Nicholas Martin to Resign after 2010 Season

Williamstown Theatre Festival Seeks New Leadership

By: - Dec 08, 2009

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It came as no surprise yesterday when it was announced that Nicholas Martin will resign following the completion of the 2010 of the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Martin, who will be administrating his third season for the summer Festival, suffered a stroke during the fall of 2008.

In a statement released to the media Martin said "I've had a great time as artistic director, and have extended my contract to handle next season. One, however, can't do everything, and the demands on my time are, happily, extraordinary. I look forward to welcoming the next artistic director to the Williamstown family, and to working with him or her."

Martin, who is now 71, restored stability, artistic integrity and a sense of welcoming openness to what was widely viewed as a foundering program. He moved to the Berkshires after many years as artistic director of the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston. Martin replaced Roger Rees, an actor, director, and playwright whose three year contract was not renewed by the board.

Initially, having had mixed results with Rees, the board offered Martin a two year contract. Toward the end of the first season, a great success on every level, Martin told me that he was invited to stay on as long as they will have me.

During interviews with actors and directors working with WTF over the past two seasons the point was made repeatedly how much the theatre community loved and respected Nicholas Martin. My personal encounters were always heart warming and even hilarious. His charm and sense of humor were wonderfully infectious.

The interactions with Martin were quite limited last season. He granted me a poignant interview at the beginning of the season but after that he was less visible and available. Those working with him were protective of his time and energy. Rightly so.

On a critical level, however, Martin's second season, overall, was less successful than the first one. As with every arts organization in America during a time of financial crisis there were cutbacks entailing difficult decisions. Rather than diminish the superb production standards of WTF, indeed often Broadway in the Berkshires, Martin reduced the season particularly new works for the smaller Nikos Stage. Given the reduction of new plays some critics questioned the selection of works.

During Martin's first, 2007 season three new plays "The Atheist" "The Understudy" and "Broke-Ology" went on to have successful New York productions. Significantly none of last season's plays were taken on by New York theatres.

In January, however, Martin's earlier production for the Huntington, Noel Coward's "Present Laughter," starring Victor Garber, will open on Broadway. He has staged the New York productions of Why Torture Is Wrong and the People Who Love Them, Match, Hedda Gabler, The Rehearsal, Observe the Sons of UlsterÂ…, The Time of the Cuckoo, Chaucer in Rome, Fully Committed, Betty's Summer Vacation, Bosoms and Neglect, Sophistry, You Can Never Tell and Full Gallop. At Williamstown he directed Where's Charley?, Camino Real, The Royal Family, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Dreading Thekla, Mother of Invention and others. Stepping down from his responsibilities in the Berkshires will allow him to focus on those projects.

The third and final season of Martin as artistic director is yet to be announced. It will be interesting to see what adjustments are made in response to the success and failures of the first two seasons. Last year the more or less annual musical was greatly missed. It is well know that musicals are particularly expensive to produce but it is among Martin's greatest gifts and passions. We may only hope that one is scheduled.

If there are to be fewer Nikos productions let us hope that they are more shrewdly vetted. Surely these are difficult times but when the going gets tough the tough get going. Break a leg Nicky we're all behind you 110%.

Jennifer Huberdeau North Adams Transcript