ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Following the announcement that their previous long-time art director would be stepping down, Geva Theatre Center in Rochester has a new artistic director and CEO: Elizabeth Williamson. She will also be the first woman to hold the position, as she looks to tackle the company’s 50th season.

Geva Theatre Company says that they chose Williamson after an “extensive national search,” and she will be sharing the CEO title and duties with Executive Director Christopher Mannelli. The search began in June 2021 after Mark Cuddy, who had previous served as the artistic director for two decades, announced his retirement.

As for Williamsons’ role, the theatre center looks to combine her talents for developing content, as well as more inclusive program as Geva enters its sixth decade, saying that they are working on “ensuring the continued success of the theatre’s mission to create and produce singular theatre productions and programs that serve the Rochester region and beyond.”

As for her new role, Williamson said this role at Geva seemed like a good fit because of the company’s role in producing new work. She said that she plans to both maintain her previous connections to bring new works to Geva, but also to foster new and local connections to Rochester and the surrounding counties. Part of that is the hope that live performances can be regularly featured in the season.

“I feel very confident that in the spring and moving out, especially into the summer and next fall in person, live arts will be back and will be very strong,” she said.

Along with those in-person performances, comes a chance to connect with the local community, and for Williamson to expand her own skills and expertise in community engagement.

“I’m looking forward to working with Chris, the staff, and the board on leading Geva into its next chapter, with an emphasis on strengthening the company’s relationships in the communities in and around Rochester, building on its commitment to rigorous EDI and anti-racist work,” Williamson added in a statement. “(As well as) continuing to bring extraordinary new theatrical productions from a broad array of brilliant, diverse and groundbreaking artists to Geva, the Rochester community, and the field at large.”

“I have been hearing amazing things about the communities in Rochester,” Williamson said. Thankfully, with previous stops in the Twin Cities, Chicago, and Manhattan, she is no stranger to the cold and the snow. “I’m really psyched that I’m going to be there in time for the RIJG this summer, and the Park Avenue festival and to get to know all the different communities that make up Rochester in the surrounding area, and all the different kinds of art, and exciting artists who are there.”

More on Williamson’s biography

Ms. Williamson has built a distinguished career as a producer, director, dramaturg, and adaptor. She has worked extensively and to great fanfare throughout the U.S. and around the globe, including on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in London’s West End. She commissioned and served as dramaturg for The Inheritance, by Matthew López, which won four Tony Awards in 2020, including Best Play, and the Olivier Award for Best Play. She was the creative producer, dramaturg, and co-director of Sarah Gancher’s New York Times “Best Theatre of 2020” pick Russian Troll Farm (produced online). Other recent projects include commissioning and developing Kaneza Schaal’s JACK &, directing Henry V and her own adaptation of Jane Eyre for Hartford Stage, and dramaturging Robert Freedman and Steven Lutvak’s A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, which won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

As an organizational leader, Ms. Williamson has extensive experience in producing, new play development, and community engagement. She previously served as Associate Artistic Director and Literary Manager at Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City from 2008 – 2012 and as Associate Artistic Director and Director of New Play Development at Hartford Stage from 2012 – 2020. Ms. Williamson is known for her commitment to centering the work of LGBTQIA, BIPOC, and women artists and looks forward to furthering her dedication to new work and community engagement initiatives in her role at Geva.