Chenango River Theatre Hires New Producing Artistic Director To Lead Company Into Future

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From the Chenango River Theatre:

After an in-depth, 9 month national search for a replacement for CRT’s founding Artistic & Managing Director Bill Lelbach, the Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Zach Curtis will come on board in 2021 to take over the lead position at the theatre.  For the 2021 season, Zach will work in overlap with Bill in a carefully planned transition to ensure that the greater Binghamton area’s only fully professional theatre company is best positioned for continued growth in the coming years. 

Zach has directed over 100 professional productions across the Midwest, appeared in over 125+ shows (most as a member of Actors’ Equity Association), and has over 100 producing credits to his name.  

In announcing the hiring, Laura Knochen-Davis, Board President, stated, “The Board is excited and honored that Zach has accept the challenge to lead CRT into a new era with his extensive professional experience at multiple theatres around the country.   Zach will be a tremendous asset and will have a major impact on the arts in the area as he continues CRT’s legacy of production excellence and strong fiscal management.”

Zach hails from Minneapolis, MN, where he spent 20+ years as a freelance director and actor.  For 9 seasons, he served as the Producing Artistic Director of the Paul Bunyan Playhouse in Bemidji, MN (the oldest professional summer theater in the state), making him the longest tenured Artistic Director in their history.  Prior to that, he spent 10 seasons as Artistic Director of the critically acclaimed Fifty Foot Penguin Theater in Minneapolis, named “Best Independent Theatre in the Twin Cities” by City Pages.  He is currently in his fourth season at Black Hills Community Theater (Rapid City), one of the largest non-profit arts organizations in South Dakota. 

His work has garnered frequent praise: “A force in the Twin Cities” (Minneapolis Star Tribune), “Perhaps the best comedic director in town.” (, “One of local theater’s most inexhaustibly inventive talents” (City Pages), “One of the area’s most talented directors” (KFAI Radio), and “Artists like Zach Curtis are churning out top-flight work that is as good or better than what you would find in any city in the United States” (

As an actor, Zach’s regional work includes the Springer Opera House (Columbus, GA), Virginia Stage (Norfolk ,VA), and two seasons in the Acting Company at the Great River Shakespeare Festival (Winona, MN).  He appeared in over 100 shows in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area at theaters including The Guthrie, Park Square, Theatre Latte Da, Mixed Blood, 10000 Things, Children’s Theatre and the Old Log.  In 2015, he was named “Best Actor in the Twin Cities” by City Pages for his turn as Charlie in Walking Shadow’s production of The Whale.  He is a twenty year member of Actors’ Equity Association. 

CRT’s current and founding Artistic Director Bill Lelbach informed the Board a year ago of his plan to leave his position, and the Board has actively worked to implement a smooth transition period to new leadership. 

Plans for CRT’s 2021 season are still being developed as the company monitors the ongoing impact of Covid 19 to ensure that when the company does re-open, it can do so in a manner that is safe for both our audience and our actors.  Despite the impact of the current health crisis, CRT has been fortunate to continue to receive local and regional support from a long list of businesses and individuals who have been critical to the company’s growth into becoming the premiere theatre company in our area.  

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