Williamstown Theatre Festival names new leader

Williamstown Theatre Festival’s new artistic director, Mandy Greenfield. (Photo courtesy of Williamstown Theatre Festival)
Williamstown Theatre Festival’s new artistic director, Mandy Greenfield. (Photo courtesy of Williamstown Theatre Festival)

Williamstown Theatre Festival, which has experienced regular turnover in its leadership over the past decade, named a new artistic director Wednesday: Mandy Greenfield, currently the artistic producer at Manhattan Theatre Club.

When she takes over next September in Williamstown, the 39-year-old Greenfield will become the fourth artistic director at the storied festival since 2005. She will succeed Jenny Gersten, who had previously announced she was stepping down after three years to become executive director of the nonprofit Friends of the Highline in New York.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Greenfield praised the “special alchemy’’ of Williamstown Theatre Festival. “You talk to any artist who’s ever spent time there, they’re drawn there because it feeds them, it gives them something they can’t get anywhere else, that sense that we’re in a place where we can try and make something great and have a great time doing it,’’ she said.

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In her current position, Greenfield is in charge of programming at two off-Broadway theaters at City Center and is also involved in programming Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway venue, the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. She oversees production at all three theaters.

During her decade at MTC, Greenfield became known for supporting the development of new plays. She has worked with such dramatists as Tarell Alvin McCraney, Matthew Lopez, and Lynn Nottage, along with directors like Sam Gold, Garry Hynes, Pam McKinnon, and Kate Whoriskey.

“I’m a believer in asking artists to give the most and the best they can give,’’ Greenfield said. “The tradition of asking artists to take a risk, to do something extraordinary and fun and daring and bold: There’s a history of doing that in Williamstown. It’s sort of embedded in the water there.

“I want it to be a vital place where artists come to make great work,’’ she added. “I’m going to chase great work. I’m going to want to work with artists with whom I’ve begun a collaboration. Artists means writers, it means directors, it means actors, it means other theater organizations.’’

Because she’s not taking charge until next September, Greenfield’s imprint at Williamstown will not become fully visible until the summer of 2015. The 2014 season will be programmed by her predecessor, Gersten, though that season will be overseen by producer Stephen Kaus, since Gersten is leaving in January.

Williamstown Theatre Festival board chairman Matt Harris said in a statement that Greenfield “has the experience, leadership ability, taste, and vision to help us write the next chapter for our theater.’’