Firehouse Theatre leadership changes + merger news

By | January 22, 2023

The boards of Firehouse Theatre and The New Theatre are thrilled to announce the merger of these two adventurous, dynamic organizations. With considerable mission overlap, cultural alignment, and complimentary visions and ambitions, this synergistic fusion will expand and accelerate the delivery of shared core commitments and programmatic intentions.

While the merger is finalized Firehouse Producing Artistic Director Joel Bassin welcomes The New Theare’s Nathaniel Shaw to the staff of Firehouse as the new Artistic Director. Bassin will continue to lead Firehouse as Producing Artistic Director in collaboration with Shaw through Season 29, and then he’ll retire. Shaw will become Executive Artistic Director for Firehouse’s 30th season. TNT Executive Director Vida Williams believes that the merger is the right moment for her to end her leadership chapter with The New Theatre.

Bassin decided to retire as Producing Artistic Director after successfully leading Firehouse for the past eight seasons. Bassin’s accomplishments include advancing Firehouse’s commitment to new work and community access that were cornerstones of founding Artistic Director Carol Piersol’s vision. Bassin produced numerous and significant world premieres that were awarded Firehouse’s first National Endowment for the Arts grants and received other national recognition. He also produced seminal reinterpretations of world classics and hybrid works. Bassin expanded programming and provided an artistic home to magicians, poets, burlesquers, dancers, musicians, comedians, and performance-makers of all kinds. He put the institution on stable and strong financial footing, and completed a capital campaign to ensure that the iconic 1908 Firehouse building continues to be a safe and welcoming home for artists and the public.

“I’m very grateful for the amazing adventure I’ve been on for the last eight years at Firehouse. It’s a fantastic capstone to my incredibly charmed and thrilling 50 year career in the performing arts. After the last few years producing work during the pandemic, it seems like the perfect time to take a pause and reflect on what’s to come,” said Bassin.

Nathaniel Shaw joins Firehouse following his role as founding Artistic Director of The New Theatre, launched in Richmond, Virginia in the fall of 2021. Previously he was Artistic Director of Virginia Repertory Theatre and founding Artistic Director of The Active Theater in New York City. He was an Associate Choreographer for ONCE, supervising both the Broadway production and the first national tour. He served as the New Play Development Director for Glass Half Full Productions, Tony and Olivier Award–winning producers of BETRAYAL and THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME. Shaw is an award-winning director/choreographer having led productions at theatres all across the United States, including Firehouse’s critically acclaimed production of THE BARBER OF MOVILLE. He performed in plays and musicals all across the country as well, and was a featured dancer with the world-renowned Paul Taylor Dance Company. Style Weekly included him in both their “Power List” and “40 Under 40” awards.

“The boards of both organizations have demonstrated a passionate and serious commitment to creating a single stronger, more effective, sustainable contemporary theatre company in RVA. It is an honor beyond measure to be asked to advance their ambition,” said Shaw. “On a personal note,” he continued, “I am deeply indebted to my TNT co-founder Vida Willams for laying the groundwork for a more innovative approach to theatre making.”

The collaborative discovery process between the two organizations was executed by a task force composed of New Theatre executives Vida Williams and Nathaniel Shaw, Firehouse Producing Artistic Director Joel Bassin, New Theatre board member Ryan Ripperton, and Firehouse board members Steve Gaidos, Marcus Cooper, and Jude Powers, under the advisement of Christy Coleman, Executive Director of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.

Details about the merger and plans for 2023-24 will be announced later this spring. For more information or interview requests please contact Nathaniel Shaw, Nathaniel@firehousetheatre.org, 804.355.2001.

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