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November 29th, 2011 By Rick Pender | Arts & Culture | Posted In: Theater

Actors Theatre of Louisville Names New Artistic Director

Brit director Les Waters moves to Kentucky from Berkeley, Calif.

les waters - actors theatre ad - 11-29-11Les Waters, new artistic director in Louisville - Photo from Actors Theatre of Louisville

Les Waters, a British director who’s worked in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, has been named the next artistic director at Actors Theatre of Louisville. It’s only the third time in the theater’s 42-year history that a new artistic leader has been chosen. Jon Jory led the theater for three decades years, during which he established the highly respected Humana Festival of New American Plays, about to mark its 36th iteration. Jory was succeeded in 1999 by Marc Masterson, who left earlier this year to take over another proponent of new works for the American stage, South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Waters is an Obie Award-winning director who has served as associate artistic director at Berkeley Repertory Theatre since 2003. He has directed productions there and elsewhere that have garnered national attention. A strong proponent of contemporary work and adaptations of classic material, Waters has an impressive track record of collaborating with some of theatre’s most prominent playwrights, including Caryl Churchill (he has a 30-year history with the remarkable British playwright), Charles Mee and Sarah Ruhl, and he has been a champion of important new voices such as Will Eno, Jordan Harrison and Anne Washburn.

Waters directed the world premiere of Ruhl’s In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play at Berkeley Rep, and then staged it for its New York production at Lincoln Center. Earlier this year he staged that company’s West Coast premiere of Ruhl’s translation of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, a work commissioned by and first produced at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

He staged Charles Mee’s Big Love for Actors Theatre’s Humana Festival in 2000; the play, based on a work by Aeschylus from YEAR went on to win an Obie Award in 2002 for its production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In 2007 he returned to the Humana Festival to stage Naomi Iizuka’s From the Vanishing Point, a site-specific work about people living and working in Louisville’s historic Butchertown neighborhood.

Presenting him at a Louisville news conference this morning, Todd Lowe, chair of the search committee, said, “Les Waters brings with him an outstanding artistic track record and a devotion to both contemporary work and the re-envisioning of classic texts. He has demonstrated a real passion for the commissioning and production of work by important new voices and shares Actors Theatre’s commitment to supporting the innovation and imagination of the American playwright.” Following his introduction, Waters also described himself as “a passionate believer in plays about ordinary people” and said he’s committed to “engaging the community.”

It will be fascinating to see what this well-connected and innovative director brings to Actors Theatre of Louisville. He will be fully engaged by late March, in the midst of the 2012 Humana Festival (works for which were selected prior to his appointment). Cincinnatians interested in good work should mark down two upcoming Louisville productions of plays that were finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz (Jan. 3-Feb. 4, 2012) and Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play (Jan. 24-Feb. 18, 2012). Waters won’t be directing the latter, but you can be sure he’ll be interested to see what guest director Laura Gordon does with the production.

More information: www.ActorsTheatre.org

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