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Les Waters to Leave Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2018

The British-born director departs after six years leading the Kentucky theatre and its influential new-play program, the Humana Festival.

Les Waters. (Photo by Zach Dezon)

LOUISVILLE, KY.: Les Waters and the board of directors of the Actors Theatre of Louisville announced today that Waters will step down as artistic director after six seasons at the helm of the Tony-winning theatre. Waters will depart in the summer of 2018, following the close of the 2017-2018 season, to pursue personal projects.

“It has been a privilege to lead, along with Jennifer Bielstein and lately Kevin E. Moore, one of America’s great artistic institutions,” said Waters in a statement. “I am deeply grateful to the board, staff, artists, volunteers, and audiences for all their support. Together we have had considerable success and we’ve made many great shows during my tenure. Actors Theatre is the cornerstone of new American theatre, and I look forward to returning as both a guest artist and visitor to experience its continuing artistic excellence and growth. I am incredibly proud to have been a part of Actors Theatre.”

Added board president Elizabeth Rounsavall in statement: “The board of directors at Actors Theatre has been honored to work with such an innovative leader as Les Waters for the past six seasons, and on behalf of all of us, I wish him the best as he pursues new artistic adventures. Thanks to his efforts, we are leaders in our field and are grateful to him for his influence locally, nationally, and internationally. As was the case with our search for Les, we are committed to finding a leader who will continue to position Actors Theatre as a great home to art in the 21st century, keep us at the forefront of new play development through the annual Humana Festival of New American Plays, and contribute to a culturally vibrant Greater Louisville community.”

Add managing director Kevin E. Moore in a statement: “Les Waters’s artistic impact, both locally and nationally, is immeasurable. He has introduced an exciting and diverse array of new plays into the American repertoire. Les’s dedication to developing artists has changed the way Actors Theatre produces, deepening collaborative efforts throughout the organization. We will truly miss him, and we are grateful for all he has done for Louisville and Actors Theatre.”

Sarah Ruhl and Les Waters at ZFX Flying Effects as part of the production of “For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday.” (Photo by J. Tyler Franklin)

As leader of the long-running Humana Festival of New American Plays, Waters doubled Actors Theatre’s commissioning program, resulting in Humana Festival-debuted plays being seen across the country, including Lucas Hnath’s The Christians. Under Waters’s tenure Actors Theatre has hosted productions of new works by Hnath, Sarah Ruhl, Naomi Iizuka, Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, Will Eno, Charles Mee, and others. During his tenure, Waters worked to diversify both programming and artists represented onstage. In addition to his work in Louisville, Waters maintains a strong national presence, shepherding works from Actors Theatre’s Brown-Forman Mainstage Series and Humana Festival to audiences across the country, such as Playwrights Horizons, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Mark Taper Forum, Berkeley Rep, and the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

Programming for Actors Theatre’s 2018-2019 Season will be selected under  Waters’s direction, with the lineup to be announced in February 2018. The search for a new artistic director will commence under the guidance of a firm to be announced shortly.

Now in its 54th Season, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the state theatre of Kentucky, is the flagship arts organization in the Louisville community, presenting nearly 350 performances annually as part of a broad range of programming.

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