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Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Waterwell's Ridgely Named Exec Producer

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis logoAfter a nine-month national search, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has appointed Tom Ridgely, a Drama Desk–nominated director, producer, and educator, as the Festival's new executive producer, a title that encompasses both artistic and executive leadership roles.

“The Festival Board members are excited that we have found in Tom Ridgely a leader who will provide the artistic vision, entrepreneurial talent, organizational management skills, and inspired drive towards innovation essential to Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' continued growth,” Penny Pennington, board chair of the Festival, said in a press release. “Tom's expertise will ensure the Festival continues to be a key contributor to the arts in our region, as well as a catalyst and stage for viewing topics important to our community, all through the lens of performance. We are also personally thankful, and want to recognize the leadership and stewardship during this interim period of Jennifer Wintzer, who has led with great skill the programs we are about to unveil to the community.”

Ridgely is currently the artistic director of Waterwell in New York, which he founded in 2002 with actor Arian Moayed. Under his leadership, Waterwell has developed and produced more than a dozen world premieres and adaptations of classics, as well as been nominated for three IT awards, a Drama Desk, a New York Magazine Culture Award and a Village Voice "Best of NYC." Known for building innovative community partnerships, he includes among his recent works the resurrection of a collection of the lost World War II–era Frank Loesser musicals, “Blueprint Specials,” featuring Broadway and military veterans and presented on board the former USS Intrepid as part of the Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival. He also adapted and directed Waterwell's dual-language (English/Farsi) Hamlet, which was designed and performed by a company of predominantly Middle Eastern and South Asian artists.

"I simply couldn't be more honored or thrilled that the board has entrusted me with leading this next exciting phase in the life of the Festival,” Ridgely said in the press release. “It is a dynamic and innovative organization that has woven its way into the fabric of this vibrant American city. The Festival's history of community engagement, and commitment to making Shakespeare accessible to all St. Louisans, is as radical as it is necessary. Building on and extending that legacy will be a tremendous privilege."

Ridgley will assume his duties beginning May 21. He will be joining a staff working toward the Festival's mission of producing high quality, professional programming In the Schools, In the Streets, In the Parks and, this fall, a festival of new plays, In the Works. Since its founding 18 years ago, the Festival continues to use theater as a powerful tool for social change through inclusion and access.

In his new role, Ridgley will be responsible for planning and executing the Festival's current slate of programs and events while simultaneously developing viable strategies for new programming. The 2018 programmed season includes the Festival's main stage production of Romeo & Juliet, June 1–24, at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park; Shakespeare in the Streets' production of Blow, Winds, June 15–16, on the steps of the St. Louis Public Library, Central Branch, in downtown St. Louis; and, In the Works, a festival of new plays inspired by Shakespeare's canon.

“Tom Ridgely is one of the most exciting talents working in today's American theater," Barry Edelstein, artistic director of The Old Globe in San Diego, said in the press release. "A visionary stage director and a big thinker, he has a passionate commitment to the idea that theater really matters and that it brings joy and meaning to the life of a city and every community within it. He's also a warm, approachable, and generous man with a great sense of humor and openness. St. Louis is lucky to have him. I can't wait to see all the wonderful things he's going to do there.”

As a director, Ridgely has been nominated for a Drama Desk Award and developed or presented work at the Public, The Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Society, Red Bull, and Ars Nova, among other theaters.

As artistic director of Waterwell, he oversees the Waterwell Drama Program at the Professional Performing Arts School, one of the country's preeminent training grounds for young actors. It offers daily, year-round, conservatory-style classes to more than 200 New York City public school students free of charge.

Ridgely's appointment is the result of a national search process, conducted in partnership with Management Consultants for the Arts, with input from the Festival's Board, artists, staff, and community.

Eric Minton
April 16, 2018

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