CHAPEL HILL, N.C.: PlayMakers Repertory Company has announced Nichole Gantshar as the company’s new managing director. Additionally, Jeffrey Meanza has been named the company’s new associate artistic director. Both appointments come following nationwide searches during 2021.
“Nichole and Jeff are smart, intuitive, experienced, and passionate leaders whom I am thrilled to get to partner with as PlayMakers steps into its next bright chapter,” said artistic director Vivienne Benesch in a statement. “Like many American theatres, PlayMakers has been digging into some significant change and transformative initiatives in recent years, and I know that both these fantastic artist citizens can help guide us forward with integrity and bravery.”
Gantshar brings with her a history of leading arts groups through strategic growth, investment in new works, and audience development. Most recently, she served as interim finance and operations officer at Theatre Bay Area and as executive director of Louisville Ballet. She spent five years as executive director of Rochester City Ballet, where she led efforts to significantly increase grant funding, spearheaded audience development—most notably among millennial audiences through a project called BalletROC—and secured funding for free, sensory-friendly performances. During her tenure, Gantshar also focused on increasing artist pay and the commissioning of new work. She holds an MFA from the University at Stony Brook and a BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and has taught at Syracuse University, University at Stony Brook, University of Pittsburgh, and the Wooster Center for the Arts.
“I’ve traveled to Chautauqua all of my adult life, and for 12 seasons I was able to see PlayMakers producing artistic director Vivenne Benesch delight audiences and grow the theatre program,” said Gantshar in a statement, referring to the upstate New York company Benesch led before joining PlayMakers. “To be able to join her and support the efforts of her transformational vision at PlayMakers inspires me. I can’t wait to join Rotary, become an impactful volunteer in the Triangle community, and help continue PlayMakers’ significant mission. The pandemic has been so hard for all of us; the return of live theatre will help us all heal.”
As managing director, Gantshar will work alongside Benesch to oversee strategic planning for the long-term vision of the company. She will lead the company’s administrative organization, overseeing marketing, fundraising, and general and company management, and will serve as the theatre’s primary administrative liaison with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where the company is in residence.
Meanza, meanwhile, returns to PlayMakers after a five-year tenure as associate artistic director at the Guthrie Theater, where he led efforts to grow its educational programming to serve more than 35,000 students annually and created an artist residency program that put full-time teaching artists in high schools throughout Minnesota. Under his leadership, the Guthrie also piloted a fellowship program for emerging leaders in the arts communities. Meanza holds an MFA in acting from the Professional Actor Training Program at UNC-Chapel Hill and a B.A. in theatre and performance studies from the University of California, Berkeley.
Meanza’s position as associate artistic director will have him working with Benesch to advance and facilitate the company’s artistic vision, acting as principal line producer for the theatre’s season, and overseeing the company’s education programming, including its Summer Youth Conservatory and community outreach efforts. Additionally, Meanza will direct and act with the company.
“It’s a unique opportunity to make this homecoming to Chapel Hill and PlayMakers,” said Meanza in a statement. “I have long admired Vivienne’s vision of a dynamic artistic home for writers, directors, and artists of all stripes. Her ongoing commitment to celebrating diverse voices and exploring classic texts through a contemporary lens are deeply thrilling to me. I feel so lucky to jump back in and support the importance of the performing arts at Carolina and in the Triangle.”
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