Robert Brustein


Robert Brustein : biography

April 21, 1927 –
  • 1975: The Culture Watch: Essays on Theatre and Society, 1969-1974 (Knopf) ISBN 0-394-49814-3 – "As far as these bristling exhortations go, well, you have to wish the gadfly well"
  • 1980: Critical Moments: Reflection on Theatre & Society, 1973-1979 (Random House) – "Can the Show Go On?", "The Future of the Endowments", "The Artist and the Citizen" and other essays on the state of American theatre.
  • 1981: Making Scenes: A Personal History of the Turbulent Years at Yale, 1966-1979 (Random House) ISBN 0-394-51094-1 – Brustein looks at his time at Yale as part "of a larger social and cultural pattern"
  • 1987: Who Needs Theatre: Dramatic Opinions (Atlantic Monthly) ISBN 0-571-15194-9 – a collection of reviews and essays including "an assessment of hits like ‘Cats’ and ’42nd Street’, Polish theatre, drama on apartheid and the Broadway vogue for British imports."
  • 1991: Reimagining American Theatre (Hill & Wang) ISBN 0-8090-8058-3 – reviews and essays, mostly from The New Republic considering the state of American theater in the 1980s.
  • 1994: Dumbocracy in America: Studies in the Theatre of Guilt, 1987-1994 (Ivan R. Dee) ISBN 1-56663-098-3 – "uses the prism of the American theatre to explore the motivating impulses behind rampant political correctness and to assess government efforts to regulate the arts"
  • 1998: Cultural Calisthenics: Writings on Race, Politics, and Theatre (Ivan R. Dee) ISBN 1-56663-266-8 – "Many of these essays … are concerned with how "extra-artistic considerations’" – multiculturalism, gay rights, women’s issues and political correctness – impair current thought, including that of arts funding agencies."
  • 2001: The Siege of the Arts: Collected Writings, 1994-2001 (Ivan R. Dee) ISBN 1-56663-380-X – "The opening essays lead the charge against The Three Horsemen of the Anti-Culture: political, moral, and middlebrow aesthetic correctness … allied with corporate capitalism and a rigid multiculturalism"
  • 2005: Letters to a Young Actor: A Universal Guide to Performance (Basic Books) ISBN 0-465-00806-2 – "A guidebook for performers on stage and screen [which] aims to inspire struggling dramatists and also reinvigorate the very state of the art of acting itself."
  • 2006: Millennial Stages: Essays and Reviews 2001-2005 (Yale Univ. Press) ISBN 0-300-11577-6 – "examines crucial issues relating to theater in the post-9/11 years, analyzing specific plays, emerging and established performers, and theatrical production throughout the world"
  • 2009: The Tainted Muse: Prejudices and Preconceptions in Shakespeare’s Works and Times "an untainted lens through which to see Shakespeare as never before"
  • 2011: Rants and Raves: Opinions, Tributes, and Elegies

Brustein was the writer and narrator of a WNET television series in 1966 called The Opposition Theatre. He also comments on contemporary social and political issues for the Huffington Post.

Conflict with August Wilson

In 1996 and 1997, Brustein was involved in an extended public debate – through their essays, speeches and personal appearances – with African-American playwright August Wilson about multiculturalism, color-blind casting, and other issues where race impacts on the craft and practice of theatre in America.William Grimes, , New York Times (13 December 1996).William Grimes, , New York Times (29 January 1997).Frank Rich, , New York Times (1 February 1997)Margo Jefferson, , New York Times (4 February 1997).

Life and career

Brustein was born in New York City. His parents were Max, a businessman, and Blanche (Haft) Brustein. He was educated at Amherst College, where he received a B.A. in 1948, and Columbia University, where he received an M.A. in 1949 and a Ph.D. in 1957. During this time, he served in the Merchant Marine on tankers and Victory ships, and later at Kings Point Academy on Long Island. He also held a Fulbright Fellowship to study in the United Kingdom from 1953 to 1955, where he directed plays at the University of Nottingham.Robert Brustein, (pdf), Nottingham Alumni Online, 2001. p.15 After teaching at Cornell University, Vassar College, and Columbia, where he became a full professor of dramatic literature in the English department, he became Dean of the Yale School of Drama in 1966, and served in that position until 1979. It was during this period that he founded the Yale Repertory Theatre.

In 1979, Brustein left Yale for Harvard University, where he founded the American Repertory Theatre (ART) and became a Professor of English. He served for twenty-two years as Director of the Loeb Drama Center where he founded the Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard. He retired from the Artistic Directorship of ART in 2002 and now serves on the faculty of the Institute.

As the Artistic Director of Yale Rep from 1966 to 1979, and of ART from 1980 to 2002, Brustein supervised over 200 productions, acting in eight and directing twelve.