ART and the Huntington (and Boston theater) get a youth transfusion
ROLL OVER, SHAKESPEARE: Diane Paulus turned the Bard on his ear in The Karaoke Show (top, based on The Comedy of Errors) and The Donkey Show (A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
The famously adventurous American Repertory Theatre is soon to be taken over by a woman who spent her summer directing . . . the vintage Broadway hits Kiss Me, Kate and Hair? Meanwhile, across the river, the reins of the relatively staid Huntington Theatre Company are in the hands of a guy whose first directing job was with a guerrilla troupe occupying a squat in Prague — an abandoned Salvation Army Center that he and a band of burglarizing thespians broke into and turned into a theater? In light of these facts, the change in artistic directorship at the area’s largest regional theaters sounds less like a changing of the guard than an episode of Trading Spaces.
But there is more to Hair helmer Diane Paulus and lock-picker Peter DuBois than the biographical data above. The 42-year-old Paulus, who begins her tenure at ART in October, is a Harvard grad with directing credits as diverse as opera and The Donkey Show, the latter a ’70s-disco riff on A Midsummer Night’s Dream that ran for six years off-Broadway. DuBois, 38, comes to the Huntington from New York’s Public Theater, where he was first an associate producer and then a resident director. Before that, he was for five years artistic director of Alaska’s Perseverance Theatre, a midsize regional company that during his tenure grew to be the state’s largest-arts-producing organization. Both of these hires represent an infusion not just of new blood but of still-pulsing hormones: Paulus replaces a 60 year old who five years earlier supplanted a 75 year old. DuBois takes over from a 70 year old. In an age of graying theater audiences, this is a good thing.
DuBois joined the Huntington this past December as artistic director elect and replaced outgoing honcho Nicholas Martin full-time in July. His stint as AD-in-waiting was, as he characterizes it, “fast and furious,” with the planning of his first season interspersed with freelance directing gigs that included Gina Gionfriddo’s Becky Shaw for Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival of New American Plays and a restructured version of Sam Shepard’s The Curse of the Starving Class for San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre. Paulus, who succeeds the abruptly departed Robert Woodruff, will not put her imprimatur on a season until 2009–’10. As she sets about hatching it, she fulfills commitments to direct Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito for Chicago Opera Theater and Death and the Powers — with music by MIT’s Tod Machover, libretto by BU’s Robert Pinsky, and story by her writer-husband, Randy Weiner — at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo. Now both Paulus and DuBois will be turning in their passports to put down roots in Boston.
Though they’ll soon be dueling for Boston’s greasepaint dollars, DuBois and Paulus were colleagues in New York: among his duties at the Public was to sign her for the 2007 concert staging of Hair that this summer morphed into an acclaimed and wildly popular production of “America’s Tribal Love-Rock Musical” at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. And Hair, says the Public’s artistic director, Oskar Eustis, “is kind of a model of what’s special about Diane. She is something rare: a genuine experimentalist, a real downtown girl, who is also a populist.”
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