The Playgoer: Who Will be the Next ART AD?

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Who Will be the Next ART AD?

In case you're wondering who's going to succeed Robert Woodruff at American Repertory Theatre, Tribune's Chris Jones whispers that it's down to CSC's Brian Kulick or Steppenwolf's Anna Shapiro, the latter hot off of directing August: Osage County.

I say, let them debate!


isaac butler said...

hm... those would both be interesting choices. I would imagine Anna D. Shapiro's taste (or resume) might run a bit to the conventional for ART's reputation. Not meaning that as an insult, mind you. I think she's a crackerjack director, but considering ART no longer has a directing program, that's sort-of not the point.

Art said...

I agree, Shapiro does seem a little out of step.

Although, the ART might be looking for something a little more conventional. Also a little younger. The Huntington, across the river, just signed Peter Dubois. (I was thinking the ART would be looking more along the lines of Kate Whoriskey.)
The ART's demographic has actually been trending younger and they probably want to keep that up.
But there are so many factors in play:

First off, they miss Brustein's schmoozing ability. Woodruff was a relative hermit. You need somebody who, if not exactly willing, will at least commit to the cocktail circuit. Nicholas Martin at the Huntington is an excellent example from recent years.

A theatre pulling in the director of the current Broadway Smash August: Osage County is like a college nabbing the QB coach of the current Superbowl Champions as their head coach. It goes a long way with the recruits.

Also the international collaborations were killing the ART financially, and they had some real bombs. For a long time Globe critic Ed Seigel would praise almost everything they did. This was during a time when, in my opinion, the aesthetic began to slip there. Some of the productions veered into such inaccessibility that they became painful to watch.

Seigel retired and replacement Louise Kennedy wasn't exactly a true believer, in other words, she would laugh at the Naked Emperor when it was warranted.

I would peg the nadir to be the Three Sisters that left empty houses in its wake and furious patrons storming down Brattle Street. When the production then went to an international festival, and was subjected to horrible booing and jeering maybe the light finally went on that something was wrong here.

One Board Member was quoted as saying, "I'm not interested in writing checks for a theater that nobody comes to..."

A member of the Harvard/Advisory board said that some of the productions were almost amateurish.

Well, the argument goes that a theater like the ART shouldn't be about the bottom line. Fair enough. Tell those Board Members to jump in a lake. However, you have got to have leader who can be a dynamic evangelist for your institution and get more board members who will support your vision.

The ART seems to be making a very deliberate choice this time around.