Woodruff takes stage at American Rep

New artistic director replaces Brustein

SOUTHBURY, Conn. — Robert Woodruff will become the new artistic director of the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., when founding a.d. Robert Brustein steps down at the end of next season.

Woodruff’s avant-garde productions of classic texts have been seen throughout the country. He also teaches directing and acting as an assistant professor on the graduate faculty of Columbia U.’s Hammersmith Center for Theater Studies.

Three to rule

He will share ART administrative and artistic duties with two other new appointees: executive director Robert J. Orchard and Gideon Lester, who is associate artistic director and resident dramaturg. Orchard, an ART co-founder who moved to Cambridge with Brustein from Yale Rep, which Brustein also founded, has been the company’s managing director since 1979.

All three new appointments will take effect in August 2002, and Orchard will lead the tripartite team.

Brustein, who will be 75 when he retires as a.d., will take a yearlong sabbatical beginning in July 2002 before returning to the ART to take the titles of founding director and creative consultant.

Woodruff, 54, staged ART’s current season-closer, Shakespeare’s “Richard II,” which runs through June 10 at the company’s home base, Harvard U.’s Loeb Drama Center. His two previous ART productions have been Brecht’s “In the Jungle of the Cities” and Charles L. Mee’s “Full Circle” (aka “The Berlin Circle”). Woodruff won the Boston Theater Critics Assn.’s annual Elliot Norton Award for both productions.

His current “Richard II” has not been well received by local critics. The Boston Globe compared its handling of homosexual elements to TV’s “Queer as Folk.” More often than not, Woodruff, who also has taught and directed at the ART Institute, is a deconstructionist of the classics he directs.

Gotham gigs

In New York, Woodruff has directed at Lincoln Center and for the New York Shakespeare Festival, where he’s also been an artist in residence (ditto at the New York Theater Workshop). He’s renowned for having directed the premieres of Sam Shepard plays including “Buried Child” and “True West.”

His most recent New York staging was a revival of Edward Bond’s violent “Saved” for the Theater for a New Audience in February.

In San Francisco, Woodruff co-founded the Eureka Theater and created the Bay Area Playwrights Festival.

He’s also staged often-controversial productions for the Mark Taper Forum in L.A., San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater and the La Jolla Playhouse, Chicago’s Goodman Theater, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and Trinity Rep in Providence.

Woodruff, who was chosen from about 70 candidates, is not listed to direct at the ART next season, its 23rd.