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Release: Oct. 17, 2001

Chappell leaving UI, Hancher to head American Ballet Theatre

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Wallace Chappell, long-time director of the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium of Performing Arts, is leaving to become executive director of American Ballet Theatre in New York City. Gedalio Grinberg, chairman of the ABT Board of Trustees, announced the appointment today.

In his new post with ABT, Chappell will be responsible for the overall administration of the company and, in partnership with ABT Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie, will provide "the dynamic, imaginative leadership to ensure ABT's continued place in the international forefront of classical ballet," Grinberg said.

Calling Chappell "one of the United States' most prominent and innovative leaders in the commissioning and presenting of the performing arts," Grinberg added: "We are delighted to welcome Wallace Chappell as our new executive director. Wallace brings to the ABT proven administrative and leadership ability. With our new team in place, ABT can move forward to a new future with great confidence."

"The University of Iowa will deeply miss Wally Chappell," said UI Vice President for Student Services Phillip Jones. "He has served us long and well. He brought the world's most exciting artists to Hancher, and in the process, he helped make Hancher and the University of Iowa known worldwide as a leading venue for the arts. We wish him and his wife, Karen, all the best."

Chappell, commenting on his move to ABT, said, "It is not easy to say goodbye to the Hancher Auditorium and my friends at the University of Iowa, but in going to work for ABT, I am filled with excitement at the prospect of putting whatever talents I have and experience I have gained at the service of one of this country's most dynamic arts organizations.

"I want my friends at the university to understand that I am only leaving because this is simply a wonderful opportunity. My wife, Karen, and I will be moving to New York City in the not-to-distant future, but we have many valued friends in this community and look forward to the continued nurture of those relationships."

Chappell said he will return to help coordinate a long-planned Hancher-sponsored trip to New York City over spring break next year, March 19-24, 2002, with performances, backstage visits, and many social opportunities. He also said he would complete the booking of Hancher's 2002-03 season, which is its 30th anniversary.

"Hancher has had a sustained love affair with the community since opening its doors in September of 1972, and that will certainly continue," Chappell said. "I am grateful for the remarkable support of Hancher from the University of Iowa and from our many patrons and contributors.

"The Hancher staff is a remarkably good one, and I doubt that your favorite auditorium will miss a step," he added.

Chappell became director of the 2,500-seat Hancher Auditorium in 1986. During his tenure there, he was responsible for commissioning more than 80 works in music, theater and dance from such celebrated artists and organizations as the Kronos Quartet, theatre director Robert Lepage, and the Joffrey Ballet for its productions of "The Nutcracker" and "Billboards."

His particular enthusiasm made Hancher a leading dance presenter as well as a creative, commissioning partner with such choreographers as Susan Marshall, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Lin Hwai-Min, Ushio Amagatsu, Bill T. Jones, James Kudelka, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Lar Lubovitch, Laura Dean, and Pilobolus.

Chappell, age 60, graduated with a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College in 1963 and pursued post-graduate studies in Oriental Dance and Theatre at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1965.

He was staff director at the Los Angeles Music Center's Mark Taper Forum From 1969 to 1975; artistic director of the Honolulu Theatre for Youth from 1975-78; and associate artistic director of Atlanta's Alliance Theatre from 1978-80. Chappell's extensive directing activity across the United States has also included such companies as the O'Neill Memorial Theatre Center in Waterford, Conn.; the Long Wharf theatre in New Haven, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. During his years as artistic director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (1980-83), he produced 17 world and American premiers.

Chappell is known among performing arts presenters worldwide and is frequently in demand as an expert speaker, panelist, advisor and site visitor with such organizations as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. He was president of the International Society for the Performing Arts from 1993 to 1995 and has served on a large number of volunteer boards of directors, including Dance/USA. He is currently a member of the Stage Society of Directors and Choreographers.