Rattlestick Theater, a well-regarded Off Broadway company in the West Village, has decided to name Will Davis, a freelance director and choreographer, as its next artistic director.
Davis will succeed Daniella Topol, the artistic director since 2016, who has decided to leave theater administration to pursue a career as a nurse. Davis, 40, is transgender, a distinction that he views as noteworthy.
“One of the most important things I can do, as a very intentionally, very visible trans person, is offer a mirror to other emerging artists in all disciplines who may not feel like there is a space for them,” he said. “I’m very excited to be part of the group of people who can push this door open and leave it open.”
Davis, who is particularly interested in developing new plays, previously served as artistic director of the American Theater Company in Chicago. He programmed experimental work there and box office revenue declined; his tenure ended with the shuttering of the theater company.
Jeff Thamkittikasem, the chairman of the Rattlestick board, said the nonprofit had considered Davis’s experience in Chicago and was confident that the situation in New York was different.
In Chicago, Thamkittikasem said, Davis “did what he could and produced great art.” In New York, Thamkittikasem said, “We are in a safer and stronger position that will allow him to flourish.”
“Will is just an amazing artist with a beautiful eye, and we’re so excited for that aesthetic to be used for developing the culture of Rattlestick,” Thamkittikasem said.
Davis said he was proud of the work he did in Chicago, and looking forward to the opportunity to lead in New York. “Rattlestick has always been a home for experimentation, and that has definitely been a part of what my work has been about,” he said. “There’s every possibility for us to make work that is exciting, that pushes the form, and that also feeds and sustains the theater.”
Rattlestick, founded in 1994, is a small company with a penchant for adventurous work by emerging writers. This past week, the Obie Awards said it would honor a show the theater staged in 2021, “Ni Mi Madre,” by giving a prize for performance to the show’s creator and star, Arturo Luís Soria.
The company has an annual budget of about $1.5 million, with five full-time and five part-time staffers. The company operates out of a theater, rented from a church, with about 93 seats; a $4 million renovation project is scheduled to begin at the end of this summer, and the company plans to stage its next season at locations around the city.
Davis will start working alongside Topol in the coming weeks, and will assume the artistic director position full-time on May 1.