CONTACT: Robert Duha, Managing Director 517-998-3673
Neville-Andrews to step down as MSF artistic director
JACKSON – After a dozen seasons helping build the Michigan Shakespeare Festival into a highly respected, regional classical theatre, John Neville-Andrews announced he will step down as the organization‟s Artistic producer when his current contract expires on September 30. Neville-Andrews‟ decision was accepted, with regret, by the Festival board of directors at their regularly-scheduled meeting Monday night.
“It has been a most joyful 12 years, and although a frequently challenging undertaking, providing the artistic leadership of guiding the Festival from a community-based theatre to a fully professional organization and becoming The Official Shakespeare Festival of the State of Michigan, is something I have cherished and been honored to be a part of,” Neville-Andrews said.
Neville-Andrews' announcement comes only two weeks after the curtain fell on a successful 15th anniversary season highlighted by a sell-out final performance of The Tempest, which he directed. The 2009 season also included the Shakespeare comedy As You Like It, the musical revue Side By Side By Sondheim, and the free family show Laffin School.
Rick Davies, who, as president of the Festival board, hired Neville-Andrews prior to the 1998 season, said he was sad to see the talented producer leave.
“John will be sorely missed,” Davies said. “His artistic leadership has been key to bringing a talented cadre of Equity actors to Jackson year after year and, especially, in developing young men and women from the college and community theatre ranks into the accomplished professionals who have been the key to our success. Replacing John‟s leadership will be the key task of the board over the next several weeks.”
Under the leadership of Neville-Andrews, the Festival quickly transitioned from its beginnings as an offshoot of a local community theatre group to a fully professional, award-winning theatre company -- The Official Shakespeare Festival of the State of Michigan.
Highlights of his tenure included:
The addition of Actors Equity (union) actors to the company and subsequent expansion of the Festival to three weeks in 1999;
Designation as “The Official Shakespeare Festival of the State of Michigan,” by Governor Jennifer Granholm and the Michigan State Senate in 2003;
Moving the productions indoors to the state-of-the-art Baughman Theatre on the campus of Jackson Community College in 2004;
Taking the Festival on the road for a weekend of performances in Grand Rapids in 2008;
Adding non-Shakespeare productions to the schedule with “The Mikado” in 2008 and “Side By Side By Sondheim” this year.
This year, Neville-Andrews championed a new “Free Shakespeare for Children” program, which helped the Festival build on its traditional educational and community outreach programs, including the annual Michigan Shakespeare Festival High School Monologue Contest, which expanded to include regional and state competitions this season.
“I am proud of these past achievements,” said Neville-Andrews, who will celebrate his 66th birthday on Sunday. “However, I feel that as the Festival continues its growth toward other milestones, it warrants a fresh approach and a vision beyond mine. I look forward to witnessing the continued success and expansion of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival as it proceeds toward its mission of becoming a flagship theatre dedicated to the works of William Shakespeare and other worthy playwrights.”
Davies said the search for Neville-Andrews‟ replacement will begin immediately.
“Planning for the two Shakespeare plays for the 2010 season – Romeo and Juliet, and The Comedy of Errors – is already underway,” Davies said. “We need to ensure that the artistic transition is smooth and efficient.”
More information on the Michigan Shakespeare Festival is available on the organization‟s Web site, www.MichiganShakespeareFestival.com
The Official Shakespeare Festival of the State of Michigan
Michigan Shakespeare Festival
215 W. Michigan Ave.
Jackson, MI 49201