WATERFORD, CONN.: The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center has announced that CEO/Producer Preston Whiteway will leave the organization in August. Whiteway recently joined Tribeca Productions as a creative development consultant, and will continue in that role after departing the O’Neill this summer.
Before he leaves, though, Whiteway will receive the O’Neill’s Monte Cristo Award, which recognizes a prominent artist whose work has made an impact on the American theatre. His 16-year tenure with the organization will be celebrated with a gala evening at the Edison Ballroom in New York City on April 19.
“The impact that Preston Whiteway has had on the O’Neill over the last 16 years is immeasurable,” said Tom Viertel, chairman of the board of trustees, in a statement. “He leaves behind a strong organization both artistically and financially. The American theatre is stronger as a result of his dedication, creativity, and fortitude. We are proud to have launched his career, and it is with sincere admiration for his many achievements that we celebrate him with the 20th annual Monte Cristo Award this spring.”
Whiteway joined the O’Neill in 2004 as general manager and was named CEO/Producer in December of 2019. Under his leadership, the O’Neill was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in 2016 and the 2010 Regional Theatre Tony Award. During his tenure, the O’Neill’s budget has nearly tripled. He secured a new 60-year lease of the O’Neill Theater Center’s grounds, and completed significant facility investments and repairs to every building. In addition, an $8 million capital campaign allowed for a large expansion of nine new buildings and the launch of new programming. Some of the projects developed at the O’Neill during his tenure included In the Heights (2005); [title of show] (2005); The Happiest Song Plays Last (2011); and Slave Play (2018). Whiteway produced a Broadway concert of Tales of the City at the Music Box Theatre in 2017, benefiting the O’Neill and The Trevor Project.
For the organization’s 50th anniversary, he negotiated a major book release from Yale University Press, resulting in The O’Neill: The Transformation of Modern American Theater by Jeffrey Sweet. Additionally, he produced a four-month exhibition at the New York Library for the Performing Arts entitled “Launchpad of the American Theater: The O’Neill Since 1964.” He has served on panels at the National Endowment for the Arts, Duke University, and Theatre Communications Group. Whiteway is a trustee of the Educational Theater Foundation and Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition. In 2014, he was named to a three-year term to the nominating committee of the Tony Awards. He holds a BA in Economics from Duke University.
“I have only known one job in my life—the O’Neill—and it is with incredible mixed emotions that I announce my departure,” said Whiteway in a statement. “The O’Neill truly launched me and my career, as it has launched and supported so many artists, and a piece of my heart will always be in Waterford. As one of the most special places in the American theatre, I am so lucky to serve here with the staff, artists, students, and trustees. The people at the O’Neill make it special, and I thank each of them. In particular, partnering with our chairman, Tom Viertel, over the past 16 years to revitalize and lead the O’Neill has been a joy of my life. And to be recognized with our Monte Cristo Award puts me beyond words, and humbles me completely. There are many more months ahead, and I look forward to a spectacular spring and summer of programming. Finally, I want to thank Jane Rosenthal and Berry Welsh at Tribeca, for their enthusiastic welcome as I transition to a new and exciting chapter.”