Melia Bensussen, Artistic Director*
Melia Bensussen is an award-winning director and artistic leader who has directed extensively at leading theatres throughout the country since 1984, including productions at the Huntington Theatre Company, Sleeping Weazel, Shakespeare & Company, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, La Jolla Playhouse, Baltimore Center Stage, Hartford Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the New York Shakespeare Festival, Manhattan Class Company, Primary Stages, Long Wharf Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, People’s Light and Theatre Company, Bay Street Theatre and Playwrights Horizons, among others.
Raised in Mexico City, Bensussen is fluent in Spanish and has translated and adapted a variety of texts, including her edition of the Langston Hughes translation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding. She is currently working on commissions and productions at the Huntington Theatre Company and ArtsEmerson in Boston.
Her acclaimed work with new plays has taken her to the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, New York Stage and Film, PlayPenn, The Playwrights’ Center, Sundance, and other new play programs across the United States. Ongoing collaborations with playwrights include such distinguished writers as Kirsten Greenidge, Melinda Lopez, Jeffrey Hatcher, Masha Obolensky, Charlotte Meehan, and Kate Snodgrass. She has been lucky to have the opportunity to collaborate with a range of American playwrights, including Annie Baker, Mat Smart, Edwin Sanchez, Nick Gandiello, Eduardo Machado, Jose Rivera, Lee Blessing, Richard Dresser, and Willy Holtzman.
A graduate of Brown University, Bensussen currently serves as the Chair of the Arts Advisory Board for the Princess Grace Foundation and for the past eleven years has chaired the Performing Arts Department at Emerson College. She also serves on the executive board of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC).
* Position permanently endowed by Janet S. Suisman
Cynthia Rider, Managing Director
Rider is the eighth Managing Director at Hartford Stage, joining recently-appointed Artistic Director Melia Bensussen.
Rider became the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s (OSF) third executive director in 2013. While at OSF, she successfully worked with the board and noted Artistic Director, Bill Rauch, in the creation of a ten-year strategic plan, oversaw an increase in contributed income of more than 20 percent, and participated in artistic initiatives that resulted in three OSF-commissioned plays moving to Broadway, with one winning the Tony Award for Best Play and another winning the Pulitzer Prize.
Additional highlights of Rider’s successful tenure at OSF include the creation of the Access for All campaign, which renovated the courtyard in front of OSF’s theatres and added an elevator and wheelchair seating to the Bowmer Theatre, and the opening of the new Hay-Patton Rehearsal Center – all while producing a repertory season of eleven productions in three theatres, managing an annual operating budget of $40 million and offering a number of educational and community engagement programs for audiences and students.
Prior to joining OSF, Cynthia Rider spent nine years at Kansas City Repertory Theatre as Managing Director and, earlier, as Associate Director for Advancement and Administration. Her experience also includes six years as Executive Director of the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey. She served as Associate Director, later promoted to Acting Director, of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Partnership, which worked to strengthen small and medium-sized manufacturers across the state.
Rider’s theatre experience also includes time spent on the stage. After graduating from Boston University, she started her theatre career as a resident company member, guest artist and young company actor at the Alley Theatre in Houston.
Elizabeth Williamson, Associate Artistic Director
Prior to her appointment as Associate Artistic Director, Elizabeth Williamson served as Senior Dramaturg and Director of New Play Development for Hartford Stage.
Ms. Williamson has played a pivotal role in new play development at Hartford Stage since joining Hartford Stage in 2012. Over the years, Williamson has developed new work with Brooke Berman, Bill Cain, Sheila Callaghan, Robert Freedman and Steven Lutvak, Kyle Jarrow, Julie Jensen, Kimber Lee, Matthew Lopez, Wendy MacLeod, T.D. Mitchell, Peter Morris, Brighde Mullins, Janine Nabers, Dan O’Brien, Dominique Serrand and Steve Epp, Octavio Solis, Bess Wohl, Lauren Yee, and Mary Zimmerman. More recently, Ms. Williamson translated La Dispute by French playwright Pierre Marivaux in the 50th anniversary season for Hartford Stage and helmed the theatre’s Brand:New Festival in its final years. Ms. Williamson also helped launch the Hartford Stage world premieres of the Tony Award-winning musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (2012); Big Dance Theatre’s Man in a Case (2013); Breath & Imagination (2013); and Matthew Lopez’s Reverberation (2015).
Before joining Hartford Stage, Ms. Williamson served as Associate Artistic Director and Literary Manager for Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City, Utah. A dramaturg, director, producer, and translator, she has also worked with About Face Theatre, the American Conservatory Theater, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Court Theatre, HERE Arts Center, the La Jolla Playhouse, Lorin Maazel’s Castleton Festival, the Magic Theatre, Steppenwolf, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
Ms. Williamson received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre Directing and Comparative Literature from Bennington College in Vermont and a Master’s Degree in European Literature from Oxford University in England. She trained at the French school of physical theatre École Jacques Lecoq. Ms. Williamson received an NEA Fellowship in Literary Translation in 2007 and is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.