Announcing Geva’s Next Artistic Director
Elizabeth Williamson will take the helm for the theatre’s upcoming 50th Season.
After an extensive national search, Geva Theatre Center is proud to announce that the Board of Directors has voted to appoint Elizabeth Williamson as our new Artistic Director. She will partner with Executive Director Christopher Mannelli as Co-CEO of Geva Theatre Center beginning in June 2022. Ms. Williamson, the first woman to serve as Geva’s Artistic Director, will take an active role in the planning of Geva’s highly anticipated 50th Season prior to coming on board in full capacity.
Elizabeth has built a distinguished career as a producer, director, dramaturg, and adaptor. She has worked extensively and to great fanfare throughout the U.S. and around the globe, including on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in London’s West End. She commissioned and served as dramaturg for The Inheritance, by Matthew López, which won four Tony Awards in 2020, including Best Play, and the Olivier Award for Best Play. She was the creative producer, dramaturg, and co-director of Sarah Gancher’s New York Times “Best Theatre of 2020” pick Russian Troll Farm (produced online). Other recent projects include commissioning and developing Kaneza Schaal’s JACK &, directing Henry V and her own adaptation of Jane Eyre for Hartford Stage, and dramaturging Robert Freedman and Steven Lutvak’s A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, which won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Ms. Williamson’s extensive organizational leadership experience includes producing, new play development, and community engagement. She previously served as Associate Artistic Director and Literary Manager at Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City from 2008 – 2012 and as Associate Artistic Director and Director of New Play Development at Hartford Stage from 2012 – 2020. Ms. Williamson is known for her commitment to centering the work of LGBTQIA, BIPOC, and women artists and looks forward to furthering her dedication to new work and community engagement initiatives in her role at Geva.
This auspicious announcement culminates a national search process that began immediately following the June 2021 announcement by current Artistic Director Mark Cuddy of his upcoming retirement.
As Artistic Director, Ms. Williamson joins Executive Director Chris Mannelli in ensuring the continued success of the theatre’s mission to create and produce singular theatre productions and programs that serve the Rochester region and beyond.
About the Search Process
In June 2021, Mark Cuddy, who has served as Geva’s Artistic Director since 1995, announced his forthcoming retirement in July 2022. At that time, Maggie Symington, Chair of Geva’s Board of Trustees, stated that a search committee was in the process of being formed and an outside firm would be hired over the summer to assist in a national search for Cuddy’s successor. Geva Trustee Faheem Masood, CEO of ESL Federal Credit Union, was announced as chair of the search committee, which is comprised of select trustees and Geva’s Executive Director, Chris Mannelli. The committee members were selected to ensure that a variety of perspectives would be represented and to reflect a diverse group of individuals in regard to race, gender, and professional and community experience.
Engagement of Professional Search Firm
In July 2021, the search committee requested proposals from eight national search firms: four that specialize in the performing arts and four that have a broader clientele. Due primarily to the pandemic and increased demand for search services, only two of these eight firms had the capacity to respond. Fortunately, both had extensive experience with the performing arts, and both firms and proposals were strong. After lengthy consideration, the committee selected Management Consultant for the Arts (MCA), based in Stamford, CT. Together, the MCA team and the Search Committee, with extensive input from staff, created the position profile that was posted on September 3, 2021. Active recruitment commenced immediately thereafter.
OCTOBER 15, 2021: The search committee and Geva’s staff received positive reports from MCA that a high volume of applications was being submitted by an impressive and broadly diverse array of theatre artists from across the country. MCA plans to present a list of initial candidates to Geva in early November.
MCA’s evaluation of initial candidates is being informed by input gathered by survey and interview from Geva’s full staff, including professionals of many artistic and administrative disciplines at all levels of experience.
NOVEMBER 5, 2021: Upon completion of roughly 40 pre-screening interviews, MCA presented 13 candidates for first-round consideration by the search committee and recommended narrowing the pool to eight. All interviews will be conducted by Zoom during the next two weeks. These candidates represent a diverse group of individuals in regard to race, gender, and artistic background/experience.
At least two finalists will be invited by the search committee to take part in extensive in-person interviews, including opportunities for Geva staff members and Trustees to meet with each candidate. This is planned take place in December.
NOVEMBER 30, 2021: Ten of the 13 first-round candidates were invited for interviews with the full search committee. After careful consideration, four of the 10 interviewees have been informed of their selection for the final round of interviews. In-person interview sessions are being scheduled for December, as planned.
DECEMBER 28, 2021: During the second and third weeks of December, the four final candidates each traveled to Rochester for additional interviews. The schedule for each candidate included discussions with the search committee, the full Board of Trustees, senior staff, and a full-staff town hall. Everyone involved in these discussions was invited to provide feedback via a formal, standardized process, and the responses were reviewed and taken into consideration by the search committee. Each candidate also attended a performance at the theatre and was provided with a tour of the Rochester area. It is expected that Geva’s new Artistic Director will be announced in January.
The Geva community is grateful to our search team members for the extensive time, care and dedication they are devoting to this process. The search team is comprised of: Faheem Masood (Committee Chair, Vice President, Board of Trustees), Dennis Bassett (Immediate Past Chair, Board of Trustees), Essie Calhoun-McDavid (Vice President, Board of Trustees), Linda Cornell Weinstein (Honorary Trustee), Christina Gullo (Trustee), Dr. Dawn Lipson (Trustee), Christopher Mannelli (Executive Director, Geva Theatre Center), Nannette Nocon (Honorary Trustee), Maggie Symington (Chair, Board of Trustees)