Wednesday, February 13, 2008
What does Harvard want?
It's a question worthy of Freud, of course, particularly when it comes to the A.R.T. As everyone knows, that theatre company is still looking for an artistic director. But has anyone really said aloud that the two candidates so far approached - James Lapine and Anna D. Shapiro - are both unusual choices, and rather strangely opposed? Both are essentially from the commercial theatre, with some academic connections - very slight for Lapine, true, but Shapiro is a professor at Northwestern (she teaches Graduate Directing there). Lapine is a librettist and director of classic Broadway musicals, and closely associated with Stephen Sondheim and William Finn, while Shapiro is known for psychological realism, and directing several premieres at Steppenwolf (the latest of which, August:Osage County, is now a hit on Broadway). Both, of course, are very talented and highly accomplished people; but it's hard to imagine a job profile which would encompass both. You could argue that the two choices do indicate Harvard's interest in returning to some contact with the world of successful, commercial theatre, and rejecting the insular "avant-garde" clique of Anne Bogart (who for a time was a candidate), Peter Sellars, and their ilk. But beyond this, judging from Lapine and Shapiro, the field is essentially wide open. Perhaps that's as it should be, but, then again, perhaps that's not as it should be - particularly given that, not to put too fine a point on it, both candidates turned the job down. I'd hazard a guess that one reason both said no is that the search committee - and Harvard itself - has no clear idea of what they want in the job; and until that gets straightened out, something tells me the post may remain unfilled. In the meantime, who's planning the next season at the A.R.T.? Gideon Lester?