Shakespeare & Company Appoints Founding Member Tony Simotes as Artistic Director

Posted January 23, 2009

{Lenox, Mass.} — Shakespeare & Company today named founding company member Tony Simotes as its incoming Artistic Director. This enables Founding Artistic Director Tina Packer to relinquish many of her day-to-day, administrative responsibilities in order to devote her full efforts to the long-term vision of the Company she founded thirty-two years ago. The selection of Simotes culminates a rigorous, year-long, national search. Simotes re-joins the Company full time on June 1, 2009 and will lead the planning for the Company’s 2010-2011 performance season.

“Shakespeare & Company has always been a driving force in my life as a theatre artist,” Simotes says. “It has occupied a central place in my artistic heart and soul for over 30 years. This is a unique place, poised to grow into an exciting future while remaining rooted in the incredible journey of inspiration we’ve been on together for these last three decades. Tina’s incredible vision and energy is encoded in the DNA of Shakespeare & Company. But I am ready to bring my own energy, intuition, artistic sense and perspective to the job.”

Packer will devote her focus to the Company’s ongoing growth into an international center of learning and intellectual renewal. This mission includes codification of the Company’s distinctive training and performance techniques through writings and multimedia projects, as well as the long-term goal of building a historically accurate reproduction of the Elizabethan-era Rose Theatre. She now has more freedom to bring S&Co.’s distinctive performance techniques around the world, as in 2007 when she directed Shakespeare’s Coriolanus for the Mercury Theatre Company in Colchester, England. Further engagements will be announced later in the year.

“I couldn’t be happier with the choice, or more excited about what we can do now that Tony is on board.” Packer says. “Tony is a founding member. He knows our aesthetic and training discipline, and that is extremely important to our vitality and mission. We have an outstanding artist management structure in place, and his energy, forward looking vision and experience will only add to that. I believe our best years are yet to come.”

Packer says she can now look squarely at the “big picture” as S&Co. looks to fulfill its mission in new and exciting ways. “I am not going away or turning my badge in. I am committed to seeing Shakespeare & Company evolve into an internationally recognized center of education, training, performance and intellectual renewal. But I simply cannot lead this effort while sitting in the Artistic Director’s chair. I am eager to turn those duties over to Tony, knowing that his distinctive talents will inject great spirit into the Company and bring about some of our finest work.”

Originally from Joliet, Illinois, Simotes co-founded the Company with Packer and other dedicated artists in 1978. A graduate of the University of Illinois, he earned his Masters of Fine Arts from New York University, and is currently a tenured Professor and Director of University Theater at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI. He has been a guest lecturer at a host of Universities across the country, including Yale, NYU and the University of California. Simotes has played major roles in both film and television, and brings a long list of stage directing credits to Shakespeare & Company. Over the last decade he has also directed a number of successful shows at the Company, including the critically acclaimed productions of The Merry Wives of Windsor in 2006 and Othello in 2008. Simotes is also a nationally recognized and professionally accredited fight director and choreographer. His wife Lucy, a realtor, is originally from Fitchburg, Mass. They met at Shakespeare & Company’s 25th Anniversary Gala in Founders’ Theatre in 2002.

“Tony brings all the qualifications, proven capabilities, and career experience we were seeking, coupled with a strong personal desire to lead the Company forward through its next phase of growth,” says Richard Mescon, the Chairman of Shakespeare & Company’s Board of Trustees. “Tina was a central participant in the search process and we are looking forward to a seamless transition. With her now freed up to take the S&Co. name far and wide, around the world, we couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds in store.”

Shakespeare & Company Managing Director Nicholas J. Puma, Jr. says. “This is a handing of the baton we need to fulfill in order to secure our long-term growth from a spirited group of visionaries living together in The Mount to a valued institution. With Tony we can make this change in leadership while maintaining our aesthetic identity. He will open a new chapter in Company history with a free hand, and comes aboard ready to operate with independence and initiative. We’re fortunate to have an active, involved and supportive Board that is looking forward to working closely with Tony in the years ahead.”

The changing of responsibilities comes at a time when the Company is expanding its programming and in the midst of a $10 million Capital Campaign. The new Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre had a “soft” opening this summer as part of a comprehensive Production and Performing Arts Center. The new facilities have already allowed S&Co. to expand its world-renowned education and training programming, as well as launch its first-ever winter season with Theresa Rebeck’s Bad Dates, playing at the Bernstein Theatre until March 8. S&Co. will announce its exciting and provocative 2010-2011 season in coming weeks.

“I will be bringing my own perspective and artistic sense into the role of Artistic Director and am confident I can now give back to the Company some of what it has given me.” Simotes says. “I look forward to carrying the Company’s mission onward, and will very actively pursue artistic opportunities to help fulfill our potential. There will be challenges. But every great company has them. In fact, the better and more successful the company, the more the challenges. I know from my experience with Shakespeare & Company that we will meet these challenges with innovative answers, and create our own future with inventive and effective personal and artistic achievements. That’s what we have always done and will continue to do.”

Mission Statement: Founded in 1978, Shakespeare & Company aspires to create a theatre of unprecedented excellence rooted in the classical ideals of inquiry, balance and harmony; a company that performs as the Elizabethans did -- in love with poetry, physical prowess and the mysteries of the universe. With a core of over 120 artists, the company performs Shakespeare, generating opportunities for collaboration between actors, directors and designers of all races, nationalities and backgrounds. Shakespeare & Company provides original, in-depth, classical training and performance methods. Shakespeare & Company also develops and produces new plays of social and political significance. Shakespeare & Company's education programs inspire a new generation of students and scholars to discover the resonance of Shakespeare's truths in the everyday world, demonstrating the influence that classical theatre can have within a community.

Statement of Vision: To create a theatre of unprecedented excellence rooted in the Elizabethan ideals of inquiry, balance, and harmony, performing as the Elizabethans did; in love with poetry, physical prowess, and the mysteries of the universe. To establish a theatre company which, by its commitment to the creative impulse, is a revolutionary force in society, which connects the truths of the past to the challenges and possibilities of today, which finds its source in the performance of Shakespeare’s plays, and reaches the widest possible audience through training and education as well as performance.

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