”

“As I set forth on this journey, I carry with me a deep gratitude for the many artists, audiences, supporters—not to mention our incredible staff–who have helped build this organization and whose friendship I deeply cherish.”

The Path Forward


Kathleen Culebro met Jay Duffer, a New York-based actor at the time, more than 19 years ago when Jay accepted an acting role for a reading at Amphibian Stage. From their first meeting, Culebro and Duffer became fast friends and great admirers of each other’s working styles and artistic aesthetics. Over the years Culebro found opportunities to bring Jay back to collaborate on projects like Wittenberg and The Bible: Abridged. In 2019 when Amphibian Stage was seeking a new managing director, Culebro jumped at the chance to bring Duffer in full time.

Duffer shares responsibility for many of the high points in the organization’s history. Three works he directed, The Bible: Abridged, Babette’s Feast, and Marie Antoinette, are among the top 10 highest-grossing productions at Amphibian Stage. As Managing Director, Duffer guided the company through the COVID-19 shutdown. Even with an unprecedented rate of live theaters closing their doors, the organization that Culebro and Duffer have helmed together remains strong. In fact, Amphibian Stage continues to shatter box office and attendance records despite a nationwide trend of lower theater attendance, all while implementing a ticketing model that allows patrons to decide what they pay. 

As for the mission and vision? Duffer isn’t interested in reinventing the wheel; rather, he wants to offer a smooth transition when he takes the baton. 

“Kathleen has been an incredible leader of the organization for 25 years.  The singularity of her vision has established Amphibian Stage as a prominent theater in DFW and beyond. Her mentorship over the last five years has truly been a gift.  I’m honored to carry on this vibrant legacy and excited to lead Amphibian Stage to continued success and growth in a trajectory already set at its origin,”  Duffer said. 

Amphibian Stage 2024 Season At A Glance

  • Jordan Carlos, Stand-Up Comic Residency: May 16-17
  • SparkFest: June 6 – 18 (The two-week performing arts festival is a celebration of theatrical, artistic, and cultural experiences with dozens of events, including new play developments, classes, an acting competition, special performances, and concerts, bringing artists from all over the US to Fort Worth, TX.) 
  • The Handless King: July 26 – August 18
  • The Amazing, Fabulous, and Spectacular Untruths of Juan Garcia: October 11 – November 3
  • A Winter’s Cabaret featuring Mick Lynch December 6-7