Helms takes over as executive, artistic director of Shakespeare in the Vines

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Sheila Havens Ryle announces in a Facebook live event that she would be stepping down after 14 years as artistic and executive director of Shakespeare in the Vines, a local theater company that produces outdoor theater at wineries in Temecula Wine Country. Courtesy photo

Shakespeare in the Vines founder, executive director and artistic director Sheila Havens Ryle announced in a Facebook live video event recently that she would be handing over the reins to Preston Helms to serve as executive and artist director of the theater troupe going forward after 14 years in charge.

“It’s time for me to turn over the job of artistic director and executive director to a fabulous young man who’s been an actor with us and he’s wonderful,” Ryle said in the video.

Ryle, who has been dealing with some health issues for the past several years, said she would continue to be on the board but without quite so many responsibilities.

“I deserve a break,” she said.

“I’m humbled and honored to really get this position,” Helms said in the video.

In an interview with the Valley News, Helms said he is excited to get started.

“I’m also humbled in regards to the many positive responses from friends and patrons since we’ve announced this change,” he said. “It shows how many people love this company and want it to succeed and grow. This new position will have challenges, but it’s reassuring knowing the community is behind you.”

Preston Helms is named the new artistic director at Shakespeare in the Vines, a local theater troupe that produces summer outdoor Shakespeare performances in Temecula Wine Country, started almost 15 years ago by Sheila Havens Ryle. Courtesy photo

That being said, operating a small, community theater troupe such as Shakespeare in the Vines comes with challenges, which Helms is quick to acknowledge.

“The company has great heart to produce, produce, produce; but sometimes doesn’t see that it’s tiring itself out and limiting the resources given to it,” Helms said. “Taking a few steps back can look like a challenge for a company that’s been driving forward these last 14 years. But taking a few steps back is important in order to take a giant leap forward. As the great Abraham Lincoln said, ‘If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the ax.’ We’re choosing this time to sharpen our company, so we can start cutting down the trees needed for a stronger foundation in the years to come.”

That means making some changes and adjustments.

“Like the Witches in ‘Macbeth,’ I have things brewing in our cauldron – all for the growth of the company,” Helms said. “I assure you, I know how ‘Macbeth’ ends. There are some behind the scenes changes that we’re already putting in place.”

Helms said the group will produce only three shows next summer and will, “offer more events and opportunities for schools, students, and our patrons to be more involved with the company.

“That’s all I can say at this time,” he said. “But we would also like to hear feedback and ideas from our patrons.”

The group recently announced its 15th Anniversary Summer Season that will include “The Taming of the Shrew,” “As You Like It” and “The Merchant of Venice.”

“Be sure to keep an eye open for auditions next March,” Helms said. “I also have created a rough lineup of shows for the next five years. I already have a five-year plan.”

Helms said he is grateful for what Ryle has created thus far.

“Sheila put her whole heart and soul into an idea of performing Shakespeare in Temecula Wine Country,” he said. “Others couldn’t help but want to be a part of it. She has made the company grow so much into what it is today, but she knows it can grow so much more. It took a great leadership move for her to realize that she’s done all she can and she needs to pass it on. I’m honored she chose me to move that vision forward.”

Helms said he welcomes suggestions for shows and events and asked that they are sent by email at askthebardtoday@gmail.com.

Learn more about Shakespeare in the Vines at www.shakespeareinthevines.org.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.