Elizabeth Freestone is to step down as artistic director of rural touring company Pentabus after five years.
Freestone took over the role in 2011 and leaves at the end of this year to pursue a freelance directing career.
Under her artistic leadership, Pentabus has produced 26 new plays, touring to more than 40,000 people across the UK.
Announcing her departure, Freestone said: “It was always going to be difficult to leave Pentabus, with its incredible staff team, brilliant writers and amazing audience. If ever there was a good time, now seems like the best possible moment.”
She added: “The company has great playwrights coming through, big plans for the future, a truly excellent team, robust financial support and dedicated, passionate audiences. It’s time for me to go off and explore freelance opportunities, and time for someone else to be lucky enough to come and run one of the best theatre companies in the country.”
The company is seeking Freestone’s replacement, with applications open until July 8.
Pentabus chair Ros Robins said Freestone had become a “national spokesperson for rural theatre” during her tenure, as well as a champion of gender equality in the arts.
“Her impact on the company has been considerable and her passion and ambition for rural theatre inspiring,” she added.
Freestone was recently named as one of the mentors of a new scheme  aimed at getting more female arts students working in the sector.