Les Waters is an Obie Award-winning director. From 2012 to 2018, he served as artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville, where he directed the premiere of Lucas Hnath’s The Thin Place, The Christians and other new works by Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, Sarah Ruhl, Anne Washburn and Dave Malloy, Will Eno, Charles Mee, and Mark Schultz. In 2009, he made his Broadway debut with Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room (or the vibrator play). In the last ten years, his productions have ranked among the year’s best in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Guardian, Time Out New York, and USA Today. In New York, his productions have been seen at BAM, Playwrights Horizons, Classic Stage Company, Second Stage Theater, The Connelly Theater, Signature Theatre Company, Soho Rep, The Public Theater, and Manhattan Theatre Club. Regional credits include productions at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, La Jolla Playhouse, Long Wharf Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Kirk Douglas Theatre, American Repertory Theater, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Yale Repertory Theatre, and American Conservatory Theater. He led the MFA directing program at University of California, San Diego from 1995 to 2003.
(Updated Mar 2019)
Critics' Pick. THE FIRST IMPORTANT NEW PLAY OF THE FALL SEASON. Ingeniously staged by Les Waters, this terrific play about the mystery of faith by Lucas Hnath — one of the freshest playwriting voices to emerge in the past five years — is MESMERIZING.
—Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
DEEPLY AFFECTING. EMOTIONALLY DEVASTATING. A white-knuckled drama about a theological battle. This is a production we can believe in.
Tim Sanford: What were your early influences that pushed you into becoming an artist and a playwright?
Lucas Hnath: I think it came in part from growing up in Orlando so close to Disney World, which is an incredibly theatrical place. In a lot of ways my interest in theater and in art started there. I really wanted to make Disney rides when I was a kid.
The Christians Symposium — where the playwright asks the questions. Moderated by Lucas Hnath, featuring a panel with Lesley Hazleton, Mark Schultz, and Reverend Ann Kansfield. To avoid skipping errors in the beginning of the video, skip ahead to 2:12.
When I was younger, I was supposed to be a preacher, but I decided it would be too much responsibility. I didn't want to worry about other peoples’ souls. I switched to pre-med. I didn't want to worry about other peoples’ bodies. And so, I switched to playwriting.
Lucas Hnath has described ‘The Christians’ as his “big little play about faith in America.” When I first encountered it in its premiere production at the Humana Festival in Louisville, it seemed unequivocally big to me. I saw mainly the broad, timely thematic conflict that ensues when the pastor of an evangelical, Bible-literalist church preaches a game-changing sermon.
Three summers ago, Lucas Hnath sent me an email at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where I used to be the literary manager, with a Word document attached. “Well gosh,” his message began, “this was kind of fun. I went through my list of notes and organized it and turned my shorthand into complete sentences. So here are 17 ideas for plays.” (“There were even more that I didn’t include,” he added.)
Over time, words change meaning, and language evolves just like everything else. Back in the day, for instance, if your son was a “determined bachelor,” you’d be proud of his knighthood, and if he brought home his broke, underage girlfriend to meet you, you could call her a “naughty wench” without ruining Christmas. “Sick” was ill, and so was “ill”; “thongs” were flip-flops, “bad” was bad, and a “gay marriage” wasn’t anything to argue about. And whether you consider the evolution of language a science, a history lesson, or a damn shame, it's an insight to the evolution of how we think.