Gus began his tenure as Artistic Director of the Players in 1996. Under his creative leadership, the Players has grown, thrived, and raised its admired profile in the theatrical community. He has enriched and challenged Players’ audiences by programming a wide range of works from all areas of the theatrical canon. He’s expanded the number of offerings in the summer season – including a big book musical, introduced a winter season, developed a nationally recognized Second Company, and created indelible work, the likes of which prompted Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout to call the Players “American summer repertory theater at its most accomplished.”
Kaikkonen has grown the Players repertory company giving legions of artists a theatrical home, encouraged professionals to reach impressive artistic heights, inspired countless careers, mentored hundreds of young people, given many their first professional opportunities (which propelled them on to fruitful careers), and built strong, longstanding relationships with audiences – especially in the Monadnock Region. All of this while creating brilliant performances, designs, and direction of his own in numerous seasons.
Over the course of his time at the Players, he has staged more than 85 plays. His Peterborough productions of The Cherry Orchard, You Can’t Take It With You, About Time, Inherit the Wind, Heartbreak House, Freud’s Last Session, Measure for Measure, Auld Lang Syne, Outside Mullingar, and many others have all won New Hampshire Theatre Awards for Best Professional Production.
Widely respected and admired in the industry, Kaikkonen’s career includes noteworthy work as a director, actor, playwright, and educator, in addition to his long relationship with the Players. Kaikkonen made his Broadway acting debut in the original cast of Equus. His film, television, and theatre experiences include Tommy Tune’s Cloud 9, The Country Girl with Hal Holbrook, PBS’s Paul’s Case with Eric Roberts, as well as performances at the Long Wharf, Folger, Goodman, Asolo, GeVa, Arden, American Heartland, Aspen, and BoarsHead Theatres, and the Coconut Grove Playhouse and others.
As a director his work has been seen in New York and across the country; his Off-Broadway production of Hindle Wakes was nominated for the 2018 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival.
Off Broadway work also includes productions of Antigone (Wall Street Journal Best of 2006) for the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble; Arms and the Man, The Gentleman Dancing Master and Heartbreak House at the Pearl; Macbeth with Stephen McHattie, Candida with Laurie Kennedy at Playhouse 91, Richard III with Austin Pendleton at Riverside Shakespeare; the New York premieres of Harley Granville-Barker’s The Voysey Inheritance, The Charity That Began At Home, Farewell to the Theatre, and The Madras House; and Susan Sandler’s Under the Bed at HB Playwrights Theatre. At the Mint Theatre he directed his own new translations of two plays by Jules Romains, Donogoo and Dr. Knock, and at Manhattan’s United Solo Festival he directed Andy Dolan’s Robert Frost: This Verse Business, starring Gordon Clapp, which was selected the Best Production. In the regions, he has directed at Ford’s Theatre, the Asolo, the Philadelphia Theatre Company, Goodspeed, and the Coconut Grove Playhouse.
His writing awards include two grants from the New York State Arts Council as well as the Michigan Arts Council, the Lecomte du Nouys Playwriting Award, and Thurber and MacDowell Fellowships. The American Theatre Critics Association selected his play Time Steps as one of the ten best plays to open in regions. He has worked as a visiting artist at Juilliard, NYU, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, University of Houston, Hofstra, Ohio State, Michigan State University, and Connecticut College.
While celebrating Kaikkonen’s leadership, the Players Board of Trustees is very pleased to announce that current Associate Artistic Director Tom Frey will become Artistic Director in 2021. Gus is thrilled to be passing the torch to a longtime company member and friend “Tom Frey is the real thing: a genuine artist with a love of theatre and an understanding of the value and meaning of a theatre company. I know the Players is in good hands, and it’s joyous to have Tom becoming the Players next Artistic Director.”
The Players is currently imagining and planning the possibilities for re-starting live theatre, safely, in 2021. The theatre will celebrate Kaikkonen’s career while looking forward to welcoming Tom Frey’s artistic vision for the future.