Next Theatre Company, Chicago’s destination for socially provocative, artistically adventurous work, announces the appointment of Chicago actress and arts administrator Jennifer Avery as the interim artistic director. Additionally, Jim Davis will now serve as the producing director.

The former artistic director, Jason Southerland, was removed by the Board of directors in May, and managing director Kevin Heckman has recently announced his departure. He voiced his continued support saying, “I have tons of faith that the board, Jenny and Jim will lead Next through these changes, and I have offered to help in the transition in any way that I can. Next has been a fantastic place to call home. I look forward to joining them in the future as a patron and an artist.”

The board has formed a search committee and begun the  process for a new long-term hire in the artistic director role. Ms. Avery’s interim appointment will carry through January of 2011. The committee hopes to complete its search shortly and allow transitional time between Ms. Avery and the incoming artistic director.

With the board’s support, Ms. Avery plans to announce a new lineup of plays for the 30th anniversary season. “We are a Chicagoland company, and I want to honor that history of engagement with this community in our 30th year. Jim and I are working quickly to identify artists who will help us ring in this important year right for our Evanston and Chicagoland audiences,” she said.