September 26, 2023


Arts Eternal

Geva’s incoming artistic director wants to tell ‘new stories’ | Theater

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&#13 Elizabeth Williamson is the incoming artistic director at Geva Theatre Center. - PHOTO BY LISS COUCH-EDWARDS&#13

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  • &#13 Elizabeth Williamson is the incoming creative director at Geva Theatre Center.&#13
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Elizabeth Williamson has been getting ready for her new situation as inventive director of Rochester’s Geva Theatre Heart for most of her lifestyle.

“I consider we did a seriously fantastic Nixon puppet clearly show when I was about six, applying stuffed animals on the back of the couch to good influence,” she claims.

Williamson, who has considering the fact that labored with Tony Award-winning shows, will consider over for Mark Cuddy, who declared previous summertime that he will be retiring immediately after the current Geva season, which finishes in July.

The to start with lady to hold the situation, Williamson will manual Geva into its 2nd 50 %-century in downtown Rochester.

Williamson and Executive Director Christopher Mannelli will work as co-CEOs of Geva when she officially assumes her placement in June. She presently has suggestions for the 2022-23 time: “Oh, a thousand,” she suggests.

“So lots of of the writers whose do the job I most appreciate, Geva has programmed or created as properly. So, it is enjoyable to arrive to a theater figuring out that we have some, what I’ve been contacting, ‘friends in widespread.’”

Williamson arrives to Rochester following functioning a handful of freelance initiatives by the pandemic in New York Town. From 2012 as a result of 2020, she was in Hartford, Connecticut, serving as associate artistic director and director of new engage in development at Hartford Stage.

The Boston native has a sprawling own historical past, with a childhood of transferring with her family members to California, Chicago and Bennington, Vermont. “College city to faculty town across the place,” Williamson suggests. Her résumé features undergraduate school at Bennington University and finding out theater in Paris and London, where she acquired a master’s degree from Oxford University.

Williamson has also labored with theater providers from Salt Lake Metropolis to New York Metropolis, with all those Tony Award-profitable productions, which include the musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Appreciate and Murder” and Matthew López’ “The Inheritance.”

She was a New York Situations “Best Theatre of 2020” select, as innovative producer, dramaturg, and co-director for an on the net creation of Sarah Gancher’s “Russian Troll Farm.”

That, and the Nixon puppet display, are the idea-offs that Williamson is probably a politically provocative decision to head Geva Theatre Middle. Comparing it to the tv sequence “The Place of work,” Williamson describes “Russian Troll Farm” this way: “A office comedy established in the headquarters of a Russian group that has been tasked to undermine the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on the web.

“And their function is creating tweets and plausible false tales that will get Us residents to preventing with each individual other on the internet, and undermine the election,” she proceeds.

A play (based mostly in a true story?) that could, Williamson concedes, come across its way to the Geva phase.

“While I type of hoped that with the 2020 presidential election the play would begin to appear to be really dated, I’m concerned it has not still,” she suggests.

“I think it still speaks to us.”

The pandemic has been a severe challenge to are living theater. “Some theater artists, as they normally do, commenced to innovate in seriously fantastic approaches,” Williamson says. The on the web element of “Russian Troll Farm” and other recent projects that she has been included with communicate of what she calls “new means to inform a story.”

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Williamson’s predecessor, the 66-year-outdated Cuddy,  was a arms-on inventive director all through his 27 a long time at the theater, individually directing much more than 55 productions, acting in some, and main Geva commissions these kinds of as “Revival: The Resurrection of Son House,” a biography of the bluesman who lived in Rochester for a lot of several years.

He also oversaw the addition of a 2nd stage to Geva Theatre Heart, the personal, 180-seat Fielding Phase. More not long ago, there were renovations to the venue’s foyer, café, and residences for actors accomplishing in the productions.

Geva now ranks in the Major 25 for regional theater attendance in the country.

To his credit, Cuddy was progressively steering Geva toward plays that emphasised men and women and teams who have been marginalized in modern society. Williamson has shared that motivation in her get the job done.

“It’s been unbelievably critical to me through my job,” she claims, “to make a house for artists with distinctive backgrounds, unique experiences, and distinct stories to share. To truly feel harmless and have the equipment they will need to notify their stories. That are theirs on your own to explain to. That’s a person of the matters I have been proudest of in excess of the last a long time.”

Jeff Spevak is WXXI’s Arts & Lifetime editor. He can be reached at [email protected].

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