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Berkeley Rep's Les Waters to head Actors Theatre of Louisville

November 29, 2011 |  1:56 pm

Les Waters photo by Rebecca Martinez Berkeley Rep
Completing a directorial swap between California and Kentucky, Actors Theatre of Louisville announced Tuesday that Les Waters, associate artistic director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre since 2003, will be its next artistic director.

Waters (pictured), a 59-year-old native of northern England, will start his new gig in March, succeeding Marc Masterson, who had led Actors Theatre for nearly 11 years before being grabbed earlier this year as the new artistic director of South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa.

Waters will take charge of Actors Theatre’s nationally prominent annual showcase event, the Humana Festival of New American Plays. He often has worked the edgier side of the theatrical tracks, directing plays by Wallace Shawn, Caryl Churchill and Charles L. Mee. At Berkeley, he had a hand in Sarah Ruhl’s emergence as a leading contemporary playwright, directing the 2004 premiere of “Eurydice,” her first play to gain national acclaim, and the 2009 premiere of “In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play),” which later that year brought both Waters and Ruhl their Broadway debuts.

“In the Next Room” received a 2010 Tony Award nomination for best play and was a finalist for that year’s Pulitzer Prize in drama –- controversially losing to the musical “Next to Normal,” which had not been among the three finalists recommended to the Pulitzer board by a jury of theater experts chaired by Los Angeles Times critic Charles McNulty.

Before being hired in 2003 by Berkeley Rep’s artistic director, Tony Taccone, Waters spent eight years as head of the master’s degree directing program at UC San Diego. 

He had made his Southern California directing debut in 1989, when the Mark Taper Forum imported Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “Our Country’s Good” from London’s Royal Court Theatre for its U.S. premiere. Waters co-directed that production with his mentor and then-boss, Royal Court artistic director Max Stafford-Clark.  At the Royal Court, Waters’ directing credits included plays by Churchill and the 1979 world premiere of Shawn’s “Marie and Bruce.”

From 1989 to 2002, Waters directed five shows at the La Jolla Playhouse: Keith Reddin’s “Nebraska” and “Life During Wartime”; “The Importance of Being Earnest”; “Nora,” Ingmar Bergman’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”; and Mee’s “Wintertime.”

He made his first connection with Actors Theatre in 2000, directing the premiere of Mee’s “Big Love” at the Humana Festival.  In 2004, Waters returned to direct the premiere of “At the Vanishing Point” by Southern California playwright Naomi Iizuka. In the company’s announcement of Waters’ hiring, managing director Jennifer Bielstein cited his work as “a proven mentor and advisor to emerging theater artists,” and Waters said he is eager to make a new home in Louisville, while perpetuating Actors Theatre’s “incredible legacy of national and local acclaim.”

He is married to -– and often collaborates with –- set designer Annie Smart. They have two daughters and a son, ages 16 to 24.

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-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Les Waters. Credit: Rebecca Martinez/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

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