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

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Elizabeth Williamson has been preparing for her new position as creative director of Rochester’s Geva Theatre Middle for most of her lifetime.

“I think we did a truly excellent Nixon puppet clearly show when I was about six, utilizing stuffed animals on the back again of the couch to terrific outcome,” she suggests.

Williamson, who has considering that labored with Tony Award-winning reveals, will choose in excess of for Mark Cuddy, who introduced previous summer time that he will be retiring right after the present-day Geva season, which ends in July.

The very first female to maintain the posture, Williamson will information Geva into its 2nd half-century in downtown Rochester.

Williamson and Government Director Christopher Mannelli will operate as co-CEOs of Geva when she formally assumes her place in June. She already has ideas for the 2022-23 year: “Oh, a thousand,” she suggests.

“So lots of of the writers whose get the job done I most adore, Geva has programmed or made as very well. So, it is fascinating to arrive to a theater realizing that we have some, what I’ve been calling, ‘friends in prevalent.’”

Williamson arrives to Rochester after performing a handful of freelance jobs via the pandemic in New York Metropolis. From 2012 by means of 2020, she was in Hartford, Connecticut, serving as associate artistic director and director of new perform progress at Hartford Phase.

The Boston indigenous has a sprawling personalized heritage, with a childhood of relocating with her household to California, Chicago and Bennington, Vermont. “College city to college town throughout the state,” Williamson states. Her résumé involves undergraduate school at Bennington University and studying theater in Paris and London, in which she earned a master’s diploma from Oxford College.

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

She was a New York Periods “Best Theatre of 2020” pick, as innovative producer, dramaturg, and co-director for an on line output of Sarah Gancher’s “Russian Troll Farm.”

That, and the Nixon puppet clearly show, are the suggestion-offs that Williamson is maybe a politically provocative selection to head Geva Theatre Heart. Comparing it to the television sequence “The Workplace,” Williamson describes “Russian Troll Farm” this way: “A office comedy established in the headquarters of a Russian team that has been tasked to undermine the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on line.

“And their get the job done is generating tweets and plausible wrong tales that will get Individuals to preventing with just about every other on the internet, and undermine the election,” she continues.

A participate in (primarily based in a correct tale?) that could, Williamson concedes, discover its way to the Geva stage.

“While I type of hoped that with the 2020 presidential election the perform would start out to seem really dated, I’m fearful it has not nonetheless,” she states.

“I think it nonetheless speaks to us.”

The pandemic has been a significant obstacle to reside theater. “Some theater artists, as they generally do, began to innovate in actually incredible approaches,” Williamson says. The online element of “Russian Troll Farm” and other latest initiatives that she has been associated with communicate of what she calls “new approaches to inform a story.”

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Williamson’s predecessor, the 66-calendar year-outdated Cuddy,  was a hands-on artistic director throughout his 27 years at the theater, personally directing additional than 55 productions, performing in some, and leading Geva commissions these types of as “Revival: The Resurrection of Son Residence,” a biography of the bluesman who lived in Rochester for a lot of years.

He also oversaw the addition of a next stage to Geva Theatre Middle, the intimate, 180-seat Fielding Stage. Much more not too long ago, there ended up renovations to the venue’s lobby, café, and residences for actors doing in the productions.

Geva now ranks in the Prime 25 for regional theater attendance in the state.

To his credit rating, Cuddy was more and more steering Geva towards plays that emphasized folks and groups who have been marginalized in culture. Williamson has shared that dedication in her get the job done.

“It’s been amazingly significant to me all over my vocation,” she states, “to make a area for artists with different backgrounds, diverse activities, and diverse tales to share. To sense harmless and have the tools they have to have to notify their stories. That are theirs by itself to convey to. That’s a single of the items I have been proudest of around the very last a long time.”

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

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