PICT’s Board Provides an Update and Names New Artistic Director

In the following press release issued today, Eileen Clancy, Co-President of PICT Classic Theatre, said when asked about the state of the theater, “Whereas several months back, the outlook for PICT Classic Theatre was somewhat uncertain, I can now confidently say that I am extremely optimistic about our future.” 

In May 2022, the Board of Directors made the painful decision to cancel the much-anticipated production of The Boys in the Band as there was no realistic way to meet production expenses. Unfortunately, the cancellation announcement was followed by unfavorable and inaccurate media coverage.

PICT had no employees by July 2022 due to resignations and terminations. Since then, Clancy has been serving as PICT’s Acting Executive Director, and she and certain Board members have been performing the former employees’ duties without compensation. In addition, PICT also faced unprecedented fiscal challenges, including a significant decrease in funding as various supporters and foundations continued to recover from the pandemic; a substantial increase in the cost of materials and administrative expenses for productions; and due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, a forced postponement of Endgame, which resulted in delayed ticket sales and further increased production costs.

As a result of these challenges, the Board decided that a successful future depended on restructuring. But, first, financial liabilities needed to be met. PICT has since done a remarkable job of addressing its financial obligations and eliminating costs. It is ready to begin again with a focus on the quality productions it has been bringing audiences for 25 years while maintaining financial stability. 

With an eye toward the future, the Board is excited to announce that it has selected Elizabeth (Eliza) Elias Huffman as PICT’s new Artistic Director, effective immediately.

Eliza, a native of Monongahela, Pa., has been a professional theater artist for more than three decades, during which she served as Artistic Director of classic theater companies based in Los Angeles, New York City, and Portland, Oregon. She is an award-winning director and costume designer, a veteran actor, a produced playwright, an acting instructor, and a teacher of Shakespeare. 

Elizabeth (Eliza) Elias Huffman

Eliza demonstrated her talent for interpreting and producing classical plays with theater companies across the United States and Europe. While she was with the Classic Greek Theatre of Oregon, Eliza’s productions of The Trojan Women and Oedipus the King received Portland Drammy awards. In Los Angeles, she served as a Co-Artistic Coordinator with the Classical Theatre Lab, directing the classic plays  The Liars, The TempestThe Roman Actor, and The Rehearsal. In 2005 she founded the International Classical Acting Project. ICAP performed innovative productions from the global classical canon annually at festivals in Germany. She co-founded the Beacon Project in New York, earning critical acclaim for her productions of The Revenger’s Tragedy, The Lucky Chance, and Hyde Park. The Beacon Project was noted for producing a neglected classical play and premiering a new play every season. 

Eliza’s revisionist productions of classic plays include King John, As You Like It, Troilus and Cressida, Antony & Cleopatra, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Two Noble Kinsmen, The Man of Mode, The Lion in Winter, and The Ladies Man.

Eliza received multiple Portland Drammy awards, including outstanding production and direction, for Oedipus El Rey, Luis Alfaro’s modern adaptation of Oedipus Rex. Olga Sanchez Saltveit, who played Jocasta in the production, praised Eliza’s direction as “thoroughly professional, sensitive, insightful, and powerful.” 

Other new plays directed by Eliza include American NightThe Ballad of Juan José, Watsonville: Some Place Not HereNovemberThe Gift HorseSomewhere Between the Sky and the Sea, and the bilingual Day of the Dead play Amor Añejo, which she also authored.

Internationally, Eliza directed her own play Bon Temps Rouler at the Shakespeare Café with Germany’s prestigious Bremer Shakespeare Company and is now developing it as a musical. With ICAP, she represented the United States with her production of Night Breath by Dennis Clontz at the 2006 Playoff Festival in Germany. At the Theatertage Festival in Hanau, Germany, she presented The MaidsThe Absence of Wanting, 9 Parts of Desire, and her solo show, Not My Revolution, which was also recently performed for Off The Wall Productions in Carnegie, Pa., and nominated for best play in 2022 by Broadway World Pittsburgh

As an actor, Eliza has appeared in regional theater in Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Florida, Albuquerque, San Francisco, and North Carolina and will soon be seen onstage in Pittsburgh Public Theatre’s upcoming production of Steel Magnolias. She has guest starred on The Librarians, In the Vault, and General Hospital and appears in the upcoming feature film Who Are You People.

The acclaimed actor Alfred Molina nominated for multiple BAFTA, Emmy, and Tony awards has said of Eliza, “I worked with her on productions as varied as The Bear by Anton Chekhov to Pinero’s Trelawney of the Wells. Her approach to the work is always organic, intellectually rigorous, and from the heart. Directors who are willing and able to get involved with all aspects of the process with knowledge and enthusiasm are rare. Elizabeth is one of them.”

In addition to her roles as an Artistic Director, Eliza has been involved in all aspects of theater management, including grant writing, budgeting, marketing, and staffing. Her experience will be an invaluable asset to PICT. 

Eliza studied theater at the California University of Pennsylvania; at BADA at Balliol College in Oxford, UK; and at the New York Academy of Theatrical Arts. She is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

Eliza commented on her new role: “I greatly admire PICT’s outstanding 25-year history, and I am deeply honored to be selected as its Artistic Director. I look forward to working with the superb and marvelously diverse theater artists in Pittsburgh and to creating innovative productions of great classics, devised works, and new plays from Ireland and around the world.”

Check back for Sharon Eberson’s upcoming interview with Eliza Elias Huffman.

Categories: Arts and Ideas, Feature Stories

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