The Omaha Community Playhouse has hired New York City director Hilary Adams, 41, as its new artistic director, effective July 1.
Adams, a Drama Desk Award nominee for best director in 2004, begins work at the Playhouse on May 1, albeit without the official title.
“We’re not just happy, we’re thrilled,” said Lloyd Meyer, chairman of the search committee. The Playhouse board approved the job offer last week, and Adams accepted it immediately.
“Not only can she do drama but also musicals,” Meyer said. “Her 18 years of directing experience in New York brings new exposure and ideas to the Playhouse.”
Adams replaces Carl Beck, who has held the post since 1997 after the late Charles Jones suffered a stroke. Beck, 65, has been at the Playhouse full time since 1983. He announced his retirement, effective in June, more than a year ago.
“I’ve never seen such a prepared candidate,” Beck said. “She is charming, very intuitive, and it will be interesting to hear how she perceives the best way to move forward. She is taking a very cautious, respectful approach.”
Adams said the Playhouse post is her dream job.
“Community theater has always been at the heart of my theatrical practice,” Adams said over the weekend, between sessions of observing “A Christmas Carol” rehearsals. “New York is more product-based. I was looking for the opportunity to go back to engaging the community in the process of creating theater, but not leaving behind high-quality production values.”
The Playhouse is the perfect marriage of both, she said. She was “just blown away” by the fall production of “Les Misťrables” at the Playhouse, which she saw, and by the level of community support for the Playhouse.
Adams was born and raised in the Washington, D.C., area. Her parents frequently took her to shows at the Kennedy Center in Washington and in New York City, where she said she has family roots on both sides.
Her resume includes a long list of directing credits, including “Moby Dick,” which earned Drama Desk nominations for best play, director and featured actor, and many shows with the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
She snagged five directing fellowships at the Manhattan Theatre Club and has been an assistant director on Broadway. Those credits include working with Lynne Meadow (“Collected Stories,” “Moonlight and Magnolias”), Mark Brokaw (“Reckless”), Richard Jones (“Titanic”), David Henry Hwang (“Flower Drum Song”) and Robert Falls (“Aida”).
She has a bachelor’s degree from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and a master’s in applied theater from the City University of New York’s School of Professional Studies. Her education has included labs, symposiums, residencies and more in Italy, the United Kingdom, Denmark and the United States.
Adams was chosen from among 78 applicants in a search process that lasted more than six months. Nine applicants were interviewed by video conference, narrowing the field to four who visited Omaha.
“Hilary was the unanimous choice,” Meyer said. Beck said Playhouse staff members, who met the candidates, were also supportive.
“We are extremely excited,” said Tim Schmad, president of the Omaha Community Playhouse. “If you ask any board member or staff person, I think they’d say the same thing. She brings experience, enthusiasm, ideas and a real love of community theater to the table.”
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