The Up and Comers
The Bethesda area is home to lots of movers and shakers who've built long careers in politics, business and the arts. But it also has a number of rising stars who are making their mark before they're even 40.
We celebrate six up-and-comers—from an entrepreneur who’s a technology whiz to a theater director who combines a mind for business with a passion for the stage.
39, producing artistic director at Round House Theatre
Ryan Rilette has high ambitions for Round House Theatre. He aspires to make the nonprofit, with stages in Bethesda and Silver Spring, “as good as anybody in the country, if not better” by broadening its appeal.
Rilette, who took over as producing artistic director last August, knows it will take hard work to win over new audiences, especially young people and immigrant communities eager to see their stories on stage. He plans to find new plays by mining relationships he has cultivated with up-and-coming playwrights during his years leading regional theater companies across the country.
At Marin Theatre Company in California, for example, Rilette produced works by Sharr White and Tarell Alvin McCraney, two hot, emerging playwrights who’ve been fêted from Broadway to London’s West End. Rilette also is a past board president of the National New Play Network, a coalition of nonprofit theaters that fosters the development and production of new plays.
Rilette says he doesn’t intend to abandon Round House’s tradition of producing modern classics. But presenting only established plays means “you are no longer in conversation with the rest of the national theater community,” he says, and not introducing audiences to new voices.
“You can’t be a great theater unless you are developing new works and you’ve got your [finger on the pulse of] the next generation of playwrights,” he says.
Round House Theatre Board of Trustees President Sally Patterson says Rilette is that rare artistic director who’s as adept at managing budgets as he is at producing compelling seasons.
He wowed the board because “he saw possibilities,” she says. “His eagerness to embrace those possibilities and figure out a way to make us grow has consistently been a source of energy and enthusiasm.”