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HomeUS Top UniversitiesRobert Brustein leaves legacy as champion of American theater – Harvard Gazette

Robert Brustein leaves legacy as champion of American theater – Harvard Gazette

When Robert Brustein died on Oct. 29 on the age of 96, he left behind a legacy as a trainer, playwright, critic, occasional actor, and creator. However central to the pugnacious longtime Cambridge resident was his function as an innovator and creator of theater, notably at Yale and Harvard, the place he based the American Repertory Theater in 1980 and served as its inventive director till 2002.

Early in his lengthy profession Brustein turned a champion of vibrant nonprofit theater unafraid to embrace new performs, playwrights, and types. His imaginative and prescient of American theater concerned the proliferation of native firms throughout the nation, every with its personal impartial voice, current aside from what he seen because the stifling, monied New York drama scene.

“Bob was one of many main forces that created the regional theater motion,” mentioned Diane Paulus ’88. The A.R.T.’s Terrie and Bradley Bloom Inventive Director praised the theater founder’s “daring, progressive theatrical imaginative and prescient.”

Robert Sanford Brustein, born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1927, made his approach by way of academia on his method to Cambridge. A graduate of New York’s Excessive Faculty of Music and Artwork and Amherst School, he earned an M.A. in dramatic literature from Columbia College.

However whereas he taught at Columbia, Vassar, and Cornell, publishing his influential e-book on “The Theatre of Revolt” alongside the way in which, his first main function in theater got here in 1966, when he was named dean of the Yale Faculty of Drama. Charged with revitalizing the college by Yale’s then-president, Kingman Brewster, he opened it as much as undergraduates, broadened its scope to incorporate literature of the theater, and based the Yale Repertory Theatre.

With its give attention to new works, together with these by rising playwrights, the Yale Rep established a difficult new mannequin for repertory theater, one that might later kind the premise for the A.R.T.

It was as an undergraduate at Yale that A.R.T. trustee Bob Murchison first turned conscious of Brustein’s work. “He insisted {that a} play, whether or not new or historical, is just not a set canvas, and requires interpretation by the artists,” mentioned Murchison.

That relationship lasted till 1978, when the brand new president at Yale, Bartlett Giamatti, declined to resume Brustein’s contract, and in 1980 Brustein got here to Cambridge. At Harvard, he would function a professor of English, director of the Loeb Drama Middle, and founding father of the Institute for Superior Theater Coaching.

He additionally turned the inventive director of what would quickly evolve into the A.R.T., which launched later that very same yr with a manufacturing of “A Midsummer Evening’s Dream.” (Brustein performed the function of Theseus.)

Karen MacDonald, a Boston-area actor, was a part of the A.R.T.’s firm from its inception in 1980 till 2010. “It was very thrilling to be part of this new enterprise that was happening on the American Repertory Theater at Harvard,” she recalled. “[Brustein] was placing collectively a bunch of individuals, each onstage and offstage, administrators, designers, and the parents who labored backstage with us.

“We bonded in a short time and have become an actual firm,” she mentioned. “I wouldn’t have met my husband if it wasn’t for Brustein.” Her partner, David Remedios, served as head of the A.R.T.’s sound division.



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