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A.R.T. Finds New Leader

Graduate will guide Harvard-affiliated theater following Wondruff’s abrupt exit

By Alexander B. Cohn, Crimson Staff Writer

As an undergraduate, Diane M. Paulus ’87 used to purloin production posters from the lobby of the American Repertory Theatre’s (A.R.T.) Loeb Drama Center, then hang them in her Cabot House dorm room. Paulus will more than make up for her pilfering, serving as the next artistic director for the Harvard-affiliated A.R.T., the University announced Friday afternoon.

The announcement comes after a protracted search that began over a year ago, after the theater’s board of directors decided not to renew the contract of then-director Robert Woodruff, whom some criticized for the theatre’s recent financial difficulties, the Boston Globe reported.

Those in the Harvard theater community and beyond said they were confident that Paulus can take the A.R.T. in an exciting and successful new direction.

English professor Stephen J. Greenblatt, a member of the commitee that selected Paulus and chair of President Faust’s Task Force on the Arts, said that Paulus “has a range of experience and is about to have a lot more.”

He emphasized that although Paulus has never led a dramatic institution on the scale of the A.R.T., she possesses the kind of “excitement, vision, and energy that leads to explosive, revolutionary things.”

Bill P. Rauch ’84, the new artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, who was also considered for the position, said that Paulus

“combines intellectual rigor with experimentation while caring about the audience. She is definitely a populist, after my own heart.”

She expressed a desire to continue to make the A.R.T. “a center of arts at Harvard” and emphasized “that the primary constituency will be Harvard University students, faculty, and staff.”

“I’m so excited to have President Faust with a serious interest in the life of the arts at the University,” Paulus said. “The timing of my coming here couldn’t be better.”

As an undergraduate, Paulus was an active member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club and an early leader of CityStep, a Harvard outreach program that targets Cambridge public school students interested in dance.

“I spent all my waking hours doing drama,” said Paulus of her Harvard days.

“My institutional experience really began here...so it’s really coming incredibly full circle,” she said.

As a Social Studies alum, Paulus still sees the importance of fostering well-rounded students at Harvard, even if they plan on working professionally in theater.

She fondly remembered the organic nature of undergraduate theater at Harvard, with the College lacking a concentration in dramatic arts, as it still does today. She likened the environment to “making a mess in the dark” and “a bubbling of creativity.”

But Paulus said that maintaining such an environment at Harvard “doesn’t mean that theater can’t have the best of both worlds,” providing institutional support while also allowing creative free reign.

She said she will aim to make the A.R.T. more accessible to undergraduates and to give “guidance to those students who are hungry for more.”

Although it’s too soon for Paulus to reveal what productions she plans on launching next season at the A.R.T., she said she plans to attract a great deal of experimental talent. “I have a list of the most exciting people who are really breaking ground on what theater is all about.”

—Staff writer Alexander B. Cohn can be reached at abcohn@fas.harvard.edu.

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