Brustein, Robert Sanford

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BRUSTEIN, ROBERT SANFORD (1927– ), U.S. drama critic, playwright. Born in New York City, Brustein was educated at Amherst College, Yale, and Columbia. He wrote for the weekly magazine The New Republic and other periodicals, putting forward his belief in the need for a theater that expressed social concerns and political realities. In 1965 he was given an opportunity to test his theories when he was appointed dean of the Yale School of Drama. At Yale he sought to develop a professional repertory theater in which students could learn and work with established actors, playwrights, directors, and stage designers. To that end, he founded the Yale Repertory Theater. His unconventional ideas and imaginative productions led to vigorous controversy. He elaborated his theories in The Theater of Revolt; An Approach to the Modern Drama (1964). In 1978 the Yale Drama School decided not to renew his contract.

After leaving Yale, Brustein moved to Harvard, where he founded the American Repertory Theater. Brustein served for 36 years as director of the Loeb Drama Center, which is the headquarters of the American Repertory Theater. He was professor of English at Harvard and served as drama critic for The New Republic from 1959. He wrote eleven adaptations for the American Repertory Theater, such as Shlemiel the First, The Wild Duck, The Master Builder, Three Farces and a Funeral, and Enrico iv, and authored 13 books on theater and society. His plays include Demons, Nobody Dies on Friday, Poker Face, Chekhov on Ice, and Divestiture.

Brustein received the George Polk Award in journalism; the Elliot Norton Award for professional excellence in Boston theater; the New England Theater Conference's 1985 Annual Award "for outstanding creative achievement in the American theater"; the 1995 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts; the Pirandello medal; and a medal from the Egyptian government for his contribution to world theater. His Six Characters in Search of an Author won the Boston Theater Award for Best Production of 1996. Brustein is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Books by Brustein include Seasons of Discontent: Dramatic Opinions, 1959–1965 (1967); The Third Theater (1969); Revolution as Theater: Notes on the New Radical Style (1971); The Culture Watch: Essays on Theater and Society, 1969–1974 (1975); Critical Moments: Reflection on Theater & Society, 1973–1979 (1980); Making Scenes: A Personal History of the Turbulent Years at Yale, 1966–1979 (1981); Who Needs Theater? Dramatic Opinions (1987); Reimagining American Theater (1991); Dumbocracy in America: Studies in the Theater of Guilt, 1987–1994 (1994); Cultural Calisthenics: Writings on Race, Politics, and Theater (1998); and The Siege of the Arts: Collected Writings 1994–2001 (2001).

[Raphael Rothstein /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]