Christopher Henley, the long-time Artistic Director of WSC Avant Bard, will step down from that position in order to spend more time with his family, the company announced today. Tom Prewitt will succeed Henley in the position.
Henley, who has led WSC since 1996, recently became the father of twins with his partner, Jay Hardee. (DCTS’s Hunter Styles described the unique story of the twins’ conception and birth in this article.) Henley concluded that the considerable demands of the Artistic Director’s position were not compatible with the time he means to spend with his young family.
“Shortly after Christopher found out that he was going to be a first-time father – his twins were born in July – he informed the Board that he wanted to take a less active role with WSC and asked us to begin the search for his successor,” explained WSC Avant Bard Board President Marc Okrand. And Henley pronounced himself satisfied with the move:
“Leading WSC has been an immensely enriching and rewarding experience,” Henley said. “However, nothing can or should go on forever. It is time for somebody else, with new energy and insight and instincts, to take the company to its next stage.” Henley will remain with the company as an actor and advisor to the Board, and will hold the title of Artistic Director Emeritus.
Henley’s lengthy tenure was marked with financial and artistic growth for the company, which changed its name from the Washington Shakespeare Company to WSC Avant Bard in 2011. That was also the year that WSC moved from its decrepit Clark Street digs to a sleek new space in Rosslyn’s Artisphere. However, last December Artisphere’s management evicted WSC due to a “change in policy”; WSC has not announced a space yet for its scheduled spring productions.
While WSC Avant Bard performed the classics, the company was notorious for the spin it put on them. Controversial but acclaimed productions included its version of Charles Ludlam’s cross-dressing Camille: a Tearjerker in 2009 and its all-nude version of Macbeth in 2007.
Prewitt, the new Artistic Director, brings a lengthy DC theater pedigree to the job. The former Senior Associate Artistic Director at Woolly Mammoth, Prewitt was also Artistic Director for the Serenity Players until 2011. He has been a fixture as a director in Washington, most recently of WSC’s well-received Six Characters in Search of an Author. Prewitt also directed last year at American Ensemble Theater (Mamet’s Bobby Gould in Hell), and in the 2012 Capital Fringe (Shock/Trauma). In addition, Prewitt has directed at the Public Theater, Jean Cocteau Rep, and eleven times at Woolly Mammoth.
The company expresses great confidence in Prewitt’s ability to move WSC forward. “With Tom Prewitt,” Okrand said, “we’re confident we’ve found exactly the right person to take over and lead WSC Avant Bard toward a bright future. It’s an exciting time for all of us.”
Henley echoed Okrand’s observation. “[Prewitt] has a strong appreciation of the company’s mission, history, and identity,” Henley said. “His achievements as a director and administrator make him uniquely well-positioned to enhance the legacy of WSC, and will enable us to reach our full potential during a challenging time for non-profits and live performance.”
The new A.D. pronounced himself ready to take on WSC Avant Bard’s challenges. “For me, this is a dream opportunity to return to my roots in classical theatre while promoting some of WSC’s recent, essential work on new plays with classical themes – this spring’s world premiere of Allyson Currin’s Caesar and Dada being a prime example,” Prewitt said “I look forward to helping the company land in a new home – having experienced a similar search and relocation during my time at Woolly – and to exploring opportunities for new and deeper collaborations and partnerships in the years ahead.”
The dates for Caesar and Dada – the story of an acting troupe preparing to perform a Dada-influenced version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar – are yet to be announced.