After more than 18 months without an advocate in chief, theater professionals across the country can breathe a sigh of relief. The National Endowment for the Arts announced Tuesday that Greg Reiner would become the agency’s theater director, a post that Ralph Remington vacated in December 2013.
Until spring, Reiner was managing director of New York’s Classic Stage Company. He also served for four years as executive director of the Tectonic Theater Project and for seven years as managing director of the Actors’ Gang in Culver City, Calif.
“I was looking for an opportunity to serve the field in a larger context,” Reiner said in an interview Tuesday.
The theater director position was advertised many times last year, but Reiner said he didn’t know the job was vacant until December. He applied in the spring after the position was re-posted. He will start work on Sept. 8.
An NEA spokeswoman declined to comment on the long vacancy and whether glitches in the electronic job-posting system were a factor.
As theater director, Reiner will represent the NEA at conferences, network with members of Congress and oversee the distribution of more than $3.5 million in grants to theater companies. Unlike Remington, who had an extensive acting, writing and directing career, Reiner’s roles have been on the business side. But he doesn’t see that as a drawback.
“I’ve always worked with visionary, exciting artistic directors like Tim Robbins and Moises Kaufman. I can really understand what both sides need in terms of support,” he said.
Remington also has experience in politics, having served on the Minneapolis City Council. Reiner’s political résumé, meanwhile, is much shorter. In Culver City, he collaborated with city officials as the Actors’ Gang theater was built through a public-private partnership, and he has served on many grant panels.
Reiner said that the closest experience he had to working on a national level was overseeing Tectonic’s “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later,” in which 150 theaters across the nation and in other countries staged Kaufman’s landmark documentary-style play about the death of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.
“That is part of what made me think that [the NEA job] was a really good opportunity,” Reiner said.
Although his job will be to advocate nationally, Reiner also plans to be visible locally.
“In New York, I go to the theater five nights a week,” he said, “and there is so much great work in Washington, in Arlington and in Baltimore. I plan on going to see it. I would even if this wasn’t my job, because theater is what I love.”
Some of the best local theater offerings of the summer, as judged by Capital Fringe Festival staffers and theatergoers, will remain onstage through Sunday thanks to the first Fringe Festival extension. Twelve plays and musicals have been extended for a combined 26 performances at the Logan Fringe Arts Space at 1358 Florida Ave. NE. Another performance art event, “Dishwasher,” will take place in various homes.
“The whole purpose of the extension was to make it for shows that were selling well,” said Julianne Brienza, the festival’s chief executive officer. During the week of July 13, she began offering the extension slots to shows that were selling well. Three of the slots went to productions that ended up winning best-of-festival awards at Sunday’s closing ceremony.
“That really was a happy coincidence,” Brienza said. Best comedy “The Wedding Party” repeats Friday, Saturday and Sunday; best-drama winner “It’s What We Do: A Play About the Occupation” will run for four more shows Thursday through Sunday; and best musical “How to Quit Your Day Job” will be reprised Sunday night.
Performers who were offered a chance to extend their runs but had to decline included Meshaun Labrone, a police officer whose show “Power! Stokely Carmichael” received the Director’s Award. Labrone had to go back to his beat, Brienza said.
Actor Ed Spitzberg regretted that he couldn’t relocate“The Eddie Lounge Reunion Tour: The Lounge Awakens,” which won best overall show, from the Atlas Performing Arts Center to Fringe headquarters. “We couldn’t quickly resolve the logistics to restage, re-rehearse and re-tech for a new venue,” Spitzberg said. “We were swinging, but yet couldn’t swing it.”
At least one troupe, Brave Spirits Theatre, brokered its own extension elsewhere. The Jacobean drama “The Bloody Banquet” will run for four more shows at the Anacostia Arts Center from Aug. 20 to 22.
Ritzel is a freelance writer.