Theater producers, directors, and actors talk about social justice impact of theater that matters. Gregory Mosher, Oskar Eustis, Rocco Landesman, Anna Deavere Smith, Julie Taymor are in conversation. Location: Paepcke Auditorium"
Oskar Eustis is artistic director of The Public Theater and has worked as a director, dramaturg, and artistic director for theaters around the country. He has directed the world premieres of Rinne Groff’s The Ruby Sunrise and Compulsion; Angels in America, Part I: Millennium Approaches (for which he received the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Director); and Angels in America, Part II: Perestroika, as well as world premieres of plays by Philip Kan Gotanda, David Henry Hwang, Emily Mann, and others. Eustis was a professor at Brown University, where he founded and chaired the Trinity Rep/Brown University Consortium for professional theater training. He has held professorships at Brown, UCLA, and New York University. He currently serves as professor of dramatic writing and arts and public policy at NYU. Eustis was the lead producer on the Tony Award-winning revival of Hair, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and The Merchant of Venice on Broadway.
Rocco Landesman is the tenth chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Prior to his post at the NEA, Landesman was a longtime theater producer. As president of Jujamcyn, which owns and operates five Broadway theaters, Landesman produced most notably The Producers, which won the 2001 Tony for Best Musical; Angels in America, winner of the Tony for Best Play in both 1993 and 1994; and Big River, winner of the 1985 Tony for Best Musical. Earlier in his career, he worked as an assistant professor at the Yale School of Drama and has occasionally returned there to teach. Landesman has been active on numerous boards, including the Municipal Art Society, the Times Square Alliance, The Actor’s Fund, and the Educational Foundation of America.
Gregory Mosher is a professor at Columbia University, where one of his classes is devoted to finding new producing models for the 21st century. He is the former director of the Lincoln Center and Goodman Theatres and is the producer or director of nearly 200 plays at those theatres, on Broadway, and in the West End. His recent work on Broadway includes directing and producing A View from the Bridge and That Championship Season. In 2004, he established Columbia University’s Arts Initiative, a program to engage students and faculty across the university in the arts, and led it through 2010.
Anna Deavere Smith
Anna Deavere Smith is an actress and playwright who is said to have created a new theater form. She is a University Professor at New York University and founding director of Anna Deavere Smith Works, which supports artists from around the world whose work addresses issues of social justice. Smith has been honored with many prizes, including a MacArthur fellowship and two Tony nominations. She was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for her play Fires in the Mirror. Her most recent one-person show, Let Me Down Easy, toured the US and was broadcast on PBS’s “Great Performances.” She has had roles on popular television shows, including Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” and NBC’s “The West Wing,” and in feature films, including The American President and Philadelphia. She is a trustee of the Aspen Institute.
Julie Taymor is a theater, opera, and film director. For her latest Broadway production, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Taymor served as director and co-book writer. In 1998, Taymor became the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical; she also won a Tony for Best Costumes, for her landmark production of The Lion King. The musical has won several other awards for Taymor’s direction and for her original costume, mask, and puppet designs. In 2002, her biographical film Frida, starring Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina, earned six Academy Award nominations and won two. Beyond the theatre and screen, Taymor has directed five operas internationally, including Oedipus Rex with Jessye Norman, for which she earned the International Classical Music Award for Best Opera Production. A subsequent film version premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won her an Emmy Award. Taymor is a Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence at the Aspen Institute.
Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater, talks about the genius of William Shakespeare's mass appeal to distinct and disparate audiences. Eustis believes that the audience makes theater worthwhile.