LENOX, MA (May 23, 2023) – WAM Theatre announces today that Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director Kristen van Ginhoven will step down from her position in December 2023. When she departs from this leadership role at WAM, she will have served in the organization for 14 years. As van Ginhoven leaves to pursue the next steps in her career, WAM will conduct a national search for her successor, who will assume artistic leadership in January 2024, coinciding with celebrations of the Company’s 15th Anniversary Season.
van Ginhoven co-founded WAM Theatre in 2010 with a mission to use arts as activism with a focus on gender equity, in particular, creating opportunities for people who identify as women and girls. During her tenure, she grew WAM from a $10,000 company to a $500,000 company, expanding WAM’s programs and initiatives alongside the board and staff, including:
- Programmed and produced 20 mainstage productions, including regional premieres such as Winter Miller’s IN DARFUR and Lauren Gunderson’s EMILIE, both of which van Ginhoven also directed, and world premieres, such as Anne Undeland’s LADY RANDY.
- Launched the Fresh Takes Play Reading Series, now in its 10th year, most recently directing readings of Caryl Churchill’s ESCAPED ALONE and performing in Amy Berryman’s THE NEW GALILEOS.
- Partnered with larger budget regional theatres on co-productions and presentations, such as Arena Stage in Washington D.C., and Dallas Theatre Center in Texas with Holland Taylor’s ANN, starring Jayne Atkinson.
- Raised awareness of social-justice issues by connecting WAM productions to community organizations, using theatre as a vehicle for dialogue about issues affecting our community.
- Modeled an ongoing focus to prioritize inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility as a life-long personal and professional journey. van Ginhoven participated in the Inclusive Leadership Cohort, as facilitated by local social justice organization BRIDGE, and the Universal Participation program, as facilitated by Massachusetts Cultural Council, which all led to a variety of progressive work practices at WAM Theatre, including equitable ticketing and caregiver stipends.
In the past 14 years, WAM’s unique philanthropic mission has resulted in over $85,000 in donations to over 25 local, national, and international sister organizations on the front lines of gender equity who are fighting for issues such as girl’s education, domestic violence, teen pregnancy prevention, electing women politicians, healing circles for Indigenous women, access to reproductive care, advocating for reproductive rights and care for our women veterans.
“Co-founding WAM Theatre and contributing to its growth has been the most meaningful experience of my professional life thus far,” said van Ginhoven. “From our humble beginnings in 2010 to nurturing WAM to a place where I know I can step aside and it is 100% ready to fly into the next phase of impact without me is such an accomplishment—for us all!”
van Ginhoven and WAM Theatre have been widely recognized for having a positive impact on cultural and community development in the region. WAM received the Creative Economy Standout Berkshire Trendsetter Award and was previously named Outstanding Philanthropy Corporation of the Year by the Western MA Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Kristen van Ginhoven was honored by the Zonta Club of the Berkshires as a Women of the Year and as one of Berkshire Magazine’s Top 25. van Ginhoven also is the recipient of the Berkshire Theatre Critics Association’s (BTCA) prestigious Larry Murray Award, presented at the discretion of the BTCA Board to a person or theatre project that advances social, political, or community issues in Berkshire County.
van Ginhoven added, “The WAM foundation is solid. WAM has spent the last few years preparing for this next chapter, bringing on Molly Merrihew as our incredible Managing Director; supported by a strong leadership team in Talya Kingston and Dori Parkman; cultivating an extraordinary board led by Toni Buckley and Erica Barreto; securing new financial resources during the pandemic; partnering with local and national theatre colleagues and community organizations; continuing our anti-racism and accessibility journey; settling into a bright new central office in Lenox; and hitting a new budget level that unlocks more opportunities for growth.“
“Kristen’s leadership and vision for WAM and our Berkshire community will be felt and appreciated long beyond her time as the Producing Artistic Director at WAM Theatre,” said Toni Buckley, President of the Board of Directors. “With her genuine passion and compassion for everything she does and everyone she works with, Kristen has had a deep and lasting impact on all of us. Her fierce and courageous advocacy and activism in the Berkshires, the state, and on a national level inspires me greatly. I am deeply grateful to have joined WAM under Kristen’s vision and leadership and feel confident and excited to welcome the next visionary artistic leader to this unique organization that I care so deeply about.”
“As Toni noted, Kristen is an incredible visionary who has built a vibrant community of support,” said Molly Merrihew, WAM Managing Director. “WAM was started in a recession, we have weathered (so far!) a pandemic, and overcome many other organizational transitions. WAM is known for thriving during change, and this pivotal moment creates an opportunity of growth for our organization.”
“Our board and team have gone into this succession process with eyes wide open, and we’ve had the benefit of creating a thoughtful and strategic transition timeline,” continued Merrihew. “We’re excited to be able to welcome and support our next artistic leader/s right as WAM launches into our next financial growth-phase as an organization. During this transition, we continue to be guided by WAM’s art-activist mission and organizational values.”
Towards that end, WAM Theatre launches the second phase of its NEXT ACT FUND today. WAM’s NEXT ACT FUND is a special $100,000 fund that will safeguard, sustain, amplify, and uplift WAM’s next chapter. WAM’s NEXT ACT fund will help WAM remain strong during a pivotal time of transition, honor van Ginhoven’s leadership, and set WAM’s new artistic leadership up for success.
“We know showing early support for new leaders is the single most important way to guarantee their success and the ongoing success of the organization,” added Merrihew. “To that end, we are grateful to WAM’s Board and many of our key stakeholders have stepped up to seed the launch of WAM’s NEXT ACT FUND, and thanks to them, WAM launches this $100,000 fund today with a match of $50,000.”
Members of the community who want to join WAM’s NEXT ACT FUND can join WAM supporters in both making a three-year commitment with your annual fund and making a special one-time gift to our NEXT ACT FUND to show WAM’s team and new leadership your commitment to WAM’s mission click here or visit https://www.wamtheatre.com/next-act-fund/.
The co-production with Berkshire Theatre Group of WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME, starring Kate Baldwin, will be the last play van Ginhoven directs for WAM as Producing Artistic Director, and performances are selling out. It runs now through Saturday, June 3. For tickets to the live performance of WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME, call (413) 997-4444.
For more information about the 2023 Season and WAM Theatre’s programs, events, and artists, please visit us online at wamtheatre.com.
ABOUT KRISTEN VAN GINHOVEN
Kristen is a leader, director, educator, change-maker and social entrepreneur who works at the intersection of arts and activism. A dual Canadian/American citizen, Kristen is based in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, where she regularly enjoys the many outdoor and cultural wonders. As WAM’s Producing Artistic Director, her selected directing credits include Ann (Co-pro with Dorset Theatre Festival), The Bakelite Masterpiece (with Berkshire Theatre Group), In Darfur (New England Premiere) and Emilie (New England Premiere). Kristen has also directed Ann at Arena Stage and Dallas Theatre Center, Disgraced and I and You at Chester Theatre, The Whale at Adirondack Theatre Festival, and the 10 Minute Play Festival at Barrington Stage Company as been an assistant director at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada and the Huntington Theatre in Boston. Kristen trained at Dalhousie University (BA), Queen’s University (BEd) and Emerson College (MA). She is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, a theatre artist for the International Schools Theatre Association which has provided the opportunity to travel around the world and a member of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab. Growing WAM Theatre and being honored by the Berkshire Theatre Critics Association with the prestigious Larry Murray Award, presented to a person or theatre project that advances social, political, or community issues in Berkshire County are two of Kristen’s proudest achievements. An artist, feminist and highly sensitive person, she values healthy practices like meditating and walking, time affluence, and social connection. Her guiding quote is “I may be one person, but I can be one person who makes a difference.”
WAM’s sponsors include Adams Community Bank, Blue Q., Berkshire Roots, Black Writers Read, Blue Spark Financial, BRAVA, Downright Pro, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Garden Gables Inn, Guidos Fresh Marketplace, Mill Town Foundation, Inc., Health Professional Coaching, Heller & Robbins Attorneys at Law, Interprint, Onyx Specialty Papers, Outpost Productions, Prix Fixe, Right To Be, RB Design Co., T Square Design Studio, Toole Insurance, a. von schlegell & co, Ventfort Hall, and the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts.
WAM Theatre is supported by the New England Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC). WAM Theatre’s 2023 Season was also supported in part by grants from 1Berkshire, Berkshire Bank, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Brabson Education & Library Foundation, The Golub Foundation, The Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation, The Feigenbaum Foundation, Lee Bank Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Parent Artist Advocacy League (PAAL), Scarlet Sock Foundation; as well as grants from the Dalton Cultural Council, Lee Cultural Council, Lenox Cultural Council, Pittsfield Cultural Council, Northern Berkshire Cultural Council, Otis Cultural Council, Sandisfield Cultural Council, and Washington Cultural Council.
ABOUT WAM THEATRE
WAM Theatre is a professional theatre company based in Berkshire County, MA, that operates at the intersection of arts and activism. WAM creates theatre for gender equity and has a vision of theatre as philanthropy.
In fulfillment of its philanthropic mission, WAM donates a portion of the proceeds from their Mainstage productions to carefully selected beneficiaries. Since WAM’s founding in 2010, they have donated more than $85,000 to 25 local and global organizations taking action for gender equity in areas such as girls education, teen pregnancy prevention, sexual trafficking awareness, midwife training, and more.
In addition to Mainstage productions and special events, WAM’s activities include innovative community engagement programs and the Fresh Takes Play Reading Series. To date, WAM has provided paid work to more than 500 theatre artists, the majority of whom are female-identifying.
As a civic organization that embraces intersectional feminism (feminism that acknowledges how multiple forms of discrimination overlap), WAM understands that to address one piece of systemic discrimination means we have to address them all. This is on-going personal and professional work at WAM for the staff and board, detailed in their recently released accountability plan.
WAM Theatre has been widely recognized for having a positive impact on cultural and community development in the region. WAM is the recipient of the Creative Economy Standout Berkshire Trendsetter Award and previously, was named Outstanding Philanthropy Corporation of the Year by the Western MA Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Kristen van Ginhoven, WAM’s Producing Artistic Director, was honored by the Berkshire Theatre Critics Association (BTCA) with the prestigious Larry Murray Award, presented at the discretion of the BTCA Board to a person or theatre project that advances social, political, or community issues in Berkshire County.