The Playgoer: NY Shakespeare Festival Shake-Up?

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Friday, April 11, 2008

NY Shakespeare Festival Shake-Up?

Not sure how to read between the lines of the big NYT story today of the seemingly amicable divorce of Public Theatre AD Oskar Eustis and his managing director Mara Manus, who just announced her resignation. ("She said she had no immediate plans and no other job lined up.")

It sounds like Eustis has been frustrated by Manus tight control of the purse strings, that his plans have just been too ambitious. If so, then maybe this development is a victory for that vision, and we have exciting things to look forward to.

Here's the meat of the article. Decide for yourselves:

“Six years is a long time at a place that goes through as many changes as the Public seems to,” Mr. Lerer [chairman emeritus of the board, Kenneth B. Lerer] added. “Oskar should put whatever imprint he wants to put on the Public Theater and be able to do that.”

Mr. Eustis replaced George C. Wolfe as artistic director last year. He is the latest to take up the mantle of Joseph Papp, the legendary founder of the Public. Mr. Eustis called Ms. Manus’s decision to leave “bittersweet.”

“In many ways, the theater is in more stable shape than at any time in its history,” said Mr. Eustis. “It’s also a good moment for her to move on. I think she’s ready to build something else.”

“There is no question that we’ve had tension at times — that’s true not only for every administrative partner I’ve had, but for every artistic director I know,” he continued. At the same time, he said, “we’ve really shared a vision of what this theater is.

“The hard parts were the challenges that faced both of us,” Mr. Eustis said. “In show business, what you have to do is create the activity and figure out how you’re going to manage it.”

Ms. Manus said her relationship with Mr. Eustis had been “collaborative.”

“He came in with a pretty definitive sense of what he wanted to build on the artistic side, so it was just a question of how quickly we could build it,” she said.

Mr. Lerer said a push-pull relationship between the two was to be expected. “It’s a difficult balancing act,” he said. “Mara a lot of times has to be the ‘no’ person — ‘No, you can’t spend another $250,000 on Shakespeare in the Park, no you can’t do 10 productions, you can only do 8.”

I must remind myself the next time I have a fight with someone to describe our relationship as "collaborative."

Well if Eustis can now proceed with his wonderful plans without being so cost-conscious, may I suggest then, Oskar...Free Will for All! No more hogging of Shakespeare in the Park tickets by "Summer Subscribers" who can now pre-order up to 10 tickets(!) for themselves.


Anonymous said...

i really doubt oskar is going to last much longer at the public...i like him but he has pissed a lot of people off with his hammer/sickle "comrade" b.s augmented by a lot of empty promises to playwrights and agents...yes mara ran the public ultimately, but you can't go around promising the moon and stars to every writer in town when you ca't back up those promises...

he's no visionary, he's rather staid and obvious in his tastes, and we are all getting tired of the silk tie marxism -- at this point dude you ARE the establishment, you are a privileged straight white guy who enjoys power and stratification so get over it -- BUT on the other hand oskar has/is doing some interesting things, like starting the new playwrights unit at the public, starting the now ubiquitous cheap tix - black box series for emerging artists in the shiva...

in any case, his days@ public imho = numbered

Anonymous said...

It's going to take a long time to clean up George's mess. I hope Oskar gets a real crack at it. This guy knows plays, he understands politics, he knows great acting... like anyone he has his blind spots but he's as an exciting an artistic director as exists right now anywhere in the country.

Anonymous said...

I say good riddance. Anyone who had the "pleasure" to work under or around Mara Manus knows that she was an elitist snob whose main goal was to court socialites. She ran the organization like a hollywood film company with all the power plays/cattiness/ego involvement that one would expect. There was nothing "Public" about her management style.

Susan said...

I just hope that they get another person in there in that position, quick. The Public has a dangerous history when it comes to letting the Artistic Director run amok with the finances. They really need someone who will be tight with the purse strings and say "no" when it needs to be said.