It’s a homecoming for the new managing director of Arlington-based Synetic Theater.
Ben Cunis, who first began working as an actor and then administrator at Synetic more than 15 years ago, has been tapped to lead the administrative side of the organization, effective Sept. 1.
“Ben is one of the most influential members of the Synetic family,” said Synetic’s co-founder, artistic director and CEO Paata Tsikurishvili. “He brings vast experience in theater and film, as well as a broad institutional knowledge of Synetic, making him uniquely qualified to take the reins as the company’s managing director. We are so thrilled to welcome Ben back home.”
As managing director, Cunis will oversee Synetic Theater’s long-term development, fund-raising and institutional advancement, and related strategic priorities. He will report to Tsikurishvili work collaboratively with the staff and board of directors.
“Synetic is my artistic homeland, and it’s an honor to return with new perspective, experience and skills,” said Cunis, most recently a working filmmaker and educator at the University of Southern California. “Emerging from the pandemic years, we have the opportunity to rediscover a place of presence. For me, this time will be about reinvigorating our relationships, working hard on new art, growing new artists and forging ahead into new spaces in a spirit of imagination, inclusion, maturity and courage.”
The start of Cunis’ tenure coincides with the beginning of Synetic’s 2022-23 season, which opens Sept. 12 with “Host and Guest,” a reprise of one of the most lauded dramas in the company repertoire. (For information on the season, see the Website at www.synetictheater.org.)
Founded in 2001, Synetic emerged from the creative vision of its founders, the husband-and-wife team of Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili, Georgian artists who moved to the U.S. in the 1990s. The theater combines traditions of the Caucasus with distinctly American styles to tell classic stories through movement, music, technology and visual arts.
Based in Crystal City, Synetic produces four to five mainstage productions and two to three family-series productions per season, while also running an educational studio for children and adults, conducting community outreach programs, and touring family and mainstage productions and reaching more than 36,000 patrons annually.
Under the Tsikurishvilis’ leadership, Synetic has received a total of 143 Helen Hayes Award nominations and 34 awards, including for directing, choreography, acting, costume design, and best production, and trained a generation of theater artists who have gone on to major careers in film, television and theater.
Cunis first joined Synetic Theater in 2006 as a recent alumnus from the drama program at the Catholic University of America and spent 10 years working as an actor, fight choreographer, teacher, director of development, artistic associate, director and writer. He has received three Helen Hayes Awards for his work as a fight and action choreographer, along with additional awards as a part of the ensembles of “Twelfth Night,” “King Lear,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet…The Rest is Silence.”
After working as the development associate for an organization in Maryland, Cunis in 2016 moved to Los Angeles to pursue a master of fine arts degree. At the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, he produced, directed, performed and stunt-coordinated on many films.
Cunis also co-founded the Virginia-based production company Granite Kiss Creative, and worked with Lunacy Productions’ Stu Pollard to create Trunacy, a non-profit dedicated to helping local independent filmmakers in Kentucky and the Midwest.
Cunis lives with his wife, Betsy Summers, who he met while she was stage managing at Synetic on Lilia Slavova’s “Nutcracker.” They have two children.