She succeeds Daniel Aukin, who is leaving the post after eight years of service.
Like Aukin, Benson is a native of the UK. She moved to New York on a Fulbright Award and and has directed and developed new plays at NY Stage and Film, Soho Rep Lab and La MaMa ETC. In 2008, she will curate a new festival of contemporary American theatre in Edinburgh. At Soho Rep, she co-chaired the theatre's celebrated Writer/Director Lab.
Benson stated that her goals as artistic director include a "desire for the company to increase programming, with more productions each season, including co-productions with other companies to raise the national and international profile of Soho Rep." She also plans to expand the company's developmental work that feeds the theatre's mainstage productions." In recent years, Soho Rep has produced just two shows a season.
Aukin plans to pursue a free-lance directing career. In recent seasons, he has directed at Second Stage, the La Jolla Playhouse and the Guthrie Theatre.
Under Aukin, the company's percentage of critical hits was high. Since Aukin took office in 1999, the company produced such praised premeires as The Year of the Baby by Quincy Long, Everything Will Be Different by Mark Shultz and Caveman by Richard Maxwell. Perhaps Aukin's greatest accomplishment was the nurturing of playwright Melissa James Gibson, whose quirky tale of stalled young unbanites, [sic], was an unexpected critical and popular hit in 2001. Aukin went on to direct and produce Gibson's Suitcase in 2004. During his tenure, Aukin also forged a connection with The Flying Machine, an experimental group that brought their shows Frankenstein, Signals of Distress and The Escapist to Soho Rep.
The company was very popular with the Obie Awards during Aukin's reign. It collected six Obies, including the Ross Wetzsteon Memorial Award presented to the company earlier this week.
Past playwrights involved in the company's annual writer-director labs include Anne Washburn (Apparition), Brooke Berman (The Triple Happiness), Neena Beber (Jump/Cut), and Dan O'Brien (The Dear Boy).
Alexandra Conley will continue as Soho Rep's executive director.