Actors Theatre of Louisville’s new artistic director

Actors Theatre of Louisville named well-traveled director and administrator Les Waters as its new artistic director this week.

Les Waters. © Photo courtesy of Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Waters, who comes to the theater from a an eight-year stint as associate artistic director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, Calif., succeeds Marc Masterson, who has crossed the country himself to become artistic director at South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, Calif. The West Coast taketh away, the West Coast giveth.

Waters, 59, is hardly unfamiliar to Louisville as his staging of Charles L. Mee’s Big Love for the Humana Festival of New American Plays in 2000 went on to an Off Broadway production and an Obie Award in 2002. In 2009, he took Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) from Berkeley Rep to Broadway. Somewhat serendipitously, that play will open at Actors Theatre in January as Waters takes the helm. He will serve part time then and take over full time in March, after dispensing with some previous commitments.

At Actors Theatre, Waters also directed Naomi Iizuka’s At the Vanishing Point at the 2004 Humana Festival, a play that was based on the Butchertown neighborhood of Louisville and inspired by the photography of Lexington’s Ralph Eugene Meatyard.

Throughout his career, the Lincolnshire, England native has championed contemporary playwrights such as Mee, Iizuka, Ruhl, Jordan Harrison and Wallace Shawn. He has worked with a wide variety of playhouses including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre and Goodman Theatre, the Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival and the Bristol Old Vic.

Taking the reigns at ATL, Waters will become only the 47-year-old theater’s fourth artistic director after Masterson, Jon Jory, whose work launching the Humana Festival brought ATL to international prominence, and original artistic director Richard Block.

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