The New TheatreWorks Artistic Director Brings Experience, Enthusiasm to the Role
Written bySheryl Nonnenberg
Portrait byHeidi Lancaster
AboveThe Prince of Egypt | Photo by Kevin Berne
TheatreWorks Artistic Director Tim Bond likes a quote from John Steinbeck’s book Once There Was War: “The theatre is the only institution in the world that has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed. It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive.” Bond’s faith in the enduring nature of the theater will be put to the test as he takes the helm of the highly regarded regional company during the recent pandemic crisis. He brings to the challenge an impressive background and training as well as the full support of the TheatreWorks company and its board.
Bond was hired to replace Robert Kelley, who founded TheatreWorks in 1970 as a youth troupe and transformed it into a nationally acclaimed company with more than 8,000 subscribers and an annual budget exceeding $8 million. In November 2019, the organization held a gala celebrating its 50th anniversary and national recognition, in the form of the 2019 Regional Theatre Tony Award. In February 2020, Bond and Kelley together took the stage to announce the company’s 2020-21 season, highlighting the smooth transition from Kelley (who officially retires at the end of June) to Bond. “Our three-year search process involved our Board, staff, and members of the community,” said TheatreWorks Executive Director Phil Santora. “Out of the over 100 candidates who initially expressed interest in the position, I can’t think of a better individual to carry forward the values of artistic excellence, community, diversity, and a respect for new work and the role of music in theater than Tim Bond.”
Above: Memphis | Photo by David Allen
Tim Bond’s love affair with the theater began early—very early. He describes how, in fourth grade, he was chosen to play the role of Marc Antony in Julius Caesar. “I will never forget the electricity and elation I felt when I uttered the words, ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…’ and the audience actually leaned in,” he recalls. He says that was the moment he realized “the power of dramatic arts to engage citizens and connect large groups of people from disparate backgrounds.” Bond continued to be involved in drama through high school and college, where he took an Introduction to Acting course. After directing a production at the Grass Valley Summer Musical Theatre, he knew his career path was set. He earned a B.F.A. in Dramatic Arts from Howard University and an M.F.A. in Directing from the University of Washington. Over the course of the next 35 years, he would direct productions for the Seattle Group Theatre, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and the Syracuse University Department of Drama.
Robert Kelley | Photo by Niko Kitaoka
For the past four years, he has worked as a professor at the University of Washington’s School of Drama. While there, he taught both undergraduate and graduate students in the Professional Actor Training Program. When asked why he would leave such a prestigious academic role to work in the nonprofit sector, Bond explained, “I found that I am driven by engaging with community by creating a platform for diverse voices to tell inclusive stories in the professional arena. My passions are bringing together teams of artists to address burning issues of our time and to bring diverse communities in connection with each other to celebrate the human spirit.”
His passion for diversity has led him to become a prominent interpreter of the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. TheatreWorks subscribers can look forward to seeing productions by Wilson. “I have a personal commitment to all 10 plays in August Wilson’s amazing 20th-century cycle,” Bond says. “Having directed seven of them to date, I hope to complete the last three sometime in the future.”
Above: The Four Immigrants | Photo by Kevin Berne
Taking on such a well-established organization has its advantages. Bond feels that the strengths of the company include artistic excellence, innovative educational programs, and a commitment to diversity (the Palo Alto-based company became well-known in the 1980s for performances depicting minority experiences and cultures, and for casting non-traditional actors in traditional roles).
“My hope for the future of TheatreWorks is that we will continue to vigorously support the development of new theater through expanding commissioning and through our New Works festival,” Bond shares. “I hope to create artistic programming that engages younger and more culturally diverse audiences while still delighting our loyal subscribers.”
Bond acknowledges that it may take a while for audiences to return to the theater, but he is optimistic, citing the interim possibilities of live streaming previous productions and online educational engagements with schools. “This brave new world of technology can never replace live performances,” he says, “but it can engage our community in an artistic process and keep a thread of connection in these disparate times. I am big into making lemonade out of lemons and seeking the silver lining inside the storm cloud.”