BUFFALO, N.Y.: Alleyway Theatre has named Chris J. Handley as the company’s new executive artistic director following his two years of service as associate artistic director during the organization’s leadership succession program. Handley will succeed the retiring founder Neal Radice. Also announced is the promotion of Robyn Lee Horn to managing director after she joined the company in January as director of development.
“It’s a tricky time to be leading a company whose mission is to bring large groups of people together,” said Handley in a statement. “And that’s the joy of theatre—the coming together, the community, the sharing of stories. But this art form that began with people telling those stories around the campfire has persisted and continued. And this time will be no different. It’s exciting.”
The first season under the new leadership will be entirely virtual, beginning with Currents: 716 (Sept. 11-26), which will feature the work of 15 local playwrights commissioned by Alleyway to create solo performances filmed across Buffalo to create an 80-minute showcase of the region.
Next will be a November Festival of Digital Theatre. The three-week series of new works will feature the 2020 Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition winner for digital content as well as original works from around the world written for this moment and designed to be performed virtually.
December will bring the 38th year of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Neal Radice. This year’s production will be in a yet to be announced virtual format.
“As a theatre dedicated to producing new work,” said Horn in a statement, “we knew that we should be out front, experimenting with form, rather than waiting for a return to the status quo. When the theatre closed, Chris moved quickly to add a digital theatre category to the Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition—he challenged playwrights to create work specifically designed for digital platforms.”
Chris J. Handley grew up in western New York and has worked as an actor, director, and educator across the country. He is a three-time Artie nominee for his work on stages across the region including Alleyway, Shakespeare in Delaware Park, MusicalFare, and Jewish Repertory Theatre. He is founder and director of the Theatre School of WNY, previously taught acting and voice/speech at Indiana University, and is currently on the faculty at SUNY Fredonia where he teaches acting and directing. He is vice president of the Theatre District Association, a member of the Curtain Up! Steering committee, a Cullen Fellow, 2019 Spark Awards Finalist for Artist of the Year, and previously served on the Buffalo/Rochester Actors’ Equity Liaison Committee. He is a graduate of Indiana University (MFA Acting) and SUNY Fredonia (BFA Musical Theatre).
Robyn Lee Horn relocated to Buffalo in 2018 to pursue a Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance at the University at Buffalo as a Presidential Fellow. Prior to that, she taught and directed theatre at the award-winning Academy for Performing Arts high school in New Jersey. Robyn was co-dramaturge for the US premiere of the Simon Stephens’ adaptation of The Threepenny Opera at UB and the dramaturgy intern for the premiere of Dominique Morisseau’s Follow Me to Nellie’s at Premiere Stages. Robyn has acted professionally in New York City and in regional theatres from Arizona to Vermont. In Buffalo, she played Adult Alison in Fun Home with MusicalFare and Ariel in The Tempest with Shakespeare in Delaware Park. She was nominated for an IRNE Award (Boston’s version of the Arties) for best actress as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady with Greater Boston Stage Company, and she can be heard on the Paper Mill Playhouse original cast recording of Children of Eden. She is contributing a chapter to the book Theatre and the Macabre, to be published in 2021 by University of Wales Press.
Founded in 1980 by Neal Radice, Alleyway Theatre is dedicated to the development and production of new plays and musicals.