Eight months after Kate Warner abruptly resigned as artistic director, Watertown’s New Repertory Theatre has settled on a successor: Jim Petosa, the longtime director of the School of Theatre at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts.
In an interview yesterday, Petosa said he will accept a three-year contract with New Rep, beginning Aug. 1. He plans to retain his BU post, which he has held since 2002 while directing roughly 60 productions, including three at New Rep in the past three years. (He helmed the theater’s final production of 2011, Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Three Viewings.’’)
Harriet Sheets, New Rep’s managing director, acknowledged that the issue of Petosa holding two positions “was one of the major questions we were asking.’’ But when she spoke with those who have worked with him, she said, “Everybody said if anybody can do it, Jim can do it.’’
The vote for Petosa by the 19-member New Rep board was unanimous, according to Sheets, and followed a nationwide search that resulted in interviews of five finalists.
Petosa, 57, said he is not concerned that he will be spread too thin by a pair of demanding jobs. He noted that he has continued to serve as artistic director of the Olney Theatre Center in Maryland - a position he will leave Aug. 1 - during his decade at BU.
“I’ve been wearing the two hats for a long time,’’ he said, adding with a laugh that his commute between jobs will soon be “10 minutes versus 10 hours.’’
Petosa has already been heavily involved in planning the 2012-13 New Rep season, which will be announced later this month.
Petosa said the subscription-based model on which theaters have long depended has become much less reliable in recent years, so he hopes to instill a spirit of artistic adventure at New Rep that will draw audiences “not because of a [play] title but because they have grown to trust what New Rep does in terms of its quality and its spirit, that people will come to us because they’re willing to take a chance rather than feeling it’s a safe bet.’’
Three years ago, Petosa founded the Boston Center for American Performance at BU, which gives students at the School of Theatre a chance to work on productions with professional actors. He said he hopes to tap into the local talent pool of young actors and designers, emphasizing that it “will not be exclusive to BU students. The tent is extremely big, and we want to afford opportunities to graduates of [theater] programs throughout the region.’’