Artistic Director - The American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA

The application period for this position is now closed.

The American Shakespeare Center recovers the joy of Shakespeare and helps audiences, scholars, educators, and students recognize that Shakespeare’s work belongs to them.

In 1988 at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Jim Warren, an honors theatre student, and Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen, a Shakespeare professor, founded a theatre company on the belief that trusting Shakespeare’s text and the staging he had in mind creates exciting, visceral theatre by including the audience in the world of the play.  From its early days as a touring troupe named the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, this initial belief proved true.  By the mid-nineties the company had traveled to 40 states and 5 countries, transforming venues from high school gyms to performing arts centers into Elizabethan playhouses.  One key to this transformation was, and continues to be, a dedication, for all authors, to employing many of Shakespeare’s staging conditions, particularly universal lighting (actors and the audience sharing the same light), thrust staging, no amplification, cross-gender casting, and fast-paced shows.  Another key is a strong commitment to table work in the belief that when the actors know what they are saying, the audience will also know what they are saying.

Today, the American Shakespeare Center employs the same staging principles in the Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, in Staunton, Virginia (pronounced STAN-ton).  With tremendous help from the City of Staunton, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and a broad base of donors, the 307-seat playhouse opened on September 21, 2001.  It was designed by architect Tom McLaughlin with the advice of the same team that had consulted on the building of Sam Wanamaker’s Globe Theatre in London.  After almost 30 years, the ASC has grown into a $3.7M Equity theatre and education center.

The American Shakespeare Center values and supports collaboration, inclusion, and work/life balance.  Our home in Staunton supports these values with a livable, walkable downtown; low cost of living; diverse arts opportunities; easy access to cities like Richmond, Charlotte, and Washington, DC; and abundant outdoor activities in the surrounding Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains.  With its beautiful downtown and award-winning restaurants, Staunton regularly appears on lists of the nation’s best main streets and small cities in such publications as Smithsonian, Travel & Leisure, USA Today, Architectural Digest, Country Living, and Cosmopolitan.


The American Shakespeare Center recovers the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare's theatre, language, and humanity by exploring the English Renaissance stage and its practices through performance and education.


The American Shakespeare Center’s artistic year runs from mid-June to mid-June and includes four seasons: Summer/Fall Season (mid-June through November, four titles), Holiday Season (December, two titles), Actors’ Renaissance Season (January through early April, five titles), and Spring Season (April through mid-June, four titles).  The company performs both Shakespeare and non-Shakespeare titles, with Shakespeare plays predominating. 

Employing three troupes of 10-14 actors each year, each troupe performs all shows within a given season in rotating repertory.  The Summer/Fall and Actors’ Renaissance Seasons, each with its own troupe, produce under a Letter of Agreement with Actors’ Equity Association which is attached to the LORT D contract.  The touring troupe, which also performs the Holiday and Spring Seasons, is non-union with an 11.5 month contract.  The tour currently serves the eastern half of the United States with three titles and a menu of educational workshops.

Our educational programming is also year-round and includes two three-week residential camps for high school students, educator training, residencies for college groups, leadership training for Fortune 500 companies and governmental agencies, a lecture series, continuing legal education programs, and a biennial Blackfriars Conference.  The 2017 Blackfriars Conference, the ASC’s 9th, will host 250 scholars, practitioners, and graduate students from around the world.  We also partner with Mary Baldwin University in a three-year Master of Letters and Master of Fine Arts Shakespeare and Performance degree, and through that program host renowned directors, actors, and scholars.

This year we launched Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries, a groundbreaking undertaking to discover, develop, and produce a new canon of 38 plays inspired by and in conversation with Shakespeare's work. It's an opportunity for playwrights of every gender, race, and creed to partner with Shakespeare, while we help to build the next generation of playwrights.  This program will award two $25,000 prizes for new plays each year. The first companion plays will run in repertory with their Shakespeare counterparts in the 2019 Actors’ Renaissance Season and the 2019 Spring Season.


Shakespeare and performance

We believe in creating exciting, imaginative, and inclusive theatre with an emphasis on clarity, language, Shakespeare's staging conditions, and continued experimentation.

Each other

We believe in diversity of talent, expertise, and experience.  We believe in open, honest, and respectful communication and creating a foundation of mutual respect and trust in all our dealings. 

Good business

We believe in living within our means and being a leader in our industry.  We believe in making all decisions in line with the realities of our economic and human resources while seeking to expand those realities in ways that allow us all to grow.  We believe in developing economically viable, long-term careers with the ASC, including supporting work/life balance.


We believe in the enrichment and celebration of the human spirit, as it lives in Shakespeare's plays, and in our daily lives as we collaborate, create, listen, and learn from each other. We believe in creating a vibrant, diverse, and healthy community on a local, regional, national, and international level.


We believe in the joy, the beauty, and the transformative power of words.



• Staged for growth

The ASC is financially strong, currently completing its seventh fiscal year in a row in the black.  With earned revenue representing 82% at an annual average of 55% paid capacity, the company is poised for growth across all areas of the business: ticket sales, education revenue, touring revenue, and contributed revenue from all types of donors.  The incoming Artistic Director will have the opportunity to help re-envision the ASC’s programming within the strong framework of the mission.

• Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries

This new play competition is in its infancy and the next Artistic Director will help lead this exciting initiative.  The ASC is excited to explore all the artistic and educational opportunities inherent in this ambitious project.

• Applied Shakespeare

The American Shakespeare Center is committed to exploring ways in which Shakespeare and performance can enrich lives.  The company has developed programs in Shakespeare and leadership, Shakespeare and the law; and is interested in developing programs that use the plays to improve the lives of others. 

• The Globe

A long-term goal of the American Shakespeare Center is to make Staunton “Shakespeare’s American Home” by building a Globe near the Blackfriars Playhouse.  The person who fills this position will be a part of that evolution of the company. 


• Geography 

The location of the American Shakespeare Center is both an opportunity and a challenge.  While Staunton, like Ashland, Oregon, is a beautiful small city surrounded by scenic beauty, large population centers are within easy drives of Staunton.  We face the challenge of increasing awareness among travelers, the theatre-going public, the theatre industry, and the media.  The next Artistic Director will help maximize the destination nature of the ASC and expand the geographic base of support for the company.

• Philosophy

The Artistic Director of the American Shakespeare Center will face the company’s existential challenge of balancing its commitment to the idea that Shakespeare’s staging is fundamental to his plays with its commitment to the equally important idea that such staging is not a barrier but a door to innovation.

• Diversity

The ASC recognizes the need to further diversify its community of artists, staff, board, and audience.  The new Artistic Director will help continue and expand the ASC’s work toward equity, diversity, and inclusion across the company.


The Artistic Director will be a co-equal and collaborative part of the American Shakespeare Center’s leadership team with Co-founder and Director of Mission Ralph Alan Cohen and Managing Director Amy Wratchford.  All three report directly to the Board. 


o Articulating internally and externally the vision and goals of the American Shakespeare Center.

o Recruiting, inspiring, and supporting a talented and diverse artistic team of actors, musicians, stage managers, designers, and directors.

o Working with the Director of Mission, the Managing Director, and the Associate Artistic Director in planning programming that furthers the mission of the company and engages larger and more diverse audiences.

o Participating in and supporting the cultivation and solicitation of donors, including foundations, corporations, individuals, and government agencies in order to increase both earned and contributed income.

o Assuring the quality and vitality of the work on stage.

o Directing at least one production a year, if the successful candidate is a director.

o Supporting the educational mission of the American Shakespeare Center through collaboration with the Director of Mission and the Director of Education and engagement with the Shakespeare and Performance graduate program at Mary Baldwin University.

o Serving as a primary face of the ASC to the public as well as within the national and international network of theatre and Shakespeare professionals.

o Engaging in motivating and informed communication with the board of trustees to help maximize their effectiveness.

o Working with the touring troupe to amplify their value as ambassadors of the company .


The search committee recognizes the unlikelihood that any one applicant will have all of the following qualifications but will assess candidates through the lens of the following factors:

Professional Experience

o Strong professional and/or educational background in Shakespeare on stage and a fundamental interest in the language and the staging of his plays.

o Extensive work on or in professional theatre productions, including  familiarity with members of Actors’ Equity Association and union contracts.

o Notable accomplishments as a theater artist.

o Prior experience in the planning and management of a theatrical enterprise

o The ability to articulate ideas and vision clearly in speaking and in writing

o Ability to inspire, interact and work effectively  with all types of donors, current  and potential Board members

o An understanding of budgeting and the financial realities facing an arts enterprise

o A commitment to building and supporting a diverse community

o Experience with touring theatrical productions desirable.

Personal Qualities

The search committee is seeking someone who embodies the best of our beliefs about what we want the company itself to be, someone whose personal qualities and values include:

o A love of Shakespeare's words, a curiosity about Shakespeare’s staging conditions, and commitment to explore and reinvigorate the possibilities within them.

o A strong commitment to collaboration, inclusion, and kindness, within the company and the broader community.

o A belief in the power of theatre to change lives for the better and the ability to articulate that belief.

o Intellectual curiosity, a breadth of interests, an openness to new ideas, and an eagerness to learn from everyone about everything.

o Flexibility and a willingness to embrace many roles within the company.

o A talent for storytelling, not just on stage but also in telling the ASC’s story to the world.

o A desire to maintain and expand a network of friends and colleagues in the professional world of theatre and Shakespeare.


The American Shakespeare Center is committed to building a culturally diverse organization and strongly encourages applications from female and minority candidates.

Applicants for this position should provide résumé/CV, cover letter, and at least three professional references. Interested candidates, and recommenders of qualified individuals, are invited to contact the consulting firm retained to facilitate this important search:

Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc.
Attn: Stephen Richard

Email only: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Subject Line: American Shakespeare Center AD

Last modified on Sunday, 14 January 2018 07:34