It’s a homecoming for the new general manager of the Arlington-based Synetic Theatre.
Ben Cunis, who started working as an actor and then an administrator at Synetic more than 15 years ago, has been hired to lead the administrative side of the organization, effective September 1.
“Ben is one of the most influential members of the Synetic family,” said Paata Tsikurishvili, Co-Founder, Artistic Director and CEO of Synetic. “He brings extensive theater and film experience, as well as extensive institutional knowledge of Synetic, which makes him uniquely qualified to take the reins as the company’s chief executive. We are delighted to welcome Ben home.
As CEO, Cunis will oversee Synetic Theater’s long-term development, fundraising and institutional advancement, and related strategic priorities. He will report to Tsikurishvili and work collaboratively with staff and the board.
“Synetic is my artistic home, and it’s an honor to return with new perspectives, experiences, and skills,” said Cunis, most recently a filmmaker and teacher at the University of Southern California. “At the end of the pandemic years, we have the opportunity to find a place of presence. For me, this time will be about reinvigorating our relationships, working hard on new arts, developing new artists, and forging ahead in new spaces in a spirit of imagination, inclusion, maturity, and courage.
The start of Cunis’ tenure coincides with the start of Synetic’s 2022-23 season, which opens Sept. 12 with “Host and Guest,” a revival of one of the most beloved dramas in the company’s repertoire. (For more information on the season, see the website at www.synetictheater.org.)
Founded in 2001, Synetic grew out of the creative vision of its founders, the husband and wife team of Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili, Georgian artists who moved to the United States in the 1990s. The theater combines Caucasian traditions with quintessentially American styles to tell classic stories through movement, music, technology and the visual arts.
Based in Crystal City, Synetic produces four to five mainline productions and two to three family series productions per season, while operating an educational studio for children and adults, conducting community outreach programs and touring family and mainline productions and by reaching more than 36,000 patrons each year.
Under the Tsikurishvilis, Synetic received a total of 143 Helen Hayes Award nominations and 34 awards, including for Direction, Choreography, Acting, Costume Design and Best Production, and formed a generation of theater artists who went on to major careers. in film, television and theatre.
Cunis first joined Synetic Theater in 2006 as an alumnus of the Catholic University of America’s drama program and spent 10 years working as an actor, fight choreographer, teacher, development director, artistic associate, director and writer. He received three Helen Hayes Awards for his work as a fight and action choreographer, as well as additional awards as part of the sets of “Twelfth Night”, “King Lear”, “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet…The rest is silence.”
After working as a development associate for an organization in Maryland, Cunis moved in 2016 to Los Angeles to pursue an MFA. While at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, he produced, directed, acted in, and coordinated the stunts for numerous films.
Cunis also co-founded Virginia-based production company Granite Kiss Creative and worked with Stu Pollard of Lunacy Productions to create Trunacy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping local independent filmmakers in Kentucky and the Midwest.
Cunis lives with his wife, Betsy Summers, whom he met when she was a stage manager at Synetic on Lilia Slavova’s “Nutcracker.” They have two children.