Robert Brustein

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Robert Brustein : biography

April 21, 1927 –

Brustein also conceived and adapted the musical Shlemiel the First, based on the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer and set to traditional klezmer music, which was directed and choreographed by David Gordon.According to Alvin Klein, writing in the : "It can be said that Singer is the original author, Mr. Brustein is the adapter and Mr. Gordon is the auteur."According to John Lahr, writing in The New Yorker: "In its artfulness and eloquence, "Shlemiel the First" is far better than anything currently on Broadway." After the original presentation in 1994 at ART and in Philadelphia at the American Music Theatre Festival, who co-produced the show, Shlemiel the First was revived several times in Cambridge and subsequently played at the Lincoln Center Serious Fun Festival, the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, as well as touring theatres on the east coast of Florida and in Stamford, Connecticut. The play has also been produced at Theater J in Washington, D.C.. A remount of the original David Gordon production was presented by Peak Performances at Montclair State University’s Kasser Theatre in January 2010, at Peak Performances and went on to a three-week run at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.

Original works

Brustein’s full-length plays include Demons, Nobody Dies on Friday, The Face Lift, Spring Forward, Fall Back, and his Shakespeare Trilogy The English Channel, Mortal Terror, and "The Last Will."

Demons, which was broadcast on WGBH radio in 1993, had its stage world premiere as part of the American Repertory Theatre New Stages Season. Nobody Dies on Friday was given its world premiere in the same series and was presented at the Singapore Arts Festival and the Pushkin Theatre in Moscow. It was included in Marisa Smith’s anthology New Playwrights: Best Plays of 1998.ISBN 1-57525-171-X

Spring Forward, Fall Back was produced in 2006 at the Vineyard Playhouse on Martha’s Vineyard and at Theater J in Washington. The English Channel was produced at the C. Walsh Theatre of Suffolk University in Boston and at the Vineyard Playhouse in the fall of 2007. In the Fall of 2008, it played at the Abingdon Theatre in New York where it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

His short plays Poker Face, Chekhov on Ice, Divestiture, AnchorBimbo, Noises, Terrorist Skit, Airport Hell, Beachman’s Last Poetry Reading, "Sex For a Change", and Kosher Kop were all presented by the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and form a play called "Seven/Elevens.

Brustein is also the author of Doctor Hippocrates is Out: Please Leave a Message an anthology of theatrical and cinematic satire on medicine and physicians, commissioned by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement for its 2008 convention in Nashville.

Critical writing

Brustein has been the theatre critic for The New Republic since 1959 (now on leave), and contributes to the Huffington Post. He is the author of sixteen books on theatre and society:

  • 1964: The Theatre of Revolt: An Approach to Modern Drama (Little, Brown) ISBN 0-929587-53-7 – essays on Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, Shaw, Brecht, Pirandello, O’Neill, and Artaud and Genet, considered a "standard critical text on modern drama"
  • 1965: Seasons of Discontent: Dramatic Opinions 1959-1965 (Simon and Schuster) ISBN none – "an assemblage of his best magazine pieces from 1959 to [1965]"
  • 1969: The Third Theatre (Knopf) ISBN 0-671-20537-4 – "a collection of pieces written between 1957 and 1968 … that deal not only with theatre but also with literature, culture, and the movies" (from the Preface).
  • 1971: Revolution as Theatre: Notes on the New Radical Style (Liveright) ISBN 0-87140-238-6 – examines campus turmoil, radicalism versus liberalism, the fate of the free university, the new revolutionary life style, the decadence of American society, and the sentimentality and false emotionalism of radical alternatives