Entertainment Theater

Robert Brustein, Passionate Drive in Nonprofit Theater, Dies at 96

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“The essential intention of the industrial theater is to make a revenue,” he stated in an interview with The New York Occasions in 1990. “The essential intention of noncommercial theater, in its splendid kind, is to create the situation whereby artistic endeavors will be recognized. And I don’t assume these are suitable goals.”

A public mental and supporter of the humanities, Mr. Brustein delivered opinions that have been usually respectfully obtained however that simply as usually incited exasperation or outrage. Theater folks, in spite of everything, should not particularly keen on being known as sellouts. When Frank Wealthy left his put up as chief drama critic for The Occasions in 1994, his valedictory essay singled out Mr. Brustein:

“I not often had ugly confrontations with anybody within the theater, and my mail from theater folks, even at its angriest, was civilized,” Mr. Wealthy wrote. “In 13 years the few vital exceptions invariably concerned Robert Brustein.”

As fervent a supporter as he was of nice playwrights and playwriting, Mr. Brustein was unafraid, possibly even keen, to confront the largest names. In 1984, Samuel Beckett threatened authorized motion to halt an American Repertory Theater manufacturing of his bleakly apocalyptic play “Endgame,” accusing the director of taking insupportable liberties along with his stage instructions: The set didn’t conform to his description, the manufacturing added music the place none was known as for, and he felt that the casting of Black actors in essential roles added a racial factor that he had not supposed.

Mr. Brustein took the place that productions confined solely to the playwright’s imaginative and prescient violated the inventive license of different artists and, extra to the purpose, contributed to the theater’s rising stagnant or stale. Backing the director, JoAnne Akalaitis, and refusing to close down the manufacturing, Mr. Brustein ultimately reached a compromise with the playwright that allowed the present to go on.

Beneath the settlement, an announcement by Beckett appeared within the playbill saying, partly: “My play requires an empty room and two small home windows. The American Repertory Theater manufacturing which dismisses my instructions is a whole parody of the play as conceived by me.” And although he by no means noticed the manufacturing, he added that “anyone who cares for the work couldn’t fail to be disgusted by this.”