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Leadership shift brings Rees to Williamstown

Gersten moves on; Ritchie to produce

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Jenny Gersten, associate producer at Williamstown Theater Festival, will not be part of the new leadership team under newly appointed artristic director Roger Rees, who takes the reins at the Massachusetts theater in January.

Gersten was a top candidate for the top post at Williamstown. On Nov. 4, she told Variety she was “moving on,” but declined to elaborate. As associate producer, she had been No. 2 at the festival under Michael Ritchie, who becomes head of Los Angeles’ Center Theater Group on Jan. 1.

Ritchie’s title at Williamstown is producer. Rees’ will be artistic director.

Daniel Swee, casting director at Lincoln Center Theater, also was in the final running for the Williamstown job. In fact, at one point in the Williamstown shuffle, Swee and Gersten were rumored to be on board to share the Ritchie post.

The Wales-born Rees, 60, becomes only the fourth producer for the summer legit fest.

He was last seen on the Gotham stage in the musical “A Man of No Importance,” staged by LCT during the 2003-04 season. His career began in the 1960s at the Royal Shakespeare Theater.

At Williamstown, he has worked as both an actor (“The Taming of the Shrew”) and director (Jon Robin Baitz’s “The Film Society”). Rees told Variety he would not be wearing either of those hats in his first season at the fest.

Rees does not come to Williamstown with a long resume of administrative credits. His previous experience in that area was as associate artistic director at England’s Bristol Old Vic during the 1985-86 season.

Regardless, Rees said he felt equipped for his new role. “I’ve been taught by many wonderful people during my career, ranging from Trevor Nunn to Bob Fosse to Mel Brooks,” he said. As for his leadership skills, he said, “I’m very good at being the daddy and negotiating in the center of things.”

Thesp won a 1982 Tony Award for “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.” He is known to TV auds for his roles on “Cheers” and “The West Wing.”

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