Robert Brustein

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Robert Brustein : biography

April 21, 1927 –

Robert Sanford Brustein (born April 21, 1927) is an American theatrical critic, producer, playwright and educator. He founded both Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut and the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he remains a Creative Consultant, and has been the theatre critic for The New Republic since 1959. He comments on politics for the Huffington Post.

Brustein is a Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University and a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Suffolk University in Boston. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999 and in 2002 was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. In 2003 he served as a Senior Fellow with the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, and in 2004 and 2005 was a senior fellow at the National Endowment for the Arts Arts Journalism Institute in Theatre and Musical Theatre at the University of Southern California.

Robert Brustein is married to Doreen Beinart, and has one son, Daniel Brustein, and two stepchildren, Peter Beinart and Jean Beinart Stern.

Awards and honors

Robert Brustein has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including:

  • c.1953: Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Nottingham, 1953-1955
  • 1961: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship
  • 1962, 1987: Twice winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism: in 1962 for his reviews in Commentary, Partisan Review, Harpers and New Republic; and in 1987 for Who Needs Theatre: Dramatic Opinions. Brustein is the only person to have received this award more than once.
  • 1964: George Polk Award for Journalism (Criticism)
  • 1984: the 2nd Elliot Norton Award For Professional Excellence in Boston Theatre, known at the time as the Norton Prize, presented by the Boston Theater District Association, and now given by StageSource: the Greater Boston Theatre Alliance
  • 1985: New England Theatre Conference’s Major Award for outstanding creative achievement in the American theatre
  • 1995: American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts
  • 1999: Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters
  • 2000: Association for Theatre in Higher Education Career Achievement Award for Professional Theatre
  • 2001: The Commonwealth Award for Organizational Leadership (Massachusetts’ highest honor)
  • 2002: Inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame
  • 2003: United States Institute for Theatre Technology Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2003: National Corporate Theatre Fund Chairman’s Award for Achievement in Theatre
  • 2005: Gann Academy Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts
  • 2008: Eugene O’Neill Foundation’s Tao House Award for serving the American theatre with distinction
  • 2010: National Medal of Arts
  • 2011: Players Club Hall of Fame

In addition, Brustein received the Pirandello Medal, and a medal from the Egyptian government for contributions to world theatre. His papers are currently housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.


As a playwright, Brustein has both adapted the material of others and written his own original plays.


During his tenure at ART, Brustein wrote eleven adaptations, including Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, The Master Builder, and When We Dead Awaken, the last directed by Robert Wilson; Three Farces and a Funeral, adapted from the works and life of Anton Chekhov; Luigi Pirandello’s Enrico IV; and Brustein’s final production at ART, Lysistrata by Aristophanes, directed by Andrei Serban.

Adaptations which he also directed while at ART include a Pirandello trilogy: Six Characters in Search of an Author, which won the Boston Theatre Award for Best Production of 1996, Right You Are (If You Think You Are), and Tonight We Improvise; Ibsen’s Ghosts, Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, Strindberg’s The Father, and Thomas Middleton’s The Changeling.