The Playgoer: Jack O'Brien Transfers Self to B'way

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Jack O'Brien Transfers Self to B'way

Full time, now. He will officially retire as Artistic Director of San Diego's Old Globe January 1st.

O'Brien is one of the most successful--and lets face it, talented and accomplished--American directors. But his use of the Old Globe as a Broadway factory, I think, will be a mixed legacy. Broadway, for one, should be grateful he provided a nonprofit alternative to the out-of-town tryout of yore, using taxpayer and philanthropic subsidy to develop such needed works as Hairspray and The Grinch.*

But on the other hand you can't deny he's been a power player, and helped make a certain class of regional theatre respectable again in NYC--as not only a generator of new work, but an employer and incubator of talent both onstage and off.

Maybe someone out there closer to the San Diego scene can verify how much of a change this will even be, with O'Brien spending most of his time out east lately anyway. (Could he have even attended one Old Globe board meeting during his "Coast of Utopia" season?) Hence, he already a couple of years ago appointed an associate AD--Jerry Patch--to oversee a lot of the job.

Meanwhile, expect to see more of his work soon at a Lincoln Center Theatre production near you...

*Correction: Thanks to Rob Kendt for reminding me that we can't blame Jack for Cry-Baby. That was LaJolla.


Rob Weinert-Kendt said...

I wouldn't lay the nonprofit-Broadway-factory legacy entirely at Jack's door. La Jolla Playhouse macher Des McAnuff might be cited as well. Oh, and La Jolla, not Old Globe, is where "Cry-Baby" just played; "Hairspray" was at 5th Avenue in Seattle; the Old Globe's B'way mixed import history includes "Damn Yankees," the two Yazbek musicals, the Chita and Dylan thingamajigs, and yes, "Grinch."

Anonymous said...

The big worry is that there will be "co-artistic directors" at the Old Globe. Has this ever, in the history of theater, really worked? Usually means there will be a period of drift and uncertainty.

Unknown said...

Hi there, Playgoer.

It’s your old San Diego friend, Spearbearer Down Left here.

What kind of change will this be? No change at all. O’Brien sold his San Diego home quite a while ago. Friends at the Globe tell me he hasn’t been seen much at all for over a year.

And John, I wouldn’t worry too much about the Co-Artistic Director thing. As the SD Union-Tribune noted, both men report to (Executive Producer) Lou Spisto. The Globe is not like most not-for-profits which employ a Managing Director and an Artistic Director on equal footing. At the Old Globe, everyone works for Spisto - he's the head of both artistic and management. While he apparently likes to avoid the limelight, Spisto has been making the artistic decisions at the Globe for quite a while (while I'm sure O'Brien had quite a bit of input from afar). From my perspective, this announcement merely acknowledges the reality. Darko Tresnjak now has a somewhat greater institutional role alongside Patch, it would appear, but other than that, not much seems to have changed.