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Founding Artistic Director of The Blank Theatre Daniel Henning to Step Down

  Henning produced and directed many West Coast premieres of musicals by Michael John LaChiusa, including The Wild Party which won 15 LA theatre awards.

Founding Artistic Director of The Blank Theatre Daniel Henning to Step Down

Daniel Henning, the Founding Artistic Director of The Blank Theatre in Hollywood, is stepping down after 32 years, effective October 8, 2022. Henning founded The Blank Theatre in 1990.

The Blank's first production was Michel Tremblay's Hosanna, the story of a French Canadian trans woman and her boyfriend, in which Henning played the title role. During his tenure, productions have included the first multiethnic production of The Fantasticks in the US (1993), directed by Ken Page and winning the Ovation Award for Best Musical-Intimate Theatre; the LA premiere of Chess (winner of two Ovation and two LA Drama Critics Circle Awards); the LA premiere of Breaking the Code starring Dennis Christopher (LADCC Award for Best Production); Precious Sons by George Furth starring Nora Dunn and Tony Award-winner Gregory Jbara (winner of three Back Stage Garland Awards); and The Book of Liz by David and Amy Sedaris, which ran for an historic 11 months. As early as 1991, the Los Angeles Times praised The Blank's diverse and inclusive casting when reviewing its production of A Winter's Tale.

Henning produced and directed many West Coast premieres of musicals by Michael John LaChiusa, including The Wild Party which won 15 LA theatre awards including NAACP Awards for Best Production and Best Director; Hello Again, which ran for 14 weeks; and See What I Wanna See. The Blank produced world premieres of three plays by Henning - Dickie & Babe: The Truth About Leopold & Loeb, The Tragedy of JFK (as told by Wm. Shakespeare), and Hotel C'est L'Amour, a revue culled from LaChiusa's back catalogue incorporated into a new storyline. He produced three cast albums of The Blank's productions - Michael John LaChiusa's Little Fish and First Lady Suite, and Marc Blitzstein's The Cradle Will Rock (LA Weekly Award for Musical of the Year).

He produced the West Coast premiere of Bill Russell's Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens in an elaborate staged reading directed by Ken Page. That reading led to the founding of the Living Room Series (LRS), now a 31-year-old developmental staged reading series which has shepherded over 800 new plays. Many of those plays went on to have productions throughout the world, including Nell Benjamin's The Explorers Club which won the NY Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off Broadway Play when it was produced by Manhattan Theatre Club.

In 1993, Henning founded The Blank Theatre's Annual Nationwide Young Playwrights Festival (YPF), which over the years has developed and produced 369 plays by writers 19 years of age and younger from 39 states. YPF alumni have had success in Hollywood and on Broadway - Lauren Yee was the second most produced playwright in the US, Austin Winsberg and Kit Steinkellner are TV show creators, and Stephen Karam is a two-time Pulitzer Prize in Drama finalist and won a Tony Award for Best Play. YPF is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary year.

Under Henning's guidance, The Blank also created the Young Playwrights Academy for students 19 and younger, The Future of Playwrighting Prize (given to emerging writers with diverse visions and life-stories) and raised thousands of dollars for worthy charities including the Entertainment Community Fund (formerly The Actor's Fund), the Midnight Stroll, Pediatric AIDS Foundation, APLA, Para Los Niños, and many others.

Henning takes great pride in his record on diversity, equity, and inclusion, which began with The Blank's very first production, led by a female director who was an immigrant to the US. His vision of a theatre where all artists are welcomed and nurtured has been the guiding light of The Blank from the beginning. Sixty percent of the plays produced in YPF have been by female or non-binary playwrights, and YPF has achieved parity for BIPOC young writers for many years. Casting directors Erica Silverman Bream and Cara Chute Rosenbaum won the Casting Society of America's Artios Award for their work on YPF, partially because of the inclusion they achieved.

Working with City Councilperson Mitch O'Farrell, Henning was the major force behind the LA City Council's official designation of Santa Monica Boulevard between Highland and Vine as Hollywood Theatre Row. In 2018, the California State Legislature named Henning as a Pride Honoree for his contributions to the LGBTQ community and for inspiring thousands of young artists.

Henning is stepping down from the company he founded to make way for the next generation of arts leaders and artists. The mission and vision of The Blank to highlight and support diverse voices will continue under longtime Producing Director Bree Pavey, newly minted Managing Director Annie McGrath, and longtime Associate Artistic Director Christopher J. Raymond. Together, they will become the guiding force of The Blank.

Said Board Chair Paulo Andrés, "As Daniel steps down, I can't help but feel sadness as I acknowledge the end of an era. So much has been accomplished, mainly because of Daniel's artistic vision and tenacity. Thank you, Daniel, for all these amazing years. I look forward with great excitement to the immense talent our new leadership team will bring to the future of The Blank."

Henning's achievements will be celebrated at a public event on Saturday, October 8. More info may be found at www.TheBlank.com.

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