Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oskar Eustis Profiled in the New Yorker

Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of Trinity Rep from 1994 to 2005 and currently Artistic Director of New York's Public Theatre, is profiled in this week's New Yorker by staff writer Rebecca Mead (abstract here.) Searching for "Oskar Eustis" on the magazine's website turns up a list of references, including to John Lahr's review of the Public Theatre's Hamlet from the summer of 2008, which is summarized thus: "Under the unfortunate direction of Oskar Eustis, Hamlet is currently presiding over the Public Theatre as a melodramatic fool." Lahr's scalding review expresses the paradox of Eustis's career suggested in Mead's profile: he's done great stuff for Theatre over the years, but, it would seem, little great work at any single theater. Mead quotes Rocco Landeman, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, on the Public Theatre: "'It is always a mix of the compelling, the interesting, and the dreadful. And you have to be willing to do the dreadful.'" As an artistic director, he appears to understand his role as more organizer than aesthete: his vision, one feels, is for what a theatre can do, not just each production. Mead really has composed a wonderful profile. Although she is curiously indifferent towards the texture and temperature of his productions, she does capture Eustis's incorrigible energy - his vitality, brio, and fervor. Eustis comes across like a saint of lost causes: to Communism and to contemporary, serious New York theatre. Two more doomed, disappointed allegiances would be hard to imagine.

(I would love to hear about Eustis's years at Trinity. If you remember a particularly challenging, confrontational, or tendentious show of his, please don't hesitate to describe it in the comments section.)

1 comment:

Adam said...

I remember his first show at Trinity, Julius Caesar (under Anne Bogart's regime) It was set in the early 1960's, with television screens all around the theatre. The opening of the intermission started as a scene on television, and during it Brian McEleney opened a window backstage and you saw him backstage (ie, the whole scene had been broadcast live from backstage, like a closed circuit recording. It was really pretty fantastic.

I've yet to read the profile, but I'm looking forward to it.