New artistic director at Prairie Theatre Exchange says role comes with 'great weight of responsibility'

There will soon be new hands on the reins at Winnipeg's Prairie Theatre Exchange.

Theatre New Brunswick's Thomas Morgan Jones to replace Robert Metcalfe

Thomas Morgan Jones will be taking over as the new artistic director of Winnipeg's Prairie Theatre Exchange in July. (Submitted by Theatre New Brunswick)

There will soon be new hands on the reins at Prairie Theatre Exchange.

The Winnipeg theatre company announced Wednesday it has hired Thomas Morgan Jones as its new artistic director.

He replaces outgoing artistic director Robert Metcalfe, who announced last fall that he would leave PTE at the end of the current season. The 2017-18 season will be Metcalfe's 15th with the theatre.

Jones is currently the artistic director for Theatre New Brunswick, a position he took on in 2015.

"I feel many things — hugely grateful, completely humbled, massively emotional, I think, today," Jones said in an interview on CBC Manitoba's Up To Speed Wednesday.

"The announcement came out and there's been quite an outpouring of messages from the community in Winnipeg, both on social media and also privately through email," he added.

"That kind of outpouring was really unexpected — maybe not unexpected, but what a beautiful thing. So I'm feeling overwhelmed that way. And also I feel a great weight of responsibility as well."

Jones will take over from Metcalfe in July.

'A conversation with the community'

"We are thrilled to have Thomas join the PTE team," said Jane Helbrecht, vice-president of the theatre's board of directors, in a press release.

"Thomas has a strong vision for the theatre which aligns with PTE's priorities and mandate. His commitment to Canadian contemporary theatre and investment in local playwrights in previous communities lends itself well to building on the great work Robert Metcalfe has done over the last 15 years."

For me, an artistic director, it's a community service role.- Thomas Morgan Jones

Prairie Theatre Exchange, founded in 1972 as the Manitoba Theatre Workshop, is one of Winnipeg's oldest and largest theatre companies. It offers a five-show season, as well as an annual holiday performance based on Robert Munsch's work, at its 323-seat theatre in the downtown Portage Place shopping mall.

In 2016-17, the theatre reported attendance of 25,503 for its five adult shows and recorded its 14th consecutive surplus under Metcalfe.

While artistic director of Theatre New Brunswick, Jones oversaw the building of The Open Space Theatre, a new 100-seat building for the company. He also expanded Theatre New Brunswick's touring network, and focused on bringing "more diversity and gender equity to the stage and rehearsal hall," PTE said in its news release Wednesday.

"For me, an artistic director, it's a community service role," Jones said.

"That's not to say that I don't have my own interests and curiosities and tastes and things that drive me, but it can't only be about me. It's a conversation with the community."