The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts, whose profile in the cultural life of Los Angeles has risen substantially since opening two years ago, today named Paul Crewes as its first artistic director. He will leave the Cornwall, England-based Kneehigh Theatre, where he is chief executive and executive producer, to begin with the Beverly Hills venue next week on a part-time basis and is to take over full-time in April, the company announced. Kneehigh is best known for its staging of Brief Encounter, the David lean film that was itself an adaptation of Noël Coward’s short play Still Life. The company toured the acclaimed production around the world, including a successful run at the Annenberg during it first season.
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Jerry Magnin, chairman of the Wallis Annenberg Center, said the appointment was confirmed by the board this morning. “Paul is the perfect person to guide The Wallis to a new level of prominence,” Magnin said. “We first worked with Paul when he brought Kneehigh’s Brief Encounter to our stage for our inaugural season in a stunning, first-rate production that combined film with theater. We are confident that under his artistic leadership, Paul will guide The Wallis and our growing audience on a new and ever-expanding path of discovery.”
The appointment is the latest development following the abrupt departure after its first season of executive director Lou Moore, the Geffen Playhouse co-founder who was instrumental in raising the money for the $70 million complex built on the bones of the Beverly Hills Post Office. Patricia Wolff, interim artistic director for the last fourteen months, will transition into the newly created position of director of programming, according to the announcement, and James D’Asaro, interim producing director, will continue as director of production. Tania Camargo remains the Wallis’ managing director.
The search began in March and drew more than 60 candidates from around the world, according to the Center. Magnin headed the search committee, which included board members Cinny Kennard (Vice-Chair), Debbie Allen, David Bohnett, Eunice David, Bruce Goldsmith, Lauren Leichtman and Ron Rosen.
“Every time I visit the Wallis I feel passionate about the opportunities that exist for this amazing organization in the heart of Beverly Hills,” Crewes said. “I recognize the challenges of making a performing arts center work in Beverly Hills, however, it is those very challenges that will inspire me to think differently about how to generate audiences for the center’s work.”
The Center opened in 2013 and offers theater, dance, classical music and other performing arts programming. The Wallis recently presented Deaf West Theatre’s acclaimed revival of the Duncan Sheik/Steven Sater musical Spring Awakening, which opens on Broadway this weekend. The company is named for Annenberg, whose $25-million donation got the center off the ground.
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