Williamstown Theatre Festival
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|Williamstown Theatre Festival|
Winner of a 2002 Tony Award and a 2011 Massachusetts Cultural Council Commonwealth Award, the Williamstown Theatre Festival is a resident summer theater on the campus of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, founded in 1954 by Williams College news director, Ralph Renzi, and drama program chairman, David C. Bryant.
The theatre festival was conceived as a way to use the Adams Memorial Theatre on the Williams campus for a resident summer theatre company. At the request of Renzi and Bryant, established Actress and Broadway Theatre World Award winner Marcia Henderson, who was raised in Williamstown, performed in the first play of the festival. She was the first major celebrity to perform at Williamstown, and many have followed since, including Sigourney Weaver, Gwyneth Paltrow, Christopher Walken, Nathan Lane, Richard Chamberlain, Kate Burton, Olympia Dukakis, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Cooper, Calista Flockhart, Matthew Broderick, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Uma Thurman (Summer, 2019).
Nikos Psacharopoulos, a professor at Yale Drama School and a co-founder, became the executive artistic director and guided the company for over thirty years. Psacharopoulos made certain WTF would not be a typical summer stock theater by focusing on such international playwrights as Chekhov, George Bernard Shaw, Jean Anouilh, Tennessee Williams, Bertholt Brecht, and Tom Stoppard. He mentored his associates and assistant directors, such as Tom Brennan, Arvin Brown, Keith Fowler, Peter H. Hunt, Paul Weidner, and Austin Pendleton. He attracted well-known actors including E.G. Marshall, Frank Langella, Rosemary Harris, Blythe Danner, and Colleen Dewhurst. Christopher Reeve, once a WTF apprentice and later a frequently-featured actor at the festival, told an interviewer: "By staying here thirty years, Nikos [did] what they couldn't do in Brooklyn or Washington or at Lincoln Center. He has managed to achieve a national theater."
Psacharopoulos died in 1989. Following a 35th season run by a troika of Peter H. Hunt, Austin Pendleton and George Morfogen, Hunt was named Artistic Director for the 36th season, in 1990. In 1996, long-time WTF stage manager Michael Ritchie became the head of the festival, and during his eight years at the helm, nearly two dozen productions transferred to Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theatres across the country. Ritchie was succeeded in 2005 by Roger Rees. Former WTF resident director Nicholas Martin served as Artistic Director from 2008-2010. Former Associate Producer Jenny Gersten served as Artistic Director from 2011-2014. Mandy Greenfield served as Artistic Director from 2014-2021. Following Greenfield's resignation, Greenfield's predecessor Jenny Gersten was named Interim Artistic Director.
In 2002, the American Theater Wing awarded WTF America's highest theatrical honor, the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theater —the "Tony"—as an especially distinguished regional theater. In 2005, the festival held its inaugural season in the '62 center for Theater and Dance, which replaced the Adams Memorial Theatre.
Throughout its over four decades in existence, many celebrated American artists—designers, composers, directors, choreographers as well as stage and screen actors—have worked as apprentices or company members at Williamstown.
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- Shepard, R.F., "Nikos Psacharopoulos, 60, Co-Founder of Theater," N.Y. Times, January 13, 1989 | https://www.nytimes.com/1989/01/13/obituaries/nikos-psacharopoulos-60-co-founder-of-theater.html
- "Mandy Greenfield Resigns From Helm of Williamstown Theatre Fest". American Theatre. 1 November 2021.
- The Tony Awards. American Theatre Wing. Retrieved on 2013-08-02.
- A BRIEF HISTORY OF WILLIAMSTOWN THEATRE FESTIVAL | Williamstown Theatre Festival. Wtfestival.org. Retrieved on 2013-08-02.
- "Inaugural Season of the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance". Office of Communications. Retrieved 2021-06-28.
- The Williamstown Theatre Festival (Michael Ritchie, Producer) | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information. IBDB. Retrieved on 2013-08-02.
- Williamstown Theatre Festival official website
- Williamstown Theatre Festival at the Internet Broadway Database
- Williamstown Theatre Festival collection at Williams College Archives & Special Collections