jakub | May 19, 2024

AMERICAN THEATRE | Jeremy O. Harris to Head Williamstown’s New Creative Collective

Jeremy O. Harris and Raphael Picciarelli. (Photo by Matthew Leifheit)

NEW YORK CITY and WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS.: Williamstown Theatre Festival’s managing director, strategy & transformation, Raphael Picciarelli, announced that playwright-producer-performer Jeremy O. Harris will be the inaugural creative director of the festival’s Creative Collective, a new artistic leadership model designed to do boundary-breaking and diverse programming, create new opportunities for emerging artists, and foster shared ownership of the creative vision for the festival. In his term, Harris will oversee the creative direction of the festival, programming key events and facilitating exciting and unique collaborations with artists spanning multiple disciplines.

The WTF Creative Collective will feature a rotating annual cohort of directors that, in collaboration with Harris, will inform the curation and programming of each season. Working in partnership with Picciarelli, the Collective will advance the new vision of the organization through annual and seasonal programming, strategic partnerships, and development of new work. Additional members of the first Creative Collective for the 2025 season will be announced later this year.

“I’ve made it no secret that my idea of being a theatremaker is a holistic one, and my passion to write plays is only matched by my passion to see the best ones being conceived,” said Harris in a statement. “Nikos Psacharopoulos changed the American theatre by making Williamstown not only the equivalent of a teaching hospital for an entire generation of stars, but by also creating a home on the American summer stock stage for international playwrights. It’s my goal to continue this tradition by galvanizing a new generation of nascent talents across disciplines and challenging what theatre is by bringing artists from around the world together for a summer festival that feels more like a happening. What does a theatre festival that has Jaboukie Young-White, Milo Rau, a set by Billie Eilish & Steve Lacy, and a new show with Ayo Edebiri and Paul Mescal look like? I’m not sure, but I’m excited to go to my little black book and find out.”

Added Picciarelli in a statement, “When we were conceiving of our new artistic leadership model that will enable our vision for the future of the Festival, Jeremy was one of the first artists that came to my mind. Not only is he one of the most ambitious, bold, and talented artists working today, he also has a gift for curating and generating groundbreaking ideas. Sit with him for 10 minutes and you’ll learn about an emerging avant-garde director in Berlin, the historical evolution of Jacobean tragedy, a fashion trend coming out of Paris, and an unknown writer trending on TikTok, and he’ll connect all of them in fascinating and unexpected ways. I’m so thrilled to be collaborating with Jeremy and his partners in the Creative Collective to lead Williamstown Theatre Festival into its next chapter.”

This new direction marks a change for WTF, shaken by criticism of its internship program and artistic turnover in recent years. According to a press release, starting in 2025, WTF’s summer festival will be “an expansive expression of theatre where audiences will be able to engage within a concentrated experience of a full calendar of events that range from traditional theatre to fully immersive experiences, and everything in between.” WTF also plans to develop year-round programming, including digital and live pop-up events.

This summer, a four-day prototype for this new vision will take place Aug. 1-4. Called “WTF IS NEXT,” the weekend will feature a full slate of curated experiences and exclusive events that reflect an expansive expression of theatre in the Berkshires. Festivalgoers may find themselves at an outdoor concert, a live taping of a popular podcast, a world premiere play, an outdoor community happening, or a burlesque-inspired variety performance.

This summer’s season, programmed by interim artistic director Jenny Gersten, includes Sara Porkalob’s Dragon Mama, David Ives’s Pamela Palmer, Rachel Bloom’s musical Death, Let Me Do My Show, WTF’s cabaret series, and The Plastic Bag Store, now playing through Sept. 2.

For seven decades, the Tony-recognized Williamstown Theatre Festival has brought emerging and professional theatre artists together in the Berkshires to create a thrilling summer festival of diverse, world premiere plays and musicals, bold new revivals, and a rich array of accompanying cultural events. As of 2022, its budget was around $4.6 million.

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