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Bennett Leak named interim artistic director for Second Stage

Leak will lead the nonprofit during its 2024-2025 season.

Bennett Leak (Credit: Courtesy of Polk & Co.)

Second Stage Theater has announced veteran staff member Bennett Leak as interim artistic director for the 2024-2025 season. Leak will step in following the previously announced departure of current president and artistic director Carole Rothman, who co-founded the nonprofit in 1979. She will leave her post in August.

Leak first joined Second Stage as director of special events in 2015, the same year the organization acquired its Broadway house, the 112-year-old Hayes Theater. In 2019, he was appointed as associate artistic director and then promoted to director of artistic production in 2021. 

“Bennett has been a vital member of Second Stage Theater for many years, and we are thrilled that he will serve as our interim artistic director next season,” said Terry Lindsay and Kevin Brockman, co-chairs of Second Stage’s board of trustees, in a statement. “Bennett’s passion for our mission of producing living American playwrights is indispensable at this moment of change for the company, and having his tenure, expertise and deep institutional knowledge at hand will help ensure a seamless transition.”

Rothman’s exit from the company is its second major shift in leadership in the last year. In February 2023, Khady Kamara stepped down as executive director; Lisa Lawer Post succeeded her. This also marks a shift in artistic leadership of Broadway’s nonprofit landscape. Todd Haimes, longtime artistic director of Roundabout Theatre Company, passed away in April 2023, while André Bishop is concluding his decades-long tenure as producing artistic director of Lincoln Center Theater.

“I am thrilled that Second Stage is in Bennett's hands for this historic transition,” said Larissa FastHorse, playwright of “The Thanksgiving Play,” which Second Stage mounted in 2023. “Working with Bennett on my Broadway debut was a joy. He knows plays and production inside and out. His hands-on support and insights were so valuable to me. Bennett's calm leadership balances art, audience and process in a way that ensures that Second Stage will continue to create the powerful work they are known for.”

Leak joins on the heels of Second Stage’s announcement that they are giving up their Off-Broadway venue, the Tony Kiser Theater, due to rising rent and unfavorable terms in their lease. The company had previously given up their Off-Off Broadway space, the Upper West Side’s McGinn/Cazale Theater.

Second Stage is currently represented on Broadway by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ “Appropriate,” which is set for a commercial transfer to the Belasco Theater on March 25 after the play concludes its extended run at the Hayes Theater March 3. The Hayes’ next occupant is Paula Vogel’s “Mother Play,” which is set to open on April 25.