New leading role at Playshop: Producing artistic director

The Wilton Playshop will debut a new leadership role — producing artistic director — when its 78th season starts this coming fall.

Stepping down as Playshop president after more than seven years is Zelie Pforzheimer of Wilton, who in a wide-ranging statement about the new Playshop board sent to The Bulletin earlier this week, announced her successor will be Lauren Nicole Sherwood of Stamford, an actor, director and choreographer. Ms. Sherwood will not only take over the duties as president but also the duties of Executive Director Janice Dehn.

Ms. Sherwood, whose most recent Playshop stint as director was for the winter production of the Little Women — The Musical (and she also choreographed the show), “has good relationships with many of the theaters in the area, having performed or directed in most of them, and her attitude is of the ‘can do’ variety I was so lucky to have with my very first board,” Ms. Pforzheimer said.

“Her background is steeped in all aspects of the theater and she has a degree in theater management. She is, in a word, perfect for the proposed newly created position of producing artistic director.”

Both Ms. Sherwood and Ms. Pforzheimer appeared in the cast of a Playshop production last season, an energetic comedy called The Drowsy Chaperone, a show Ms. Sherwood also choreographed.

Ms. Pforzheimer said of her years as president that she has been “happy and excited to be at the helm of what some thought was the Titanic and what I affectionately considered the Little Engine That Could.  From the beginning I was blessed with an incredible team of ‘can do’ individuals that steered the fate of the Playshop from a field of icebergs to the promised land of plenty, now with a plethora of actors and directors wanting to work with us and (sometimes) audiences clamoring for tickets. However, satisfaction often leads to stagnation, and I knew that to keep the forward momentum of our Phoenix-like recovery intact, a change was necessary. “

The president’s search for a successor has been “for someone who would have the same passion for this position as I had seven years ago when I took it on. At last I believe I have found the perfect person for the job, and she is ready to take it on immediately.”

Ms. Pforzheimer will not be leaving the Playshop board altogether.  For the 2014-15 season, she is set to serve as the board’s secretary. She expressed appreciation for support during her presidency. “It has been an honor and pleasure to work with such a talented group of individuals...”

“I believe all good things surround us and am happy to still be involved with the Playshop, albeit in a much less stressful position!”

The former executive director, Ms. Dehn, will return to the publicity director role. “She was so instrumental in bringing the Playshop into the public’s eye when I came on board, and I can’t wait to see what she does now that every story will not center on something that is broken or rotting being fixed,” Ms. Pforzheimer said.

Leaving the board is David Cunningham, whom the president called the Playshop’s “set designer extraordinaire.” The set designer position remains open at this time, but Ms. Pforzheimer says the organization has “several prospects that we believe will get us through the first few shows...” The Playshop is still looking for an interested individual to take on this job.

Evelyn Cunningham followed her husband David’s lead and stepped down from the board, too.

Also departing from the board is Michele Ward, whom the president is “extremely sad to see go.”

Others on the board of directors for the upcoming season, as reported by Ms. Pforzheimer on Monday, are: Ralph Pastore, fund raising/first vice president; Ginger Cutter, house manager/second vice president; Carin Freidag, play and director selection/third vice president; Kim Nabulsi, treasurer; Donna Savage, program advertising; Gini Fischer, website/graphic design; Connie Cob, props; Tammy Wingertzahn, costumes; Danielle DeCrette and Michele Bennett, hospitality; and Kathleen Roberts, recording secretary.

The new board officially takes over in August. Playshop members held a “turnover meeting” last Sunday and affirmed the new slate of officers.

The new season opens with A.R. Gurney’s Later Life in the fall. The musical is She Loves Me, scheduled in winter, and a Noel Coward comedy, Relative Values, is next spring’s production.