Wes Payne served for ten years as the Vice President of Entertainment and Cruise Programs for the Delta Queen Steamboat Company (now American Queen Voyages) and its parent company, American Classic Voyages. Under Wes’ leadership the company’s entertainment product was rated #1 in the cruise industry by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine on its annual “Gold List.” Subsequently Wes (working as a freelance writer, producer and director) developed musical revues and other entertainment programming for various cruise venues throughout the United States. Among companies Wes has worked with are American Hawaii Cruise Line, Delta Queen Coastal Voyages, Majestic America Line and American Queen Steamboat Company.
Trained as a singer and actor, Wes is also an accomplished stage director, designer and technician. In Chicago, he worked with the acclaimed Goodman Theatre and as managing director within the not-for-profit theatre community – where he developed his talents as an administrator and fundraiser. He also worked as a stage director and earned the acknowledgement of Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Committee for three of his scenic designs.
In 1984, Wes partnered with Tony Award winning Broadway producer Michael Leavitt to form the Payne Leavitt Group which grew into a major force in Chicago’s commercial theatre scene. They purchased the Apollo Theatre Center and the Ivanhoe Theater, then two of Chicago’s premier mid-sized theatres, where Wes served as general manager and co-executive producer. As a production entity, the Payne Leavitt Group produced or presented many shows at a variety of Chicago performance venues, featuring many well-known New York and Hollywood personalities. Among those productions were Lend Me a Tenor, Prelude to a Kiss, M. Butterfly, Grand Hotel and Les Misérables.
During recent years, Wes has served as a consultant for a number of theatre-related products, allowing him to continue to exercise his talents as a writer, director, producer and manager.