Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 27, 2016

Mandy Greenfield, Artistic Director, Williamstown Theatre Festival

Williamstown Theatre Festival:  Home of 4 World Premieres
An interview with Artistic Director Mandy Greenfield
by Shera Cohen

Mandy Greenfield
The following is a paraphrased interview with Mandy Greenfield, Artistic Director, Williamstown Theatre Festival (WT). This article focuses on the theatre’s 2016 summer season which includes four world premieres. Neither Greenfield nor WT shirk from what could be a scary task. In fact, the opposite is true, as Greenfield actively seeks out new plays and writers.

Greenfield comes across as a no-nonsense professional who loves theatre, playwrights, and audiences; particularly WT audiences. 

Spotlight: How would you describe your job at WT?

Greenfield: I am a writers’ producer. Productions and plays come together with the actors. I love words. The words are so important. It’s the chicken and the egg situation coming together. 

Spotlight:  What is your process of choosing plays? Do you read scripts, receive suggestions from others, know of successful playwrights whose work you think you would like to produce? 

Greenfield:  I read 250 new pieces each year. That’s my job. As the Artistic Director, I curate the work, like in a museum. There’s no theme, no formula, or detailed process to help me choose. Sometimes works come by agents or artists directly. I see plays all the time.

This job is a combination of joy and risk. We are doing it from scratch, putting ourselves out there to create and make it come about like a high wire act. It’s trust and collaboration. But, it’s not all done until the play meets the audience; it’s humbling. 

Spotlight:  What has been WT’s audience response to new plays?

Greenfield: Audiences at WT are incredible, thoughtful, and engaged. In my first year here, I got to know the audience, learn about them, and from them. The plays chosen reflect a piece of the human experience. I’m grateful that our audiences embrace new works. I decide on plays that I think give the audience a broad spectrum -- stories that feel like a theatrical representation of the totality of the American Experience. If I had to credit a single source for WT’s success, it’s definitely the audiences. 

Spotlight:  Your theatre has mounted several world premieres in the past. Have any of these succeeded to go on from WT? 

Greenfield:  You mean, have further life? Absolutely. “Living on Love” went to Broadway. “The Bridges of Madison County,” a musical, went on.

[WT has mounted many world premieres in the past 2 years alone; i.e. “Legacy,” “Unknown Soldier, and “Paradise Blue.”] 

Spotlight: Isn’t it a box office risk to mount new plays, not to mention difficult for the marketing department? 

Greenfield: Last year was our strongest with record breaking sales. It’s really the opposite. The people who come to WT have a robust appetite for new works.  They are thrilled to be the first to see a piece. In a way, they feel as if they have had a hand in giving birth to it. If anything, these new works built up the regulars [subscribers]. We find that more people come from New York State, so they often stay over a few nights. Then, they might come to another play the next day.

Mandy Greenfield briefly described the upcoming four world premieres at WT and the reasons why she chose these particular plays.

“Romance Novels for Dummies,” by Boo Killebrew, is a big-hearted comedy. These are some powerful females starting over in their lives. I think the audience will be able to laugh through the characters.

“Cost of Living,” by Martyna Majok, is what I call a “chamber piece” – meaning 4 actors. It’s about disabilities and abilities with numerous meanings. I’m especially glad that we were able to cast two actors who have visible disabilities.

“The Chinese Room,” by Michael West, might be considered a bit unusual for WT. It’s a sci-fi comedy thriller farce about a man rushing to wed his legacy with his own technological inventions.

“Poster Boy,” by Craig Carnelia, is our one musical premiere, inspired by a true story. While it is dark and provocative, it is inspirational and moving with the theme that humans can always help each other. 

For information on these plays and the entire season, call the Box Office at 413-597-3400, visit their website or email