Shakespeare expert Barry Edelstein directs the magic at Old Globe
Old Globe Artistic Director Barry Edelstein is a stage director, producer, author and educator. Recognized as one of the leading Shakespeare authorities in the United States, he has directed nearly half of the Bard’s works. As Director of the Shakespeare Initiative at The Public Theater (2008-2012), he oversaw all of the company’s Shakespearean productions, as well as its educational, community outreach and artist-training programs.
He was also associate producer of The Public’s Broadway production of “The Merchant of Venice,” starring Al Pacino. He was artistic director of Off-Broadway’s Classic Stage Company, 1998-2003.
Edelstein’s Shakespearean directorial credits include “The Winter’s Tale,’ “Timon of Athens,” “As You Like It,” and “Richard III.” His additional credits include the award-winning revival of “All My Sons”; the world premiere of Steve Martin’s “The Underpants,” which he commissioned; Molière’s “The Misanthrope”; and the world premiere “The Twenty-Seventh Man.”
His book, “Thinking Shakespeare” (called by New York magazine “a must-read for actors”) is now the standard text on American Shakespearean acting. He is also the author of “Bardisms: Shakespeare for All Occasions.”
What brought you to San Diego?
The opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to run The Old Globe, one of the great American theaters.
What might you add, subtract or improve in the area?
I’d make access to Balboa Park easier. The Globe and the 27 other arts and cultural institutions in the historic core of the Park are an urban resource unparalleled in the United States. It kills me when I hear San Diegans say that they don’t use that resource because of something as silly — and to me, fixable — as parking. I’m convinced that if San Diego were to make Balboa Park access a priority, all the huge brains in town would figure it out.
Who or what inspires you?
My children are daily inspirations. In the past half-year my daughter, who’s six, got a new sibling, a new city, a new home, and a new school. And she handled all that change with a kind of grace and aplomb that my wife and I can only hope to emulate. My family’s support for what I do makes it possible for me to do it, and sends me to work every day inspired to be the best person and the best artist I can be.
If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?
I assume my wife is there; add to that four boys and four girls: John Heminges and Henry Condell, the actors in Shakespeare’s theater company, who gathered his plays for publication in one volume for the first time. I have a zillion questions about Shakespeare that they could answer better than anyone; Philip Roth, my favorite author and hilarious; Bruce Springsteen, for obvious reasons; Hilary Clinton, the most interesting figure in contemporary politics and, apparently, awesome at a dinner party; Hallie Flanagan Davis, the godmother of the American institutional theater movement; Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare’s wife, not the actress: although I’ve had dinner with the latter and she’s great); and my grandmother, Tillie, whom I miss, and who would love that party.
What are you currently reading?
I have about 40 plays on my iPad and I’m always in the middle of three or four at a time. These are plays I want to produce at the Globe or plays by writers whose work I want and need to know. They leave me little time to read for pleasure, but also on my iPad I have “1948″ by the recently deceased Israeli novelist, Yoram Kaniuk. It’s a memoir of his time fighting for Israeli independence, but it’s much more than that. Kaniuk is impossible to describe in a sentence, but to me his writing is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Jazz music in literary form. Amazing.
What is it that you most dislike?
Hypocrisy. Makes my blood boil.
What is your most-prized possession?
My wife and I have a policy that for each new thing we bring into our house, we get rid of one old thing. It’s not a philosophical idea, it’s survival: When you live in a small New York apartment, as we did for a very long time, there’s just no space. Clutter is the enemy. So you have to take drastic measures. But the last thing I’d ditch is an 1804 facsimile copy of the “Shakespeare First Folio.” By that date, the original, printed in 1623, was already a rarity and a very expensive item only for collectors. So a London publisher put out a modern duplicate: the first time that book was made widely available to general readers. It was given me by the Board of Classic Stage Company, the Off Broadway theater I used to run. I treasure it.
What do you do for fun?
Play with my kids. Nothing in the universe makes me happier than the sounds of their laughter.
What is your motto or philosophy of life?
When we got engaged, my wife gave me a card that said, “Every blade of grass has an Angel hovering over it, whispering ‘Grow, grow.’” It’s a quote from the Talmud. And it’s what our marriage has been about for 10 years. We all need that encouragement: someone to whisper in our ear, “Grow.” And we all should whisper it to others.
What would be your dream vacation?
Six months to travel the world’s great theater cities, watching the best artists transport me to unknown worlds.
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