Director Switch

Fort Worth's Circle Theatre shakes up leadership with an artistic first

Fort Worth's Circle Theatre shakes up leadership with artistic first

Circle Theatre's Tim Long, Matthew Gray, and Bill Newberry
Tim Long, Matthew Gray, and Bill Newberry. Photo by TayStan Photography

A major change in leadership is happening at Circle Theatre. Right before the start of its 37th season, the theater announced that co-founder and executive director Bill Newberry retired in December, and — for the first time in its history — an artistic director has been hired.

Former managing director Tim Long is the new executive director, while Matthew Gray, an original member of Dallas Theater Center's resident acting company and the co-founder of the now-defunct Classical Acting Company, will come on board mid-January as artistic director. To celebrate, Circle will be hosting a come-and-go public reception at its Sundance Square theater on February 7 from 6-8 pm.

Newberry and his wife, Rose Pearson, co-founded Circle Theatre in 1981. Their goal was to bring contemporary plays that had not yet been produced locally to Fort Worth, and since then the company has grown into an accomplished regional theater. Pearson passed away in 2016, and Newberry took over as executive director. In his 36 years at Circle, Newberry appeared onstage, directed, stage managed, and designed over 100 sets for its productions.

"Circle has new strong leadership in place to carry it forward," says Newberry. "I couldn't be happier and I look forward to seeing what the future holds."

Long started as an intern in the summer of 1999 and has since held multiple titles, moving from box office manager to associate producer to general manager, and then, last season, managing director. He also wrote, directed, and produced the inaugural production in Circle's New Directions series in 2003.

"Rose Pearson and Bill Newberry forged a wonderful theater we are eager to grow," says Long. "I am thankful for their mentorship and support. Rose often spoke her mantra 'the show must go on,' and indeed, for both Rose and Bill, it is."

Gray's experience as an actor, director, and designer is both local and national. At Circle, he directed the plays Dex and Julie Sittin' in a Tree and Something Intangible, and he's also worked at Casa Mañana, Kitchen Dog Theater, Second Thought Theatre, Dallas Children’s Theater, and Pegasus Theatre. Gray and his wife, Emily, founded Classical Acting Company and served as artistic directors for four seasons. Prior to his time in Dallas, he lived and worked in New York, namely for Off-Broadway's Pearl Theatre Company, The Flying Machine, Soho Rep, The Samuel Becket Theatre, Interart Annex – 53rd St. Theatre, The Chelsea Playhouse, Theatre 22, and 5th Street Theatre. In addition to his work in the theater, Gray has taught acting and improvisation, including as an adjunct professor at Richland College.

"I am thrilled to be joining executive director Timothy Long and the Circle Theatre family as the new artistic director," says Gray. "It is equal parts humbling and exhilarating to honor what Rose Pearson and Bill Newberry started and grew for 36 years. Because of their work, Circle has always been and will continue to be an open, accepting, and safe place for artists and audiences to explore important and entertaining new plays. Here's to the future!"