LENOX, MASS.: WAM Theatre has announced that co-founder and producing artistic director Kristen van Ginhoven will step down from her position in December after serving in the organization for 14 years. WAM plans a national search for her successor, who will assume artistic leadership in January 2024, coinciding with celebrations of the Company’s 15th Anniversary Season.
Van Ginhoven, a dual Canadian/American citizen, co-founded WAM Theatre in 2010 with a mission to use arts as activism, with a focus on gender equity in particular, by creating opportunities for people who identify as women and girls. During her tenure, she grew WAM’s budget from $10,000 to $500,000, expanding WAM’s programs and initiatives alongside the board and staff. She programmed and produced 20 mainstage productions, including such regional premieres as Winter Miller’s In Darfur and Lauren Gunderson’s Emilie, and such world premieres as Anne Undeland’s Lady Randy. She also launched the Fresh Takes Play Reading Series, now in its 10th year, and partnered with larger-budget regional theatres on co-productions and presentations, including Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage and Dallas Theatre Center.
In the past 14 years, WAM’s unique philanthropic mission has resulted in over $85,000 in donations to more than 25 local, national, and international sister organizations on the front lines of gender equity around such issues as girl’s education, domestic violence and teen pregnancy prevention, electing women politicians, healing circles for Indigenous women, access to reproductive care, advocating for reproductive rights, and care for women veterans.
“Co-founding WAM Theatre and contributing to its growth has been the most meaningful experience of my professional life thus far,” said van Ginhoven in a statement. “From our humble beginnings in 2010 to nurturing WAM to a place where I know I can step aside and it is 100 percent ready to fly into the next phase of impact without me is such an accomplishment—for us all.”
According to her statement, the company has been preparing for its next chapter by bringing on Molly Merrihew as our managing director, supported by the board, and settling into a new central office in Lenox. The theatre has also launched the second phase of its NEXT ACT FUND, a special $100,000 fund to safeguard, sustain, amplify, and uplift WAM’s next chapter.
“Kristen’s leadership and vision for WAM and our Berkshire community will be felt and appreciated long beyond her time as the producing artistic director at WAM Theatre,” said Toni Buckley, president of the board of directors, in a statement. “With her genuine passion and compassion for everything she does and everyone she works with, Kristen has had a deep and lasting impact on all of us. Her fierce and courageous advocacy and activism in the Berkshires, the state, and on a national level inspires me greatly.”
Added Merrihew in a statement, “WAM was started in a recession, we have weathered (so far!) a pandemic, and overcome many other organizational transitions. WAM is known for thriving during change, and this pivotal moment creates an opportunity of growth for our organization.”
The current co-production with Berkshire Theatre Group of What the Constitution Means to Me, which runs through June 3, is the last play van Ginhoven will direct for WAM as producing artistic director.
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