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Sydney Theatre Company names new artistic director

Sydney Theatre Company names new artistic director
Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett, pictured in 2011, raised the profile of the Sydney Theatre Company of Australia. The company recently announced Upton is stepping down as artistic director. (Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images)

The Sydney Theatre Company has named Jonathan Church, who heads the prestigious Chichester Festival Theater in Britain, as its new artistic director, the company announced Tuesday.

Church will succeed Andrew Upton, who has served as artistic director of Australia's most prominent theater company for the last eight years, the first five of those alongside his wife, actress Cate Blanchett.

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The company said Church will begin work scheduling the 2017 season "immediately" and will work between Australia and England through September 2016.

Church, who is also a stage director, joined the Chichester Festival Theater in 2006, and under his leadership, the company has launched productions that have gone on to Broadway or London's West End and toured internationally. The current West End production of "Gypsy," starring Imelda Staunton, came from the festival.

The Chichester production of "The Last Confession," directed by Church and starring David Suchet, came to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles last year.

Before leading the Chichester Festival, Church headed Britain's Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the Salisbury Playhouse.

Upton said in a release Tuesday that "after a period being led by an actress and a writer, I think it's important to have a theater director once more at the helm."

Under the leadership of Upton and Blanchett, the Sydney Theatre Company significantly raised its international profile with touring productions of "Hedda Gabler," "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Gross und Klein" and "Uncle Vanya" -- all of which starred Blanchett.

Blanchett's name has also helped to lure other marquee names to the company, including William Hurt, Liv Ullmann, Steven Soderbergh, Isabelle Huppert and Philip Seymour Hoffman. 

Earlier this year, the Australian company teamed up with the Geffen Playhouse to co-present the world premiere of "Switzerland," by Joanna Murray-Smith. The play, inspired by the life of suspense author Patricia Highsmith, starred Laura Linney and Seth Numrich in its L.A. staging in March.

The Sydney Theatre Company is presenting "The Present," a new take on Chekhov's "Platonov" that has been adapted for the stage by Upton and stars Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT 
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