Three-time Tony-winning Broadway producer and Little Rock native William "Will" Trice has been named the new executive artistic director of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.
Trice, who will officially take over in August, started working for the theater as a consultant last month.
"This is real. This is actually happening," Trice said Wednesday from his New York home. He and his husband, John Pettengill, will start house-hunting in Little Rock in the coming weeks.
The position is new. Trice will be the Rep's first executive to combine responsibilities for management and budgeting and its artistic vision.
Previously the theater has divided those responsibilities among an executive director and three dominant producing artistic directors -- founder Cliff Fannin Baker, who died Sept. 6 in New York a week shy of his 71st birthday; Bob Hupp, Baker's successor, who after more than 15 years at the helm took a job at Syracuse Stage in 2016; and Hupp's successor, John Miller-Stephany, who was responsible for the Rep's abortive 2017-18 season.
Baker had stepped in during each "interregnum" to guide the theater through its leadership transitions.
The theater announced in April that it was suspending operations and canceling its final 2017-18 production. Board Chairman Ruth Shepherd and board member Bill Rector have been serving as the theater's executives in the interim while putting the theater back together. They announced a four-show 2019 calendar-year season Nov. 13 while fundraising continues to keep the Rep on its financial feet.
Shepherd said late last year that they would specifically seek a combination executive/artistic director. "We're thrilled to have Will join our team," she said Wednesday. "He is uniquely positioned with his vast experience and ties to central Arkansas to lead at this specific point in the Rep's history."
Trice's father is the late Little Rock family lawyer Bill Trice. His mother, Judy Trice, and sister, Kathryn Pryor, are both actresses who have performed at the Rep. He is a 1997 graduate of Central High School, began his own theater career on central Arkansas stages and appeared in the Rep's 1994 production of Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers.
He's been producing shows in New York since 2010, nearly 30 productions on Broadway, London's West End and national tours, in the process earning three Tony Awards -- for All the Way, starring Bryan Cranston; the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf; and Porgy and Bess, which starred Audra McDonald.
He has also received five Tony nominations -- for his work on Fiddler on the Roof; the Royal Shakespeare Company's Wolf Hall; a production of Kaufman and Hart's You Can't Take It With You starring James Earl Jones; The Glass Menagerie starring Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto; and Gore Vidal's The Best Man, starring John Larroquette and Candice Bergen.
Before that, he was a business analyst with management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., and worked as an artistic administration associate with the Metropolitan Opera and as a strategic growth associate with alternative asset managers D.E. Shaw & Co. He earned degrees from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
Trice said his reconnection with the Rep has been "kind of mutual," noting that he had offered his services -- "anything I can do" -- after the Rep's April suspension. Talks with Shepherd over the subsequent months led to discussions about doing "something long term."
And it comes at a time, he said, when "I've been looking for something different, a new life chapter."
However, he said, he's not expecting the job to give him room to pursue outside projects.
"I sort of feel like I already have the absolutely, irresistible project," he said. "I couldn't be more excited to join the Rep staff, board, supporters and audiences as we continue its rich tradition of entertaining and inspiring theater in Arkansas. It's an honor to have a role in mapping its future."
Metro on 01/03/2019
CORRECTION: William “Will” Trice, newly named executive artistic director of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, is married to John Pettengill, and his sister is actress Kathryn Pryor. Their names were misspelled in an earlier version of this story.
Print Headline: Arkansas Repertory Theatre names Tony-winning Broadway producer, Little Rock native as new director