Announcing a Leadership Transition

October 16, 2019

Tim Sanford to Step Down as Artistic Director of Playwrights Horizons.

Associate Artistic Director Adam Greenfield Will Succeed Him.

Through Almost 24 Years Leading the Institution, Sanford Has Transformed Playwrights Horizons into One of the Country’s Foremost Non-Profit Producers of Bold New Plays and Musicals

New York, NY: Playwrights Horizons today announced that its beloved longtime Artistic Director, Tim Sanford, will step down from the position in July 2020, when Adam Greenfield will become Artistic Director. Sanford and Greenfield will collaborate on the 50th anniversary season (2020–21) programming, and Sanford will remain central in the institution’s leadership through June 2021 as outgoing artistic director. 

Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty has written that Sanford, who started at the theater as a literary intern in 1984, “has made Playwrights Horizons the most exciting place in the country for new playwriting.” He served as Literary Manager for nine years and as Associate Artistic Director for two years before becoming Artistic Director in January 1996. Throughout his tenure at the influential institution, Sanford has endeavored to broaden the spectrum of writers that Playwrights — and, by extension, the landscape of American theatrical institutions — nurtures, and the ways in which the theater supports them, from commissions, readings, and productions to health insurance and other benefits. Among the many pathbreaking American playwrights the theater has produced under his leadership are Will Arbery, Jaclyn Backhaus, Annie Baker, Tanya Barfield, Clare Barron, Neal Bell, Adam Bock, David Cale, Kirsten Childs, Kia Corthron, Lisa D’Amour, Larissa FastHorse, Michael Friedman, Melissa James Gibson, David Greenspan, Adam Guettel, Jordan Harrison, Amy Herzog, Lucas Hnath, Michael R. Jackson, Kenneth Lonergan, Craig Lucas, Taylor Mac, Richard Nelson, Bruce Norris, Lynn Nottage, Robert O’Hara, Theresa Rebeck, Sarah Ruhl, Tori Sampson, Christopher Shinn, Jeanine Tesori, Anne Washburn, and Doug Wright. 

In Sanford’s time as Artistic Director, Playwrights has been recognized with three Pulitzer Prizes, seven Tony Awards, and 40 OBIEs, among many other accolades. A 2008 Drama Desk Citation honored the institution’s “ongoing support to generations of theater artists and undiminished commitment to producing new work.”

Playwrights Horizons Board Chair Judith O. Rubin said, “Tim Sanford has led Playwrights Horizons through 23 years of extraordinary artistic achievement. His vision, taste, and humanity have dynamically served the mission that has guided Playwrights since its founding in 1971: the support and development of American playwrights, composers and lyricists and the production of their new work. This theater is the beneficiary of his insistence on excellence, and on the standards that have made Playwrights Horizons a model for those across the country who consider new work the future of the American theater. On a personal level, for more than three decades, I have been fortunate to know Tim as a wise, insightful, and articulate teacher, and as a friend.”

Artistic Director Tim Sanford said, “The greatest gift of this organization — one which has propelled me to lead this theater for a quarter of a century — is our clear, unchanging mission and our indispensable place in the ecology of the American theater. The artists we serve and the plays we develop and produce create new worlds and shine a light on our humanity. It has been my great pride and privilege to lead this organization, and I am thrilled to leave it in the very capable hands of Adam Greenfield, who has been an invaluable part of the leadership team and is an extraordinarily passionate, creative advocate of writers and the artists who bring their visions to life on stage. We are currently in a golden age of playwriting, and Playwrights is uniquely positioned to work with a new generation of writers and continue to explore and expand the form.” 

Judith O. Rubin said, “In his 12 years at the organization, Adam Greenfield has reimagined our play development programs and brought in an influx of daring writers. He has spearheaded the creation of numerous important new initiatives to support writers. Tim and Adam will collaborate closely during this transition, and we all look forward with pleasure and confidence to the passing of the torch and to Adam’s leadership in the years ahead.”

For Greenfield, the position of Artistic Director represents the culmination of years of transformative work within the organization. Working in close collaboration with Sanford — first as Literary Manager, and, since January 2015, as Associate Artistic Director — he has been instrumental in bringing into Playwrights Horizons wide-ranging, singular writers such as Will Arbery, Annie Baker, Clare Barron, Robert O’Hara, Tori Sampson, and Anne Washburn. He has devised major new programs to deepen the theater’s support of playwrights’ work and broaden the reach of the theater’s programming. Greenfield conceived the theater’s Resident Company Programwhich provides like-minded theater companies — Clubbed Thumb, Musical Theatre Factory, SPACE on Ryder Farm — with year-round office and rehearsal space. He also launched the Redux Series, which remounts recent productions (Men On Boats, Miles for Mary) that have had a limited run elsewhere to bring them to a wider audience; and created the theater’s Guest Curator and Perspectives on Playwriting programs. Greenfield is himself a director, with recent credits including the Humana Festival, Clubbed Thumb, 13P, and the Playhouse Teater in Stockholm.

Adam Greenfield said, “Long before I joined the staff, Playwrights Horizons loomed large in my artistic life as a beacon for the exploration and advocacy of new writing. This theater is a testament to the audacity of artists, and to those who believe in their power to change how we perceive the world. It’s a story that’s inseparable from the contributions of Tim Sanford, whose integrity and wonder continue to be an inspiration. I’m deeply honored to be named his successor, and I’m thrilled for the chance to lead this extraordinary institution into its next chapter, to follow the unexpected paths that writers will forge, and to uphold theater’s distinct capacity to re-examine our lives and discover new questions.” 

Playwrights Horizons’ 2019–20 season is underway now, with the world premiere of Will Arbery’s acclaimed Heroes of the Fourth Turning, directed by Danya Taymor, currently on the Mainstage. The season continues with Lucas Hnath’s The Thin Place, staged by Les Waters (November 22, 2019 – January 5, 2020); the musical Unknown Soldier, the final work composed by the late Michael Friedman, with a book by Daniel Goldstein and lyrics by Friedman and Goldstein, in a production helmed by their longtime collaborator Trip Cullman (beginning February 14, 2020); Sylvia Khoury’s Selling Kabul, directed by Tyne Rafaeli and produced in association with Williamstown Theatre Festival (beginning March 27, 2020); and Jeremy O. Harris’s Jody Falco and Jeffrey Steinman commission A Boy’s Company Presents:Tell Me If I’m Hurting You” (May 15, 2020 – June 28, 2020).



Photo of Adam Greenfield and Tim Sanford by Ricky Rhodes for The New York Times