WASHINGTON, D.C.: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced today that Greg Reiner will join the NEA as the director of theatre and musical theatre starting on Sept. 8, 2015. Reiner will manage NEA grantmaking in theatre and musical theatre and represent the agency to the field.
“I was always on the administrative side, even in high school,” said Reiner, reached by phone just as the announcement was made today. “I did some acting as a way to get into it, but I was always more interested in putting together the programs—that kind of stuff.”
Most recently, Reiner served as executive director of Classic Stage Company in New York City, where he launched CSC’s Musical Theater Initiative, the organization’s largest fundraising campaign, and implemented new education programs such as a teen council and a Shakespeare scene and monologue competition. Prior to that, Reiner was founding executive director of Tectonic Theater Project in New York City, where he received a Tony nomination for Best Play as one of the producers of 33 Variations. At Tectonic, Reiner also designed and managed the simultaneous opening of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later in 150 theatres in all 50 states, D.C., and 8 countries, on the same night, with livestreaming and social media outreach. Reiner has also served as managing director at the Actors’ Gang in Culver City, Calif., and at the Shakespeare Festival/L.A.
“Reiner’s formidable skills in theatre management and development are matched by his equally remarkable track record in fostering theatre education and community outreach,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu in a statement. “His expertise will be an asset to the Arts Endowment and the theatre community.”
Reiner said that he was first bit by the theatre bug when he saw A Child’s Christmas in Wales at PCPA Theaterfest in Santa Maria, Calif. He later got his first professional job at PCPA, working as a carpenter. He went on to get his bachelor’s in communications from Loyola Marymount University, then work for the L.A.-based Shakespeare Festival and Actors’ Gang. Though he’s lived and worked in New York theatres since 2008, Reiner said his view of American theatre is “as a large ecosystem. Both smaller and larger theatres are equally important, and also mid-sized theatres—in some ways they have the biggest challenges.”
Accordingly, though he wasn’t sure how much travel the job will promise or entail, Reiner said, “I’m hoping to get to see as much theatre across the country as I can, and outside of the usual suspects, like Chicago and L.A. and New York.”
Reiner has put in the time to get know the nation. When he helped pull together Tectonic’s hugely ambitious The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, he said he insisted on pursuing “the goal, which some people said we were crazy to do, of having all 50 states and D.C. represented.” He succeeded, in part, by “cold-calling and tracking them down.”
He’s not likely to be cold-calling from the offices of the NEA, where his duties will include administering existing theatre grants, as well as putting together the grant-review panels and representing the endowment to the theatre field. (His move to D.C. means he’ll almost certainly be at next year’s TCG conference.)
In fiscal year 2014 alone, the NEA awarded more than $6 million to 269 theatre and musical theatre projects across the country. Recent NEA grants include support for the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts in Columbus, Ohio—for a partnership with Deaf West to produce a bilingual American Sign Language/English production of American Buffalo by David Mamet—and support to La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, for a new adaptation of Pylades, a story within the Oresteia trilogy of Greek tragedies.
The position is a two-year appointment, after which he could be reappointed. In the meantime, will he miss the hands-on work of making theatre?
“Oh, I’ll be hands-on,” Reiner said, “just hopefully having an impact on the field as a whole.”