Friday, July 01, 2011

Diane Paulus - Full Steam Ahead

In the new issue of American Theatre, Chris Wallenberg has a pretty lengthy article on the transition and transformation of the American Repertory Theater under Diane Paulus.

The article doesn't gloss over the criticisms she faced, although it also doesn't dwell on them. He does get a quote from Robert Brustein, the former Artistic Director and Founder of the A.R.T.

Brustein, for his part, says he believes that Paulus should have the space to spread her wings and pursue her own agenda as artistic director. In an e-mail, he praised her achievements: "Diane has been doing some remarkable things at the ART, and has managed to attract a whole new generation of spectators, primarily through the use of music (often rock-oriented) in her approach to classical plays and new work.... The most interesting thing about Diane's work is its unpredictability. A single season can be a cornucopia." He also commented, "It is true that Diane possesses a more populist aesthetic than previous administrations of the ART, and her work is sometimes less an alternative to Broadway than an extension of it. And, personally, I regret the loss of our permanent company of actors. But it is also true that as private and public support for theatre declines, many previously partly subsidized institutions are seeking out other forms of income in order to survive."

The final dismantling of the resident company seems to be a particular thorn in the side of Brustein and others. But the truth of the matter is that, under Woodruff, the resident company model had already been largely de-emphasized. An ensemble that had once numbered as many as 12 in the '90s was reduced to 4—Derrah, LeBow, Karen McDonald and Remo Airaldi—who were cast in three to five shows per year. "I didn't inherit an acting company," maintains Paulus. "The policy at the theatre was that there were certain individuals who were getting work—but they were not on salary. If ART really wanted to have a repertory acting company, that would have been another agenda."

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