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Rees Leaving Williamstown Theatre Festival

Staff reports
08:52AM / Thursday, October 25, 2007
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Roger Rees

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Artist director Roger Rees and the Williamstown Theatre Festival are parting ways after three years.

Following speculation in Variety magazine on Monday, his departure was announced early Thursday morning by the company's board President Matt Harris. He will be replaced by Nicholas Martin, artistic director of the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston.

"Roger came in at a time of transition for the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and did a great job setting a foundation of innovation for the future," said Harris in a statement. "He also helped to reaffirm our focus on training the next generation of artists while continuing our tradition of top-notch productions."

Rees was chosen after a yearlong search for a successor to Michael Ritchie, who left in 2004 after nine years leading the festival to become producer of the Center Theatre Group of Los Angeles. The award-winning stage, TV and film actor had appeared in and directed a number of plays at the festival since 1997. Rees oversaw the festival's move into its new quarters at the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance on the Williams College campus. He also frequently participated in readings at Williams' Chapin Hall and the Clark Art Institute, most recently reading letters by Claude Monet for the museum's "The Unknown Monet."

While there has been criticism about Rees' selections and casting for the summer festival, Harris told The New York Times this week that the break up had nothing to do with performance.

"Roger has a lot of demands with different projects." Williamstown managing director Bill Darger also recently departed his post, according to Variety.

Martin will take the post effective Nov. 1 and continue with the Boston company through next spring. He has been with Huntington Theatre Company since 2000. He has been associated with WTF for more than a decade and was resident director for two years under Ritchie.

"I couldn't be more delighted to be returning to Williamstown Theatre Festival where I have shared so many experiences with so many incredible artists," said Martin in a statement. "Williamstown is truly the place where I feel I really learned to direct."

Harris described Martin as a "great leader and superb director."

"We are thrilled that he will be helming the WTF and look forward to a creative association and an exciting new chapter in the life of the Williamstown Theatre Festival," he said in the statement.

During his tenure at the WTF, Rees presented some of the most acclaimed productions in the WTF's recent history, including "Autumn Garden" and "The Corn Is Green" (directed by Martin) from the 2007 season. In addition, he spearheaded continued innovation in the WTF's education programs, most notably the leapFROG program, which offers young writers, directors and actors a chance to write and workshop a new play and a new musical each summer.

Despite his long history on the stage, the Welsh-born actor is probably best-known for his portrayal of tycoon Robin Colcord on the sitcom "Cheers." Martin has directed plays on and off Broadway, in London and in a number f regional theaters. He also will be directing the world premiere of Paul Rudnick's play "The New Century" at Lincoln Center Theater next April.

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