Revels Names Debra Wise as New Associate Artistic Director

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The following information was provided by Revels:

Watertown-based Revels, Inc. is pleased to announce the appointment of Debra Wise as its new Associate Artistic Director. Co-Founder and former Artistic Director of Cambridge’s Underground Railway Theater @ Central Square Theater and an artistic leader at Central Square Theater, Ms. Wise has established herself in the Boston area and nationally as a director, actor, educator, writer, and cultural organizer with a talent for engendering community collaborations and creating safe places to discuss challenging issues through art. She is also currently the Program Director of Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT, a partnership between MIT and Central Square Theater with a mission to foster interdisciplinary conversation at the intersection of art and science.

Ms. Wise’s appointment as Associate Artistic Director comes in anticipation of the 2024 retirement of Revels Artistic Director Patrick Swanson, who leaves the position after over 30 years with Revels. She looks forward to transitioning into the role of Interim Artistic Director over the course of the next year and working with the Revels community to carry forward the legacies of its first two Artistic Directors, John Langstaff and Patrick Swanson, as the organization looks for its next permanent artistic leader. Ms. Wise and Mr. Swanson will directly collaborate on Revels’ 2023 production of The Midwinter Revels, coming to Harvard’s historic Sanders Theatre December 15 – 28, as well as an exciting and robust calendar of 2023 Revels events, including Revels RiverSing, Revels Pub Sings at The Burren in Davis Square, and A Celebration of Spring with Perkins School for the Blind. 

“Debra brings a deep commitment to creating a welcoming community through theatrical performance, and to the fundamental celebrations and traditions that weave through the cycles of our common existence – Birth, Life, Death, Rebirth,” said Revels Board Chair Simon Horsburgh. “We warmly welcome her to Revels as we look to strengthen our artistic legacy.” 

Ms. Wise’s past projects and accolades include designing a curriculum for teaching higher-level thinking through the arts in collaboration with Harvard’s Project Zero (Art Works for Schools); co-directing the Women on Top Festival of new works; writing and directing plays for non-traditional spaces including the Mary Baker Eddy Library, the Boston Museum of Science, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Institute for Contemporary Art; creating Roots of Liberty – The Haitian Revolution and the American Civil War at Tremont Temple with the National Parks Service and Mass Humanities to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation; six Best Actress nominations from Boston theater critics; Oberlin College’s 2020 Distinguished Achievement Award; numerous productions helmed as an artistic director and director; and performances as a featured actor in Revels’ 2004 – 2007 productions of The Christmas Revels. She is also currently in rehearsals for Central Square Theater’s Angels in America Part I playing Hannah Pitt and Ethel Rosenberg, which runs April 20 – May 21.

“I am thrilled to serve with Patrick Swanson as his Associate, collaborating with this wonderful organization,” said Ms. Wise. “While performing in The Revels’ winter solstice productions from 2004 – 2007, I was inspired by its mission of ‘bringing traditions to life’, honoring diverse cultures in order to celebrate our common humanity. Accepting this position feels the right next step, after my decades’ tenure as Artistic Director of Underground Railway Theater and at Central Square Theater. There is so much to learn from my new colleagues.”

Mr. Swanson is similarly looking forward to this new artistic partnership. “I am delighted to have Debra join me as Associate Artistic Director in steering Revels towards a most promising future. She brings a wealth of knowledge, passion, joy, warmth, and experience to our Revels community, and will add a whole new artistic dimension to our Revels productions.”

Learn more about Revels’ upcoming events at

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