New leaders at Academy, Williams fest among many changes in Cape Cod, Islands arts world

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Two more arts nonprofits have joined the nearly 20 Cape Cod and Islands cultural groups that have changed leadership during the pandemic.

Judy Hamer this month started work as artistic director for the Academy of Performing Arts in Orleans, and Adam Weinstock was named last week as executive director of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival.

Hamer, drama teacher at Nauset Regional High School for more than three decades, has taken on the top post at the Academy three years after the organization shut its theater, and officials laid off its three employees and acknowledged a more than $85,000 deficit. Hamer, as president of its board of trustees, has since helped to lead the organization’s resurrection from financial troubles, including renovating and centering operations at the Academy Playhouse on Main Street and closing the former school building on Giddiah Hill Road.

Judy Hamer, longtime drama teacher at Nauset Regional High School in Eastham, has been named the artistic director of the Academy of Performing Arts in Orleans.
Judy Hamer, longtime drama teacher at Nauset Regional High School in Eastham, has been named the artistic director of the Academy of Performing Arts in Orleans.

Weinstock, a veteran Broadway producer, takes on the Provincetown job after working for years in different capacities with the annual fall Williams festival. He comes to the top administrative post three years after Jef Hall-Flavin, who still consults with the festival, left after 13 years.

Weinstock is co-owner of Red Spear LLC — involved in such shows as "Tina, the Tina Turner Musical," "Be More Chill," "On Your Feet" and "Company," according to its website — and is president of Creative Concept Productions and vice-chairman of the board of Emerging Artists Theatre. He will oversee the Williams festival’s administrative side, including development, marketing, public relations, sales and staffing.

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The two leaders are filling the top posts as arts and cultural organizations are working to come back from pandemic shutdowns and COVID-19 concerns about gathering in large groups. The Academy and Williams festival are among the Cape and Islands groups that have experienced close to two dozen changes in top artistic and administrative positions in the past two years.

Veteran Broadway producer Adam Weinstock has been named executive director of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival.
Veteran Broadway producer Adam Weinstock has been named executive director of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival.

That’s a lot of change in a short amount of time for the local cultural sector, acknowledged Julie Wake, executive director of the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, but overall, she said Monday, she sees the changes as “exciting” and “positive.”

The reasons behind the changes are varied and not all pandemic-related. For some, it’s a “natural evolution,” she said, with some groups having had succession and retirement plans in place that may have been accelerated or delayed by the pandemic. In other cases, Wake said, “I do think the creative sector is fragile, and we’re having to think about things a lot differently (now). I think burnout has really pushed people to either jump into a new role or leave. … I think the positive part of that is that (so many organizations) have found new leaders to fill the roles.”

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Wake is optimistic about what the fresh perspectives of the new leaders can add to the culture that the area has to offer and how groups can work together more. “We need to elevate the Cape Cod arts and culture brand … so to me, it’s exciting that these groups are investing in their new leaders.”

Years of experience

Hamer and Weinstock both bring fresh perspectives, but with long knowledge of the nonprofits they are now leading.

Hamer has directed numerous shows at the Academy Playhouse since 2000, and after becoming board president, has in recent months helped to clean out, renovate and program the theater. She said last week that former artistic director Peter Earle told her a decade ago that she should take over when she retired, and that’s just what she’s doing.

Hamer plans to retire in June from 33 years of working as Nauset drama teacher in a department she created (along with the competitive Honors Acting program). Her students have won honors in annual statewide competitions, and many have gone on to careers in theater and television, according to Academy information.

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“I’m truly thrilled to be given this opportunity,” Hamer said Friday, saying it “seems fitting” that she’s doing what Earle predicted. “The Academy just feels like home to me and anything I can do to make it shine makes me proud. My retirement from teaching is also something that is necessary for this position, and the universe all lined up nicely for me to be able to do both.”

The second-floor theater at the academy has been getting new seats installed during January before a February school-vacation production of “Hansel and Gretel” there. Also scheduled for the arena stage are a series of new works in March, “Robin Hood” in April, “Clue On Stage” in May, “Guys and Dolls” in June, “Mary Poppins” in July and “Something Rotten” in August and September.

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Weinstock will be leading the Williams festival following extensive experience in live theater — he has produced over 100 shows over the past 25 years, including nearly three dozen productions in Provincetown since 1999.

“Adam’s been advising us since 2009, took a Festival show to Dublin in 2010, and another Festival production to LaMama (in New York City) in 2011,” noted board president Patrick Falco in an announcement of the appointment. “For 10 years, we’ve been hoping he would expand his role with us.”

The 17th season of the festival, scheduled for Sept. 22-25, will be an overview of the work of Williams, according to festival curator and co-founder David Kaplan. The Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning Williams worked on many of his major plays during the 1940s in Provincetown, and this year’s event will feature a lineup of only Williams plays for the first time since 2006, he said.

So much transition in 2 years

With Hamer and Weinstock taking on the new jobs, the remaining open positions in the local cultural world include ongoing searches for a new artistic director for Cape Cod Theatre Company/Harwich Junior Theatre and a new executive director for the Nantucket Book Foundation, which produces the annual Nantucket Book Festival.

Other recent changes in cultural leadership include David Elliott starting work earlier this month as artistic director of Cape Playhouse, joining executive director Nora Carey who was hired just before the pandemic began. Michael Rabideau was promoted earlier this month to director of operations at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, which is on the same Cape Cod Center for the Arts campus in Dennis.

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Molly Demeulenaere was promoted late last year from development to executive director of the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth as one of several staff changes there in the past year or so. Theater educator, administrator and arts advocate Donna Wresinski was named in October as the new executive artistic director for Eventide Theatre Company in Dennis.

Other arts organizations that have changed leadership during the past couple of pandemic years include: in Provincetown, the Provincetown Film Society, the Fine Arts Work Center and Twenty Summers; in Hyannis, the Cape Cod Maritime Museum, the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum and the Cape Symphony (which also has campuses in West Barnstable and Falmouth); the Atwood Museum in Chatham; the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum; and on Nantucket, the Dreamland film and cultural center.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Orleans, Provincetown art nonprofits have new leaders

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