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American Shakespeare Center

Founding Artistic Director Warren Steps Down

American Shakespeare Center logoThe American Shakespeare Center (ASC) in Staunton, Virginia, today announced that Artistic Director Jim Warren, who, with Ralph Alan Cohen, founded the organization 29 years ago, is stepping down at the end of the year to pursue other opportunities.

Warren, who directed the ASC’s first show, Richard III, in 1988, has directed more than 125 productions since and guided the organization from startup to international acclaim. The company's current home base is the Blackfriars Playhouse, the world's only re-creation of William Shakespeare's indoor theater.

“Helping to lead the American Shakespeare Center for nearly 30 years has been my passion and calling,” Warren said in the announcement. “But, the time has come for me to pursue other opportunities in theater, and I’m looking forward to the next act in my career. I’m humbled that the vision Ralph and I dreamed up years ago has become Shakespeare’s American Home, a truly one-of-a-kind Shakespeare experience. And I’m grateful to all of those who have dreamed the dream with us, from our amazing actors and staff to our donors and patrons of all ages from all over the world. I couldn’t be more proud of how far we’ve come and the impact we’ve had on so many. I’m excited for the path we’ve charted for the next 30 years.”

Warren and Cohen started what would become the ASC as Shenandoah Shakespeare Express (SSE) in 1988, performing its first show at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In 1999, SSE changed its name to Shenandoah Shakespeare (S2) and relocated to Staunton, where two years later it opened the Blackfriars Playhouse.

Under Warren’s direction, the ASC has performed in 47 U.S. states, one U.S. territory, and five other countries.

“It’s safe to say that we wouldn’t be where we are today without Jim’s vision, wisdom, energy, and passion,” Chris Little, chair of the ASC’s Board of Trustees, said in the announcement of Warren's departure. “We can’t thank him enough for what he’s meant to our organization and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”

The American Shakespeare Center is forming a search committee, which will conduct an international search for its next artistic director.

The news comes within days of ASC announcing the hiring of Anne G. Morgan as the company's literary manager, a position created to support the Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries Project, a new play competition announced by the ASC earlier this year.

Morgan joins the ASC after seven years at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Connecticut, where she has served as literary manager since 2012. At the O’Neill, she provided dramaturgical support to the center’s programs and managed its selection processes including reviewing more than 1,500 applications annually. She has extensive dramaturgical experience and has worked on new plays by David Auburn, Bekah Brunstetter, Adam Esquenazi Douglas, and others. She has worked internationally at the Baltic Playwrights Conference, the Latvian Academy of Culture, and the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. She has taught dramaturgy and script analysis at the University of Connecticut, the National Theater Institute, and the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

“I believe that contemporary playwriting is experiencing a golden age, and I can’t think of anything more exciting than putting today’s writers in conversation with one of the most revered playwrights of all time,” Morgan said in a company press release. “The Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries initiative is a bold commitment to both the future of playwriting and to the legacy of Shakespeare’s texts. I am eager to dig into the work ahead and look forward to the new canon that we’ll be creating with this program.”

The Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries Project is a nationally recognized playwriting competition launched to inspire the world’s most talented playwrights to compose original works that serve as partner plays to Shakespeare’s classics. The ASC will select one companion play for each of Shakespeare’s 38 titles and produce two new plays in repertory with their Shakespeare partner each year. Winning playwrights will receive a $25,000 cash prize.

Morgan begins work at the ASC in September.

July 31, 2017

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