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South Coast Repertory names Actors Theatre of Louisville leader as its new artistic director

February 16, 2011 |  5:39 pm

MarcMastersonSCR South Coast Repertory, where launching new plays has been the hallmark and key claim to wider fame under co-founders Martin Benson and David Emmes, announced Wednesday that their successor as artistic director will by Marc Masterson  (pictured).

Since 2000 Masterson has shepherded an immense amount of new theatrical work as artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville and its signpost event, the annual Humana Festival of New American Plays.

Masterson, 55, brings with him another useful, and more rarefied bit of experience: He already has prospered once as the successor of a theatrical patriarch: Jon Jory, who led Actors Theatre for 30 years, founded the Humana Festival in 1976 and built it into a national draw for scouts, critics and theater buffs looking for an ample one-stop sampling of new offerings.

At Actors Theatre, Masterson has directed many new plays, along with classics by Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Miller and David Mamet. In 2009, he directed Donald Margulies’
“Shipwrecked! An Entertainment,” which South Coast Repertory had premiered in 2007.

As part of South Coast's bid for continuity, Benson and Emmes will, after 47 years, pretty much stick around, taking the title of "founding directors," which entails advising Masterson, having a voice in play selections and commanding at least one directing slot each per season. The arrangement will last up to five years, South Coast announced.

"Marc's passion for new plays matches our own. And he's a very good director, too. We can't wait to see what he does," Benson said in a news release announcing Masterson's hiring; Emmes described him as "an ideal successor."

When Benson, Emmes and Masterson confer, they'll bring to bear a collective 125 years of experience running theater companies: Before he came to Louisville, Masterson had led Pittsburgh's City Theatre for 20 years.

Masterson will begin part-time at South Coast on April 1 and assume full-time duties Sept. 1.

BensonEmmesKoenig Mike Keyes, the board president of Actors Theatre, and Jennifer Bielstein, its managing director, both described Masterson, who is married with two daughters, as a good people person who's experienced at finding ways to maximize the product onstage without busting budgets.

"Marc's a regular guy, he gets along with people," Keyes said. "In a midsized city like Louisville, you have to be collaborative, you have to have relationships with your donors and patrons -- and Marc's been very good at that."

Bielstein expressed a bit of concern about whether Masterson's passion for the Pittsburgh Steelers would be acceptable in Southern California. Benson, a product of the Bay Area, seems to have thrived despite a far more serious sporting schism with most of his public -- he's an avid fan of the San Francisco Giants.

Click here for the full story on SCR's succession.

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Photos: Marc Masterson, top; Martin Benson, left, and David Emmes. Credits: South Coast Repertory (Masterson); Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times.