Theatre Director * Artistic Director
Peter is an award-winning director whose focus is always to bring out the play the playwright has written, rather than to impose a “vision” on it. He attempts to meet the material where it lives. He has worked successfully in multiple styles from Shakespeare and musicals to modern drama and devised work. His focus over the last decade has primarily been the development of new work. Peter’s background in almost every aspect of theatre, along with his training in multiple disciplines and communication methods, makes him an effective collaborator with the creative and production team. He works professionally and academically.
Peter comes from a theatrical family and has spent 35 years in professional theatre, film and television as an Artistic Director, Producing Director, producer, director, consultant, actor and teacher. For the last 20+ years he has held leadership positions in prominent theatres and academic organizations and consulted with many theatres and educational institutions.
While still pursuing an acting career, Peter began directing both professionally and educationally at the age of 21. In his late twenties he transitioned from being primarily an actor to a director, and eventually to a director/producer. Peter directed many plays and musicals in Los Angeles receiving much critical praise, award nominations and awards (Ovation Awards, LA Weekly, Drama-Logue, Backstage, Robby’s etc…), primarily for his work with the Los Angeles Repertory Company.
Of particular note was his Los Angeles premier production of Sondheim and Weidman’s “Assassins”, which was extended numerous times, moved to a larger theatre, and to this day is the longest running production of that show, anywhere in the world. He also gained acclaim for his revival of Clifford Odets’ “Rocket to the Moon,” and “King Lear,” starring his father, Robert Ellenstein.
As Artistic Director of the William Inge Center for the Arts, Peter focused primarily on playwright development, aiding the development of over fifty full-length plays and hundreds of short plays. In the last ten years, Peter was pleased to direct the first productions of plays and musicals by Theresa Rebeck, Kristoffer Diaz, Richard Hellesen, Michael Lew, Jenny Bicks, Marcia Cebulska, Michael Silversher, Joe Iconis and David Kershenbaum and many others.
Peter has been lucky enough to work with some of the very best artists in the American theatre. He served as Interim Artistic Director of the Gretna Theatre in Pennsylvania and of the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre at the University of Miami, creating several innovative programs that blend professional and academic theatre and many guest artists to the campus. He served thirteen years as Artistic Director of the William Inge Center for the Arts at Independence Community College in rural Kansas, and seven years as Producing Director of the Los Angeles Repertory Company. At the Inge Center, he produced thirteen William Inge Theatre Festivals (named state theatre festival of Kansas during his tenure), hosted several-hundred professional guest artists and created both local and nationally recognized programs and partnerships. Despite its tiny size and rural location, the Inge Center, under Peter’s leadership, received more National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding over the previous five years than all but four other theatres in the country.
At the Inge Center, Peter forged unique collaborative artistic partnerships with many organizations including the Martha Graham Company, Cornerstone Theater, 24 Hour Plays, etc... At the Los Angeles Repertory Company he built one of LA’s leading ensemble theatre companies, created a professional training academy, built a very busy rehearsal/performance. Peter has worked in theatres across the country from Los Angeles to New York, San Diego to Alaska.
Peter studied professionally with Stella Adler, David Craig, Paul Sills, Robert Ellenstein, Robert Easton, Janet Eilber, Mary Carver and many others. He attended American Conservatory Theatre and received his Masters of Fine Arts Degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato. For over thirty years, Peter has taught acting, directing, voice, Shakespeare and musical theatre professionally and academically. Peter is a member of AEA, SAG, SDC and DG. Peter was pleased to serve twice on the Barack Obama campaign’s National Arts Policy Committee. He is blessed with an incredible network of artists and friends with whom he frequently collaborates and draws inspiration.
Assassins by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman.
Los Angeles Repertory Company, Los Angeles,1994-95
Layin' Off the Lizard-Boy by Richard Hellesen
William Inge Center for the Arts, Independence, KS 2005
Maya's Heart by Lynne Nottage
American Airlines Theatre, NYC, 2012.
Gathering Blue by Richard Hellesen, Michael Silversher & Joy Sikorski
William Inge Theatre, Independence, KS 2008.