Picture of Bob:
"Bob’s Big Bash"
A Fitting Tribute to Theatrical Icon
By Susie Davidson
BOSTON - Accolades and bravos filled Avalon this past Monday night for a true star of the oft-hidden stage. Founder and longtime Artistic Director at the American Repertory as well as the Yale Repertory Theatres, author of over a dozen books on theater, theater critic for the New Republic, Harvard English professor, boldly innovative adaptor, director and actor Robert Brustein was feted appropriately and thoroughly by 450 devoted attendees at the posh and seamlessly orchestrated event.
A herculean effort by A.R.T. Event Coordinator Sarah Shewey, aided by A.R.T. Development Office staff Jan Geidt, Don Sturdy, Darren Brannon, Joan Moynagh and Sandy McKinley, and the generosity of MAX Ultimate Food as well as Patrick Lyons and the Lyons Group ensured an entirely enchanting evening.
Amid the astounding guest list, food, décor and proceedings, friends, cohorts, and admirers took to the podium to alternately laud and roast their beloved Bob. Even the mousse-and-raspberry filled dessert houses proclaimed his name from their chocolate rooftops.
Playwright and musician Hershey Felder (his “George Gershwin Alone” opens next month at the A.R.T.; his wife Kim Campbell, Canada’s first woman Prime Minister, also attended) performed a musical prelude. Comedic commentator Lewis Black M.C.’d; A.R.T. Managing Director Robert J. Orchard and film director Sam Weisman spoke. A.R.T. actors Jeremy Geidt and Will LeBow sang, actors Cherry Jones (who read a message from Meryl Streep), Brooke Adams, Tony Shalhoub, Carmen de Lavallade, Debra Winger and Arliss Howard took to the stage; news commentator Mike Wallace doled Brustein a hysterically ribald interview.
Attendees included director David Mamet, humorist Art Buchwald, “Producer of The Producers” Rocco Landesman, “Sophie’s Choice” author William Styron, Lion King director Julie Taymor and her husband, composer Elliot Goldenthal, A.R.T. successor Robert Woodruff, Boston Ballet’s new Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen, Shakespeare & Co.’s Tina Packer, A.R.T. Resident Director David Wheeler and wife Bronia. Other actors attending included Mamet’s wife Rebecca Pidgeon, A.R.T.’s Tommy Derrah, Karen MacDonald, Paula Plum and Alvin Epstein, Christopher Lloyd, F. Murray Abraham and Claire Bloom as well as recent A.R.T. graduate and star of his own play “Fully Committed,” Mark Setlock.
Also in attendance were other local luminaries including Robert and Myra Kraft, Mike and Kitty Dukakis, Alan Dershowitz, Steve and Barbara Grossman, Boston Phoenix’s Stephen Mindich, civic leader Ted Benard-Cutler and wife Joan, author Robert Parker and his wife Joan, architecture giant and along with his wife, Ann, arts philanthropist Graham Gund, Philanthropist Susan Podeska, Arts Center developer Glenn Nickkhrem and Boston Early Music Festival honcho Kathy Fay.
An auction facilitated by Don Sturdy was also a resounding success.
But of course, the real show was the legacy of the honoree. His 35 years at the theater helm (13 at Yale Rep and Dean of the Yale Drama School prior to Cambridge) are only part of the act. He has supervised 200+ productions, acted in eight and directed twelve. He’s adapted myriad productions, including eleven a the A.R.T., which have included Lysistrata (opening this week), Shlemiel the First, The Wild Duck, The Master Builder, Three Farces and a Funeral, and Enrico IV; his renowned books on theatre and society include Reimagining American Theate; The Theatre of Revolt; Making Scenes (ABOUT Yale years); Who Needs Theatre, which was awarded his second George Jean Nathan Award for dramatic criticism; Dumbocracy in America; Cultural Calisthenics and his latest, The Siege of the Arts.
WGBH radio broadcast his play Demons in 1993, and he had two world premieres in the A.R.T. New Stages program. The Singapore Festival of Arts and the Pushkin Theatre in Moscow as well as the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre have presented his works. He is a recipient of the George Polk Award in journalism, the Elliot Norton Award for professional excellence in Boston Theatre, the 1985 New England Theatre Conference's Annual Award, the 1995 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the Pirandello medal, and finally, an Egyptian Government medal for his contributions to world theatre. He also won the Elliot Norton Award for Best Production in 1996 for Six Characters in Search of an Author.
“It’s been quite a night; a Gala night,” Brustein said in his remarks, “less a fund raiser than a fun raiser….I’m not quite ready yet to settle for a retirement home and a book of memories…I won’t go gentle. I expect to be making trouble for quite a few more years as A.R.T.’s associate kibbitzer and resident tummler.” Unabashedly naming names, he graciously gushed, sparing no praise for his own heroes and heroines and lavishly pouring out love for his wife Doreen Beinart (and her immediate family), son Dan, grandson Max, and brother Marty.
The Jewish presence and contribution cannot be discounted; Brustein later recounted that “there would have been no A.R.T. after our second season without the Jewish community of the Boston area. They were a continuing source of moral and financial support, particularly Alfie Rudnick and Mrs. Ralph P. Rudnick, Barbara and Steve Grossman, Barbara and Jon Lee, Paul and Katie Buttenweiser, also the Krafts, Herb and Micki Lee, Henry and Nitza Rosovsky, and unnamed, myriad others.”
Doreen, a South African Jew, directs the Film Program at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the J.F.K. School of Government. They live in Cambridge and on Martha’s Vineyard, thankfully never too far from their Avalon-and everywhere-else legions.