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Darko Tresnjak Named New Artistic Director of Hartford Stage

Frank Rizzo

May 09, 2011

Darko Tresnjak, a theater director known for his work with Shakespeare, world classics and the rediscovery of neglected plays, is expected to be named the new artistic director of Hartford Stage when the board votes Monday morning. He will succeed Michael Wilson who ends his 13-year tenure in June.

The 45-year-old Tresnjak (pronounced TRESHZ-nick) will be the fifth artistic director in the theater's 48-year history. Tresnjak's five-year contract begins July 1. His salary is still being negotiated.

Tresnjak was artistic director of Old Globe Theatre's Shakespeare Festival in San Diego for five years ending in 2009. Productions there included "Coriolanus," "Hamlet," "All's Well That Ends Well," as well as Clare Booth Luce's "The Women" and Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac." Most recently he directed New York's Theatre for a New Audience's tour of "The Merchant of Venice" starring Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham ("Amadeus").

Tresnjak is currently directing and set designing "Titus Andronicus" at the Stratford (Canada) Shakespeare Festival with John Vickery and Roberta Maxwell and is in Manhattan casting the musical revival of "City of Angels" which will play East Haddam's the Goodspeed Opera House in the fall.

"This is a huge honor and a great responsibility," says Tresnjak from New York. "I am deeply humble."

Tresnjak says that though he has an extensive resume with classics, he is committed to new work as well.

"If I turn my back on new plays in Hartford I would be shooting myself in the foot, with the board, with the press, probably with audiences," says Tresnjak.

"For the coming season, I want to be a loving host [for the artists and productions that have already been selected] and learn as much as I can about Hartford and the community and what opportunities there are."

Hartford Stage leaders praised the quality of Tresnjak's work and extent of his connections throughout the country of the past two decades.

"With Darko, we have someone who is an artist, someone with a lot of integrity and someone who will be really committed to Hartford," says Paul L. Bourdeau, Hartford Stage's board president.

Jill Adams, vice president of the board, headed the search committee with the assistance of theater consultants AlbertHall & Associates. "This appointment is a reaffirmation of the theater's longstanding mission to provide a fresh view of the classics and a commitment to new works," she says. "We were seeking a walk-on-water person that will engage and inspire the community, the staff and the donors while creating wonderful art."

Tresnjak was born in Zemum, Yugoslavia (now Serbia) before emigrating to the U.S. when he was 10. Tresnjak received his BA in English literature at Swarthmore College in 1988 and his MFA in theater studies at Columbia University in 1996

Tresnjak's work had been widely produced in the state. For Goodspeed Musicals he also staged "Amour," "A Little Night Music" and last summer's "Carousel!"." For New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre, he directed Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead." For the Westport Country Playhouse, he staged "Princess Turandot" and "Hay Fever." He also directed many works in the past 10 years at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Massachusetts Berkshires.

He was also director-in-residence at Boston's Huntington Theatre Company from 2002 to 2004. He has also directed for the Los Angeles Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis and the Sarasota Opera, among other companies.

Among his honors are the Alan Schneider Award for directing excellence, a Theatre Communications Group national theater residency award and the Boris Sagal Directing Fellowship.

Tresnjak will be involved in selecting the final play of Hartford Stage's six-play 2011-12 season. Five other works have already been announced, including one that includes a play he will direct, "Bell Book and Candle," a '50s play in which he received praise in 2007 when he has already first staged at the Old Globe to critical acclaim.. He also directed another '50s rarely-revived comedy there to critical acclaim, "The Pleasure of His Company."

He is married to Josh Pearson, an associate costume designer. They are expected to live within walking distance to the downtown Hartford theater.

About 80 theater artists were either contacted or expressed interest in the job. The search committee narrowed the choice to 14, including candidates from Ireland and Canada. ,

The list was further culled to six and then finally four: Tresnjak; Eric Rosen, artistic director of Kansas City Repertory Theatre; director Scott Schwarz; and Wendy Goldberg, artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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