Yay! I’m so happy to hear the official news: Jenny Gersten will be replacing Nicky Martin as artistic director of Williamstown Theater Festival.
Jenny spent 8 years (1996-2004) as associate producer of WTF during the Michael Ritchie years and was most recently associate producer of The Public Theater.
In between her time at WTF and The Public, Jenny was Artistic Director of Naked Angels where she oversaw a fledgling writers group I was a part of. Jenny was a great advocate for the group as as whole and us as individuals. She gave advice, she gave space and resources, and she produced an evening of one-act plays written by members of the group (by this point, she had coined us “The Mag-7”) – a move that was not otherwise on Naked Angels’ agenda. When Jenny left Naked Angels for The Public, our group lost some of its steam. One member moved to LA to pursue television work, one moved out of state to start a family, one went to law school. With diminished membership and a lack of infrastructure (the new artistic director was not so interested in the The Mag-7), the three or four of us remaining members couldn’t seem to muster the enthusiasm to continue.
Erin McMonagle in the Naked Angels production of my one-act play ‘Waiting’
Writing, as most people know, is a solitary endeavor. One would think writing plays would be different – that it would be less solitary than writing say, short stories, because theater is a collaborative art form. But let me tell you, it can take a long time to get to collaboration. There’s the writing, of course, but then developmental opportunities are limited, and productions, the ultimate destination for a playwright, are hard to come by (trying to make sense of how a theater chooses its season is enough to drive one mad. Or at least to heavy drinking). Therefore, having a leader, mentor, or just a respected industry professional take an interest in your career, provide you with impromptu opportunities to develop your work, or even just pat you on the back, makes the endeavor that much less solitary, that much less impossible.
For me, in the large chunks of time between productions, when I’ve been at my most insecure and worried that this career may never really happen for me, there have been a handful of people whose support and validation of my work helped me stick it out. Jenny is one of those people.
I did not intend this post to become so contemplative, but these are the moments, I suppose, when you get to sit back and reflect on the things (however small) you have achieved but may forget to recognize; on the people who are part of your life – or just passed through it – and made an impact.
Congratulations, Jenny. Williamstown is lucky to have you back, and I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us.