Emerson College President Jacqueline W. Liebergott announced today that acclaimed theatrical producer Robert J. Orchard will become Emerson’s first executive director for the arts.
He will also hold the Stephen G. Langley Chair in Theater Management and Production in the Department of Performing Arts. The chair was established by Emerson alumnus Stephen Langley, who was director of the theater management program at Brooklyn College and author of the field’s primary text, Theater Management and Production.
Orchard celebrated his 30th year with the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.) this past June after serving as founding managing director for 21 years and subsequently as executive director of the A.R.T. and the Institute for Advanced Theatre Training, and director of the Loeb Drama Center at Harvard University. He announced his intention to retire from these roles earlier this year. Orchard will join Emerson on October 1.
“Rob has tremendous vision and exciting ideas about the ways in which Emerson can expand our already many great contributions to the performing arts and to the cultural vitality of Boston,” said President Liebergott. “We are honored that he has decided to join our community.”
In his new role, Orchard will develop long-term plans for professional performing arts programs that will take place within Emerson College’s venues in downtown Boston, including the Cutler Majestic Theatre and the Paramount Center, which remains under construction but will open in a limited way in January 2010.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to bring Rob Orchard into the Emerson family,” said Ted Cutler ’51, chair of Emerson’s Boston Arts Committee and a trustee emeritus. “The future Paramount Center, combined with the existing venue at the Majestic, will establish exciting new possibilities for the performing arts at Emerson in Boston. Rob’s background and abilities fit perfectly with our goals for the future.”
The Majestic Theatre is named in honor of Joan and Ted Cutler.
“For more than 35 years, Rob Orchard has been one of the most successful and respected managing directors in the American theater, first at Yale Rep and then at the American Repertory Theatre,” said Emerson College’s Dean for the School of the Arts Grafton Nunes. “Emerson is truly fortunate to benefit from his management brilliance and passionate commitment to theatrical art, creating a merger of high-level presentation and creative production that will galvanize the cultural life of this great city and enrich the education of Emerson’s students.”
Located on Boston Common in the heart of the city’s Theatre District, Emerson is the only four-year private college in the United States devoted to communication and the performing arts. With 3,000 undergraduates and 900 graduate students from across the United States and 40 countries, Emerson is teaching the next generation of leaders in communication and the arts. Supported by state-of-the-art facilities and a renowned faculty, students participate in more than 60 student organizations and performance groups, 15 NCAA teams, student publications, honor societies, television stations including the Emerson Channel, and WERS-FM, Boston’s award-winning noncommercial radio station.
The College is internationally known for its study and internship programs in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., the Netherlands, Taiwan, and the Czech Republic.
“I’m drawn to Emerson because of the quality of the faculty and students and its focus on arts, communication, and innovation,” Orchard said. “Now, with the pending opening of the Paramount Center, coupled with the restoration of the Cutler Majestic Theatre, Emerson has provided yet another gift to the community: a range of major public performance venues unmatched by any organization in the area. The challenge will be to create public programs for these theaters that enhance the local cultural landscape and extend Emerson’s already distinguished record nationally and internationally.”
Before 1979, he was managing director of the Yale Repertory Theatre and School of Drama, where he also served as associate professor and co-chairman of the Theatre Administration Program.
At the A.R.T. he has produced more than 200 works, including new plays by Nobel prize winners Dario Fo and Derek Walcott; composers Philip Glass, Rinde Eckert, John Moran, David Byrne, Liz Swados, Galt MacDermot, Paul Dresher, and Richard Peaslee; and playwrights Jules Feiffer, Carlos Fuentes, Robert Brustein, Marsha Norman, Christopher Durang, Milan Kundera, Arthur Kopit, Karen Finley, Larry Gelbart, David Henry Hwang, Susan Sontag, Charles Mee, David Mamet, Anna Deavere Smith, David Rabe, Suzan-Lori Parks, Paula Vogel, Steve Martin, Sam Shepard, and Lisa Krone.
He has also worked with many of the world’s most respected directors including: Andrei Serban, Robert Brustein, Peter Sellars, David Wheeler, Joanne Akalaitis, Robert Wilson, Richard Foreman, Anne Bogart, Tina Landau, David Gordon, Francesca Zambello, Marcus Stern, Scott Zigler, Robert Woodruff, Kate Whoriskey, Jonathan Miller, Janos Szasz, Chen Shi-Zeng, Dominique Serand, and Martha Clarke, among many others.
In addition, he has overseen tours of A.R.T. productions to major festivals in Edinburgh, Avignon, Belgrade, Paris, Madrid, Jerusalem, Venice, São Paulo, Tokyo, Taipei, Singapore, Moscow, and Hong Kong, among others. Under his leadership, A.R.T. has performed in 81 cities in 22 states, and worldwide in 21 cities in 16 countries on four continents. A number of A.R.T. premieres have also enjoyed an extended life on Broadway.
For nearly 25 years, Orchard has been active facilitating exchanges, leading seminars, and advising on public policy with theater professionals and government officials in Russia and Eastern Europe. He served as the architect for the A.R.T. Institute and its relationship with the Moscow Art Theatre School.
Under his leadership the A.R.T. has garnered many of the nation’s most distinguished awards, including a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award, and in May 2003 it was named one of the top three theaters in the country by Time magazine.
Orchard has served as chairman of both the Theatre and the Opera/Musical Theatre Panels at the National Endowment for the Arts, on the Board and Executive Committee of the American Arts Alliance, the national advocacy association for the performing and visual arts, and as a trustee of Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service organization for the American professional theatre and publisher of American Theatre magazine. In addition, he has served on the Board of the Cambridge Multi-Cultural Arts Center and as president of the Massachusetts Cultural Education Collaborative. In 2000, Orchard received the Elliot Norton Award for Sustained Excellence.