Theater J names Hayley Finn as its new creative director


Hayley Finn, a director and longtime producer of recent performs in Minneapolis, has been chosen as the brand new creative director of D.C.’s Theater J, one of many nation’s most influential Jewish theater firms.

The 48-year-old Finn has for the previous decade and a half been in Minnesota’s largest metropolis, the place she serves as affiliate creative director of the Playwrights’ Heart, a extremely regarded outlet for play growth. Over the course of her profession, Finn, with each undergraduate and graduate theater levels from Brown College, has carried out near 1,000 workshops for brand spanking new performs.

“My creative work as a director has largely been targeted on performs round Jewish identification or performs that basically resonate with Theater J’s mission,” Finn stated, in a Zoom interview. “So there was this nice alignment and it looks like it is a nice alternative to create this subsequent technology of labor for the theater, and the D.C. neighborhood, however hopefully for past D.C.”

Finn, who was born and raised in New York Metropolis, succeeds Adam Immerwahr, who joined the corporate in 2015 and left final 12 months to go Seattle’s Village Theatre. She begins on a part-time foundation on Feb. 1 and assumes the place full-time on April 10.

It’s each an attention-grabbing and difficult time to run a theater devoted, as Theater J’s mission assertion describes it, to “moral questions of our time, inter-cultural experiences that parallel our personal, and the altering panorama of Jewish identities.” Based in 1990, the corporate is an arm of the Edlavitch Jewish Group Heart of Washington on sixteenth Avenue NW. It ceaselessly offers head-on with Jewish topics, as evidenced by its present providing, “Two Jews Stroll Right into a Battle.” However through the years it has additionally produced works by non-Jewish artists on associated themes, because it did final 12 months with a revival of “Fires within the Mirror,” Anna Deavere Smith’s investigation of riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn sparked by a conflict between Orthodox Jews and Blacks.

An audit launched final April by the Anti-Defamation League discovered that 2021 had the best variety of antisemitic acts in america for the reason that ADL started preserving statistics in 1979. Knowledge of this type is in fact on the minds of security-conscious Jewish organizations such because the JCC, which this month additionally welcomed a brand new chief govt officer, Jennifer Zwilling. Finn noticed {that a} theater embedded in a Jewish establishment must be engaged in a dialogue of the turmoil in American society.

“It’s what you placed on the stage, and I feel it’s the programming that you simply do round that,” she stated. “One of many issues that I liked most about Theater J is there was a way that dialog is essential. And that’s the sort of theater that I like: How can we have now conversations across the work, placing it in context, permitting for a number of communities and views to return and have interaction with the work? All of that I feel is actually essential.”

Howard Menaker, who sits on Theater J’s 29-person advisory council and chaired the search committee, stated Finn was the “clear, unanimous selection” among the many seven finalists.

“She had that mixture of every part we have been on the lookout for,” Menaker stated in an interview. “Management place at theater, producing expertise. We have been on the lookout for directing expertise, too — and somebody who understood partnerships not solely with different theaters, however with the neighborhood by which they thrive.” Finn, he added, “led a capital marketing campaign. Not each creative director has a powerful fundraising background.”

As a program inside a bigger nonprofit, Theater J has enviable benefits, resembling the usage of an basically rent-free, 236-seat theater and a few bills resembling utilities coated. But it surely faces a few of the identical difficulties as different theater firms, together with rebounding from pandemic-related dips in attendance and coaxing individuals again into public areas.

Based on David Lloyd Olson, Theater J’s managing director, the corporate has seen a small however welcome uptick in subscribers of late: The theater, whose annual finances is greater than $2 million, counted 982 subscriptions on the time of the shutdown in March 2020. It has 989 at this time. That comes at a time when some synagogues are seeing progress of their congregations — maybe a mirrored image of Jews looking for neighborhood at a time of rising menace.

Finn traces the beginning of her play-birthing path to the experimentalist New York dramatist Mac Wellman, whose work she was invited to direct on the Playwrights’ Heart. “Mac was the one that introduced me out as his director and we labored on performs,” she stated. “I fell in love with the Playwrights’ Heart as a result of, you understand, it’s all about new work, after which I stayed on and have become the affiliate creative director … It’s constructed as much as a way more nationwide platform over my tenure.”

The assumption in evolving work will definitely inform her new project. “It’s important, I feel, for the vitality of theater, that we spend money on writers,” Finn stated. “I see that as very, crucial.”

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