HARTFORD, CONN.: David R. Jimenez, president of the board of directors of Hartford Stage, today announced that director Melia Bensussen has been named the next artistic director of the Tony-winning theatre. She will assume the role in June.
Bensussen will be the sixth artistic director, as well as the first woman, to lead the theatre in its 55-year history. She succeeds Darko Tresnjak, who has served as artistic director since 2011 and will depart Hartford Stage at the close of the 2018-19 season. Previous a.d.s were Michael Wilson (1998-2011), Mark Lamos (1981-1998), Paul Weidner (1968-1981), and Jacques Cartier (1963-1968).
In addition to her highly regarded and Obie-winning directing work, Hartford Stage leaders said in a statement that they were impressed by Bensussen’s passion for reinterpreting classics and directing new plays, her broad and extensive experience at regional theatres across the country, her well-honed skill set as an artistic administrator in academia, and her commitment to advancing the theatre’s community engagement initiatives and education programs. Her appointment as Hartford Stage artistic director comes after a competitive, 10-month nationwide search.
“Melia is accomplished, talented and well-recognized in the theatre world,” said Jimenez in a statement. “I am thrilled that she will be joining Hartford Stage, and I have full confidence she will continue to build on the theatre’s history of artistic excellence and acclaim.”
Said Bensussen in a statement: “I am honored and thrilled to be appointed Hartford Stage’s next artistic director, and I look forward to following in the footsteps of the distinguished and committed artists who have previously served” in the role. “Hartford Stage’s national reputation, its history of bringing world-class artists to Hartford, and its extraordinary commitment to education in this region all make for a thriving institution. I look forward to working with a great staff and board to further develop Hartford Stage’s high profile, as well as to increase community engagement and further expand its importance to the city of Hartford and environs.”
Bensussen is an award-winning director and artistic leader who has directed extensively at leading theatres throughout the country since 1984, including productions at the Huntington Theatre Company, Shakespeare & Company, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, La Jolla Playhouse, Baltimore Center Stage, Hartford Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the New York Shakespeare Festival, Manhattan Class Company, Primary Stages, Long Wharf Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, People’s Light and Theatre Company, Bay Street Theatre, and Playwrights Horizons, among others.
Raised in Mexico City, Bensussen is fluent in Spanish and has translated and adapted a variety of texts, including her edition of the Langston Hughes translation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding. She is currently working on commissions and productions at the Huntington Theatre Company and ArtsEmerson in Boston. A graduate of Brown University, Bensussen currently serves as the Chair of the Arts Advisory Board for the Princess Grace Foundation and for the past eleven years has chaired the Performing Arts Department at Emerson College. She also serves on the executive board of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC).
Bensussen received the Obie Award for her direction of The Turn of the Screw, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the story by Henry James, at Primary Stages in New York. Her first experience at Hartford Stage was as assistant director to Emily Mann on A Doll House in 1986. She returned to Hartford Stage in 2003 to direct Edwin Sánchez’s Diosa, inspired by the life of legendary movie star Rita Hayworth. Bensussen was twice given directing awards by the Princess Grace Foundation, including their top honor, the Statue Award for Sustained Excellence in Directing.
“It’s an exciting time at Hartford Stage, building on a record of success. It can evolve even further in its international profile, its community engagement and its educational programming,” Bensussen continued in a statement. “At a time when the country most needs healthy discourse across ideologies and beliefs, the theatre can provide a haven and a forum for a multiplicity of views, beliefs, languages and cultures. I’m excited to work with this region’s diverse population to continue the artistic excellence that has won Hartford Stage its rightful renown, as well as expanding the range of stories on its stage and the faces in its audience.”
Now in its 55th season, Hartford Stage is renowned for producing innovative revivals of classics and provocative new plays and musicals, including more than 70 world and American premieres, as well as offering a distinguished education program.