“It is with great honour and immeasurable excitement that I begin this new adventure as artistic director at Theatre Calgary,” said Arima in a statement. “This journey to Calgary is a homecoming for me. After two decades based in New York City, my return to Canada gives me immense pride. I am eager to participate in Calgary's fervent artistic spirit, and continue the tradition of bold storytelling and impactful theatre that moves, touches and inspires this city’s audiences. As Calgary knows, this theatre has achieved immense success under the former artistic leadership of Dennis Garnhum. I am thrilled to oversee Interim Artistic Director Shari Wattling's recently announced season marking our 50th Anniversary, and partner with the board of directors, and the entire staff and crew, to present these eclectic works to our audiences. I am anxious to begin the process of guiding the company through its next phase of growth. Our theatre will forever be a home that reflects the communities, the country, and the world we live in – a diverse, complex, stimulating world.”
Chadwick Newcombe, chairman of the Board, stated, “Theatre Calgary has come a long way over the past half-century, and I am ecstatic that Stafford will be leading us into our next 50 years. The Board could not ask for a more qualified individual to provide artistic leadership, as Stafford's vision, experience, expertise, charisma and dedication are, in a word, inspirational. In hiring Stafford, the Board has reaffirmed that Theatre Calgary intends to stand amongst the best theatre companies in the world, while remaining committed to entertaining and inspiring Calgarians, as we reach out to welcome new audiences. I am sure that Calgary will quickly admire him as much as we do.”
Born and raised in Toronto, Arima became the first Asian Canadian to direct a musical on Broadway when the aforementioned Allegiance opened in November 2015 at the Longacre Theatre, starring George Takei and Lea Salonga. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for his direction of 2004's West End premiere of the musical Ragtime, and his production received eight nominations, including Best Musical. Some of his other directing credits include productions of Altar Boyz, Carrie (MCC Theater), The Secret Garden - In Concert (Lincoln Center), Two Class Acts (The Flea Theater), The Tin Pan Alley Rag (Roundabout Theatre Company), Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living In Paris (Stratford Festival), Abyssinia (Goodspeed Musicals), A Tribute to Sondheim (Boston Pops), and Guys and Dolls (Paper Mill Playhouse). Arima has also shepherded new musical development at the Toronto Fringe Festival, New York Musical Theatre Festival, National Alliance for Musical Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, New York Stage and Film, and the SPF Festival. Arima also serves as artistic advisor for the Broadway Dreams Foundation and is an adjunct professor at UC Davis.
He is currently directing the San Diego premiere of Lolita Chakrabarti's play Red Velvet at The Old Globe.