Lear deBessonet, who recently helmed the Public Theater's Public Works presentation of Hercules, has been named the new artistic director of Encores! at New York City Center. She succeeds Jack Viertel, who announced in July that he would step down at the end of the 2020 season, having been with the company since its founding in 1994.
No stranger to Encores!, deBessonet was appointed the organization's first resident director in January, having previously directed Encores!' Big River in 2017 and Pump Boys and Dinettes for Encores! Off-Center in 2014. She remains a resident director at the Public Theater, where she founded the Off-Broadway company's Public Works initiative.
Prior to officially assuming the new role, deBessonet will direct the final Encores! show of Viertel's swansong season: an updated approach to Thoroughly Modern Millie with Ashley Park in the title role and additional contributions by playwright Lauren Yee.
"The moment I saw Lear’s work as a director, I knew I wanted to collaborate with her. Her expression of wit, joy, brains, taste, warmth, and inclusiveness was captivating," Viertel said in a letter to Encores! subscribers.
City Center President and CEO Arlene Shuler added, "Lear’s distinguished career has earned her a reputation as a fresh voice consistently championing inclusivity and the power of theatre. Her love of musicals is contagious, and her vision for Encores! will ensure that its future is as bright as its past."