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Amy Austin, Washington City Paper‘s former publisher, is the new president and CEO of TheatreWashington, the organization announced today.
“What Amy is bringing to TheatreWashington is unique: impressive success and experience in our region’s business community and long time involvement in our region’s cultural and theater communities,” board Chair Kurt Crowl says in a release. “She will be an incredible asset in promoting and strengthening our vibrant theaters through innovative programs and services. We are lucky she became available at this important moment in the life of our organization and look forward to an exciting partnership with her.”
Reached by phone, Austin says she’s “very excited” about her new role. “It’s a really good job for me,” she says.
Austin says she learned about the position through her friend Holly Twyford, the local director and Helen Hayes Award-winning actress. (TheatreWashington, which rebranded and expanded in 2011, is perhaps best known for presenting the annual awards ceremony.) Former TheatreWashington President and CEO Linda Levy announced she was stepping down in April.
“I love the theater, and I love performing arts,” says Austin, who left City Paper after 30 years this spring. “I’ve been involved with the theater community here in Washington for a long time.”
That involvement dates back to her time at George Washington University, where she studied theater, and with Horizons: Theater from a Woman’s Perspective (which began as the Washington Area Feminist Theater in 1972) both on the production management side and as an actress. Her 1986 turn as Martha Dobie in Lillian Hellman‘s The Children’s Hour was reviewed in the Washington Post by Joe Brown (“Amy Austin is a model case of emotional repression as her partner”) and David Richards. (“He was like the hand of God for the theater community at the time,” she says of Richards.) She also chaired Theatre Lab’s Board of Trustees for 10 years.
“Many, many of my friends are involved in one way or another in the theater,” she says. “I’ve always had a passion for the arts… I relate it to journalism in a way that stories can move people and institutions. I think of it all as the power of a story.”
TheatreWashington has seen its fair share of troubles in recent years, as the Post‘s Nelson Pressley reported in July. When Austin begins on Sept. 23, she says she’ll add steps to the strategic plan the organization created last year, talk “to as many people as I can,” and examine revenue streams.
“If TheatreWashington has more money, we’ll have more money to support the arts in D.C.,” Austin says.
She hopes to take a page from the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, which 50 local theaters are co-producing. “They’re working in partnership with each other on this greater concern of making sure women’s voices are heard,” Austin says. “I think TheatreWashington could help further more conversations like that one.”
Photo by Nicholas DiBlasio