Video/Production – Ned Brown

Arts & Culture

The Power of Theater

2 min read

Diane Paulus
Artistic Director, American Repertory Theater
Professor of the Practice of Theater, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Throughout its 31-year history, the A.R.T. has been a pioneer in American theater, bringing together distinctive leading artists from across disciplines — composers, visual artists, directors, actors, and playwrights — to create theatrical events that have redefined the form. From Robert Wilson’s “Civil Wars” to Andrei Serban’s staging of “The Juniper Tree,” these productions created unbelievable visual tableaux that told stories in ways that made one question the limits of tradition.

I first encountered the A.R.T. when I was an undergraduate at Harvard in the 1980s. I was exposed to the work of world-class artists such as Wilson, Serban, Julie Taymor, and Philip Glass. Those works revolutionized the way I thought about theater, and opened my eyes to the groundbreaking possibilities that theater could conquer. As A.R.T.’s artistic director, I have devoted my energy to taking A.R.T.’s mission “to expand the boundaries of theater” into the 21st century by nurturing collaborations with the next generation of artists who are changing the way we think about the theater and its possibilities.

President Drew Faust’s belief that theater and the arts are integral to the cognitive experience has inspired the A.R.T. to become more fully integrated into the life of the University. Recently, we have created innovative courses, such as the course on our recent production of “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” that give undergraduates the opportunity to experience theater in new ways: studying the texts, learning the history behind the work, observing rehearsals, interacting with artists, and attending performances. Our goal is to rediscover the power of theater, to push our audiences and our students into experiences that challenge their notions of art and of themselves, and ask the question of how they can be more fully engaged as active citizens in a changing world.