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Paul Crewes to step down as artistic director of the Wallis

A man wearing a navy button-down shirt and jeans sits and smiles
Paul Crewes, artistic director of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, will step down from that role at the end of the year. A replacement has not yet been named.
(Luke Fontana)

A formative era is ending at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts: The Beverly Hills organization said Wednesday that its first artistic director, Paul Crewes, will step down at the end of the year.

Crewes will assume the role of artistic advisor through the end of the 2021-22 season. His replacement was not named.

“He’s given us lots of time to make sure the transition goes smoothly,” said Wallis Executive Director and Chief Executive Rachel Fine, adding that Crewes, who came to the Wallis from Britain, is returning there for family reasons. “Even when he’s back in the U.K. he will be affiliated with us.”

Noting how arts organizations work far in advance, Fine said Crewes has ensured the schedule has building blocks in place for the 2022-23 season. She said the Wallis is not ready to discuss a timeline for a replacement but that philanthropist and arts leader David Bohnett, who serves as chairman of the executive committee on the Wallis board, has been tasked with helping Fine and the rest of the board with the transition.

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“I really do have an extraordinary senior team, and I am so grateful for all of their hard work during a very hard time,” Fine said of the pandemic era, which forced the Wallis to close until this summer, when it began operating outdoors. “We’re poised collaboratively to emerge through this transition as well as from the pandemic, even stronger than before.”

The pandemic, Fine noted, has been the catalyst for change elsewhere too. Longtime Center Theatre Group Artistic Director Michael Ritchie in June announced that he will retire at the end of the year to make space for a new voice. Yuval Sharon, artistic director of the avant-garde opera company the Industry, shook up the organization’s status quo by creating an artistic director cooperative that includes two additional leaders.

No matter who replaces Crewes, Fine said the organization will continue to strengthen its commitment to diversity and inclusion — a commitment she said Crewes invested in throughout his tenure.

Fine said the Wallis needs to be a unique home for L.A.-based artists, and that as the community begins to heal from the the last two tumultuous years, the arts — and the Wallis — need to help by presenting art with social impact.

Crewes began programming the Wallis during the inaugural 2013-14 season. He officially came on board as artistic director in 2015. Over more than six years of leadership, Crewes has programmed hundreds of shows and events with local, national and international talent. His contributions have been eclectic, including many genres of theater, dance, music and film, as well as a variety of family programming.

Notable theater productions included For The Record’s hit show “Love Actually Live,” “Turn Me Loose” staring Joe Morton as comic-activist Dick Gregory and “Blues in the Night,” directed by Sheldon Epps. Resident dance companies included Bodytraffic, L.A. Dance Project and Jacob Jonas the Company. Musical performances included Art Garfunkel, Judy Collins, Wild Up, the Harlem Quartet and Vijay Gupta and Johnny Gandelsman, as well as the wildly inventive “The Encounter” by Simon McBurney and his company, Complicite.

A performance by concert violinist Anne Akiko Meyers will mark the Wallis’ return to indoor performances on Oct. 2.

“It’s certainly not easy to step away from a job I love, but family considerations are taking me back to England,” Crewes said in a statement. “I’ve chosen to announce my departure now to ensure that The Wallis has ample time to evaluate next steps.”


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