Image: Shawn Lee
Dámaso Rodriguez

When Allen Nause, Artists Repertory Theatre’s artistic director for the past 25 years of its 30-year history, made public last year that he would retire at the end of the current season, the leadership hole the company would have to fill looked big enough. But when Artists Rep Associate Artistic Director Jon Kretzu made the surprise announcement last month that he, too, would depart, it began to seem downright gaping.

Now, ART is hoping an award-winning director from Los Angeles can fill that gap and boldly lead the company into the post-Nause era. Artists Rep announced today that Dámaso Rodriguez, a cofounder of L.A.’s Furious Theatre Company, the associate artistic director of Pasadena Playhouse, and a recipient of (among other honors) the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, will officially become the company’s artistic director next month. Rodriguez will transition into the role over six months, selecting Artists Rep’s 2013-14 productions with Nause, but will make his ART directorial debut in April with Ten Chimneys.

“I am absolutely convinced that he is the ideal person to lead our theater into the future,” Nause said in a statement. “Dámaso has an artistic aesthetic that resonates beautifully with Artists Rep’s mission.”

Sarah Horton, Artist Rep’s managing director, said Dámaso would keep the company relevant–while keeping it honest. “His respect for ensemble-driven work and his adventurous aesthetic are classic Artists Rep values,” she said. “Those qualities are teamed with a drive and curiosity that extend beyond the stage and into the place where the theater lives.”

Furious Theatre Company, the Los Angeles theater organization Rodriguez helped found, is known for its ensemble productions of edgy, socially conscious new works; LA Weekly named it one of the “Best Theaters of the Decade.” Rodriguez was tapped to be the associate artistic director for the Pasadena Playhouse after the larger theater’s AD worked with him on a Furious production. He was one of three finalists in 2012 for the Stage Directors & Choreographers Society’s Zelda Fichandler Award, a prize given each year to “an outstanding director who is transforming the regional arts landscape through theatre.” (Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Bill Rauch won the award this year.)

Rodriguez said he wants to expand Artists Rep’s Resident Acting Company into a broader “Ensemble of Artists” encompassing writers, directors, and designers. “I hold a sincere, passionate belief in collaboration, and that the ensemble model is the best way to form a community of artists, production staff, and administrators,” he said.

Otherwise, however, Rodriguez said that he would stay the course: “I believe the company’s exquisite facilities, with their intimate, yet expansive, performance spaces, are among the most exciting in the world for the kind of visceral, immediate, heart-pounding and audience-moving theatre experiences on which Artists Rep has built its reputation–and those are the kinds of bold new plays I intend to keep producing.”

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