The twenty-two year old American Repertory Theatre is truly unique. The A.R.T. is the only non-profit theatre in the United States that can claim a resident acting company, an international training conservatory (in conjunction with the famous Moscow Art Theatre), and association with a major univeristy (the no-less famous Harvard University). The A.R.T. is every bit as international as it is ‘American,’ having performed not only in eighty-one U.S. cities in 22 states, but also in twenty-one foreign cities in 16 countries around the globe. The A.R.T. can claim amongst its other acheivements a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award, and a Jujamcyn Award.
A.R.T. specializes in bold new plays and adaptations, with over half of its 160 productions to date made up of premieres. Playwrights such as Christopher Durang, David Mamet, David Rabe, Adam Rapp, and Paula Vogel, along with other authors more famous for work outside of the theatre, such as Don DeLillo, David Lodge, and Derek Walcott, have seen premieres of their plays at the A.R.T. In recent years, even its productions of classic plays from Sophocles to Shakespeare to Marivaux to O’Neill have taken on striking, vividly modern tones. Many productions at the A.R.T., whether new or classic, have an innovative, experimental flavor.
Artistic director Robert Woodruff took over from the theatre’s founder, Robert Brustein, in 2002. Like the cross-town ‘rival,’ the Huntington Theatre Company, the A.R.T. recently opened up a second smaller space in order to accomodate their expanding season. The 300-seat Zero Arrow Theatre supplements the original 556-seat Loeb Drama Center, located on opposite sides of the Harvard Square area in Cambridge.
The 2006-2007 A.R.T. season commences with bobrauschenbergamerica, a play inspired by the works of artist Robert Rauschenberg, and envisions a road trip across America through the lens of his style. Author Charles L. Mee returns after seeing four of his plays done at the A.R.T. in the past. Anne Bogart, famous in the theatre world for her work on ‘Viewpoints,’ in addition to her 2 Obie Awards, a Bessie Award, a Guggenheim and a Rockefeller Scholarship, takes time out from her role as the Artistic Director of SITI Company to direct this show. It runs in the Loeb Drama Center from September 9 through October 7.
The Dresden Dolls, a duo originating in Boston and describing themselves as “Brechtian punk cabaret,” a classification at least preferable to all the other pigeonholing they defy, composed a production titled The Onion Cellar. Regular A.R.T. director Marcus Stern guides band members Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione in this production at Zero Arrow, running from December 9 through January 13, 2007.
Wings of Desire, appearing next at the Loeb, is a World Premiere adaptation of Wim Wenders’ film of the same title, adapted by Gideon Lester, Artistic Associate at the A.R.T., Ko van den Bosch, and Ola Mafaalani. Dutch Mafaalani will also be directing the play and serving as a liaison with Toneelgroep Amsterdam, the premiere theatre company of the Netherlands. Wenders’ story about a guardian angel who tires of the eternity of an existence marked only by observation, and the choice he faces when he falls in love with a mortal, and the new staging will be running from November 25 through December 17.
Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest receives a remarkable twist in the American Premiere of this adaptation by Ridiculusmus, a two-man comedy duo who play all the parts, from Algernon to Miss Prism. The famously amusing original play has been delighting even more audiences with this treatment, and will be showing at the Loeb from December 21 through January 14.
Artistic Director Robert Woodruff helms the next production, Jean Racine’s Britannicus. The classical temprament of Racine’s 17th century France combines with the classical age of Rome when the master playwright unfolds the story of Emperor Nero, his political and personal scandals feeding and stemming from his madness. The play will run from January 20 through February 11 on the Loeb stage.
Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist is rendered stunningly in a new adapatation of the novel by Neil Bartlett, a playwright famous for his deft translations. In this version, a group of Victorian music hall singers come together to tell the story with as script that is predominantly spoken and not sung. Using only the original language from the text, Bartlett captures the spirit and essence of the story in a manner unmatched, with all the ferocity, violence and fear preserved alongside the tenderness and hope. Bartlett will be directing the production, as he until recently served as the Artistic Director at the Lyric Hammersmith in London. This American Premiere of the adaptation will be touring to New York and Berkeley, California, following its run in Cambridge from February 17 through March 24.
Elections and Erections: A Memoir of Fear and Fun is the season’s second showing at the Zero Arrow Theatre. This sharp satire written and performed by Pieter-Dirk Uys attacks political outrage itself, with Uys playing, naturally, all of the roles. This American Premiere will be showing from April 4 through May 6.
The A.R.T. pays tribute to Harold Pinter, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature last year for a lifetime of work, by closing their season with his play No Man’s Land. Perhaps the most significant British playwright in the second half of the 20th century, Pinter is most famous for his plays The Birthday Party, The Caretaker, The Homecoming, and Betrayal. No Man’s Land centers on two writers, stranded in the ‘no man’s land’ of late middle age. The production will be in the very capable hands of veteran A.R.T. director David Wheeler, who has directed 13 Pinter plays, 2 of of them at the A.R.T. He was additionally distinguished with an Elliot Norton Award for his work on Shaw’s Misalliance at the A.R.T., and also directed Al Pacino in The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel on Broadway, which won the actor a Tony Award. The production will be running at the Loeb from May 12 to June 10.