Syracuse Stage expands artistic leadership team: Melissa Crespo is named Associate Artistic Director, Kyle Bass becomes the theater’s First Resident Playwright

Bob Hupp, Melissa Crespo and Kyle Bass in the Syracuse Stage lobby. Photo by Brenna Merritt.

Syracuse, NY –Syracuse Stage Artistic Director Robert Hupp today announced an expansion of the senior artistic staff. As of September 1, veteran New York based director Melissa Crespo becomes the theater’s associate artistic director. Kyle Bass, who currently holds that position, will transition to a new role as the theater’s first resident playwright and will remain a member of the theater’s senior artistic staff.

“This evolution of our artistic staff is a win-win for Syracuse Stage and for our audience,” said Hupp.  “Kyle’s voice has been central to our work for many years so it was important to honor his request to explore new models of association. I greatly value all that Kyle contributes to Syracuse Stage and, of course, we are thrilled to produce the premieres of his plays. We are delighted to create this new artistic space for Kyle and to hopefully be his artistic home for years to come. Melissa brings an incredible breadth of experience to our organization and I am thrilled to partner with her to chart Stage’s artistic future. I feel fortunate that she said yes to our invitation; her work will enrich all aspects of our theater.”

Melissa Crespo

Crespo has directed three times at Syracuse Stage in recent seasons. She directed the popular and successful comedy “Native Gardens” in 2019, which drew recognition from American Theater magazine. The entire creative team was women of color, a rare occurrence in professional regional theater and a first for Syracuse Stage, and it was a co-production among three theatres on the East and West Coasts. This past season, Crespo directed the critically acclaimed two character “I and You,” which was made available to patrons as video on demand. She is scheduled to direct “Yoga Play” in the recently announced 2021/2022 season. In 2019, Crespo directed a reading of a work-in-progress play by Larissa FastHorse as part of Stage’s Cold Read Festival.

“Syracuse Stage has always felt like an artistic home away from home,” said Crespo. “I am delighted to join Bob, Jill, and the whole staff to continue supporting the artistic growth and development of the vibrant Syracuse community.”

Crespo brings a wealth of experience to Syracuse Stage having directed plays, musicals and opera. She is also a playwright (her play “Egress,” co-written with Sarah Saltwick, will receive a world premiere at Amphibian Stage this year), and like her predecessor Bass, she is keen on promoting and developing new work. She has directed world premieres, including Charly Evon Simpson’s “form of a girl unknown.”

“I owe my career to new work development and the trust of playwrights. I look forward to continuing to champion writers in my new position,” added Crespo.

Crespo has also received numerous fellowships and residencies including: Time Warner Fellow (WP Theatre), Usual Suspect (New York Theater Workshop), The Director’s Project (Drama League), Van Lier Directing Fellow (Second Stage Theatre) and the Allen Lee Hughes Directing Fellow (Arena Stage). She holds an M.F.A. in directing from The New School for Drama where she is currently on faculty. She is also the editor of the online journal 3Views on Theater and was featured in the 2020 Broadway Women’s Fund “Women to Watch on Broadway.”

As Stage’s Associate Artistic Director, Crespo will be a key partner with Hupp in the selection of the Syracuse Stage season and in the formation of the artistic teams who create the work. She will be central to the programmatic life of the theater and highly visible as a spokesperson for Stage in the community.

Kyle Bass

The newly created position of resident playwright is the latest of numerous administrative and artistic positions Bass has held since first joining Syracuse Stage in 1994. During Timothy Bond’s tenure Bass became the resident dramaturg and helped to select plays for each season and worked closely with Ping Chong on “Tales from the Salt City” and co-authored “Cry for Peace: Voices from the Congo.”

He was named associate artistic director by Hupp in 2016. In that capacity he has been at the forefront of Stage’s efforts to develop and produce new work. He initiated and continues to curate the Cold Read Festival of New Plays, now in its fifth year. An accomplished playwright, he wrote “Possessing Harriet,” which had its world premiere at Stage in 2018, and he will have a second world premiere with “salt/city/blues” to conclude the 2021/2022 season. In addition, Bass devised and composed “Separated,” based on the experiences of Syracuse University student veterans in and out of the military, and two original pieces, “Carver at Tuskegee” and “Citizen James, or the Young Man without a Country,” for Stage’s Backstory educational program. His theatricalized version of the 1965 debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley, “Baldwin vs. Buckley: The Faith of Our Fathers,” will be performed at Stage in September.

Away from Stage, Bass is an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre at Colgate University. He has written the libretto for the opera “Libba Cotten: Here This Day,” and he has written for Noh theater under commission by Theatre Nohgaku. He also worked with acclaimed visual artist and MacArthur Fellow Carrie Mae Weems on her theatre piece “Grace Notes: Reflections for Now,” which had its world premiere at the 2016 Spoleto Festival USA.

In its nearly 50 year history, Syracuse Stage has not had a resident playwright In this new position, Bass will continue to work on new play development and commissions, while assisting Hupp in planning the theater’s artistic programming. He will also receive support and workshops in the development of his own work, officially making Syracuse Stage his artistic home.

“The title Resident Playwright officially names what Bob Hupp has always made so generously clear and possible: Syracuse Stage is my artistic home,” said Bass. “I am grateful for Bob’s belief in and support of my creative work during my time as associate artistic director. In this next chapter of my Syracuse Stage career, I look forward to working with Bob, Melissa and my entire Stage family of talented colleagues and collaborators as I continue to explore my playwriting craft and vision within the embrace and artistic life of our theater.”

“We are proud to acknowledge Kyle as our first resident playwright and to welcome Melissa as the first female artistic leader of Syracuse Stage,” added Hupp. “I am excited to see how their work encourages us to make an even more engaging impact on the cultural life of Central New York.”