NAT announces new artistic director, season

The Board of Directors of New American Theater (NAT) has announced Tony Vezner has been hired as the theater’s new artistic director and will lead the theater into its 33rd season of staging high-quality professional theater in downtown Rockford.

Vezner comes from the Theatre of Western Springs, Western Springs, Ill., where he served six seasons as artistic director. This last season, the Theatre of Western Springs was honored by the Illinois Theatre Association for its “outstanding contribution to community theater.”

While at TWS, Vezner founded master classes for actors and directors, established a lecture series that brings in top theatrical talent, and began a play development series to nurture new works. Under his direction, the theater’s artistic work emphasized a balance of challenging plays alongside entertaining favorites. Vezner has also served as co-artistic director for the Circle Theater, a professional, non-Equity theater in the Chicago area with a reputation for inventive, groundbreaking work.

In his career, Vezner has directed more than 45 full-length plays for the professional, community and academic stage. His work has included such classic authors as Shakespeare, Moliere and Ibsen as well as modern writers like David Mamet and Richard Nelson. In recent seasons, he has developed a passion for directing adaptations of literary classics including versions of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days.

His focus, Vezner says, “is on telling good stories and producing work that is rich in theatricality, wonder and depth.”

Vezner received a bachelor of arts in English and theatre from the University of Louisville. While there, he won a full scholarship to study Shakespeare in Stratford-on-Avon, England. He later received a master of fine arts degree in directing from Indiana University.

For NAT’s 33rd season, Vezner announced his selection of the following productions:

The Guys by Anne Nelson (opens Oct. 1, runs through Oct. 24) recommended for audiences of high school age and older. Student matinees available. Story is based on two writers compiling eulogies for firemen killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

A Christmas Carol from the novel by Charles Dickens (opens Nov. 26, runs through Dec. 24) recommended for audiences of all ages. Student matinees available. The ghosts of Jacob Marley and Christmases Past, Present and Future will once again materialize on the NAT stage. Vezner will present a new adaptation of this holiday classic.

Around the World in 80 Days from the novel by Jules Verne (opens Feb. 4, runs through Feb. 27) recommended for all ages. This play chronicles the amazing journey of Phileas Fogg and his manservant, Passpartout, to win a wager and make it around the world in 80 days, with many adventures along the way.

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress by Alan Ball (opens March 11, runs through April 13) recommended for adults only. This play examines the role and nature of today’s modern woman in this frank and touching adult comedy. Five bridesmaids hiding out from a wedding joyously discover a common bond in this funny, irreverent celebration of women’s spirit.

The Taffetas (opens April 29, runs through May 29) recommended for all ages. Set in a 1950’s TV studio, the show surrounds the four singing Taffeta sisters, who are making their national debut on the DuMont network’s program, Spotlight on Music. Success here will gain them a spot with Ed Sullivan. Includes a medley of ’50s song hits.

For more information: New American Theater, 963-9454.

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