March 18, 2015

Theater manager and advocate Howard Sherman speaks on “Inclusiveness in the American Musical…Or Not”

Theater manager and advocate, former director of the American Theater Wing, and director of the new Arts Integrity Initiative at the New School for Drama Howard Sherman will give a talk on “Inclusiveness in the American Musical…Or Not” on Tuesday, March 24. The talk is part of Professor of Theater Stacy Wolf’s spring course, “Isn’t It Romantic? The Broadway Musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Sondheim” and will begin at 3:00 p.m. in Room 219 at 185 Nassau Street followed by a question and answer session. The event is free and open to the public.

In February 2015, Sherman was named director of the new Arts Integrity Initiative at the New School for Drama, focused on creative and academic freedom in the arts. He also is Senior Strategy Director of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts in New York, dedicated to creating opportunities for artists of color and artists with disabilities in theatre, film and television.

howard sherman

Photo by Joan Marcus

Sherman’s talk will focus on the nexus of these two current positions he holds. “How do we stand for the rights of artists to speak their minds freely — on stage, through texts, and elsewhere,” asks Sherman, “while simultaneously trying to evolve our society towards greater racial, gender, disability and sexual orientation inclusiveness? When does sensitivity become censorship? Do works become unproducible?”

Sherman has had a diverse career in theater management. He served as executive director of the prestigious American Theatre Wing (ATW), the service organization that annually presents the Tony Awards, from 2003 to 2011. Immediately prior to joining ATW, he spent three years as executive director of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut. Works developed during his tenure there include August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean and the musical Avenue Q. Sherman was the first General Manager of Goodspeed Musicals (1994-1998), working on 24 new and classic musicals, including the U.S. premiere of Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s By Jeeves. As public relations director of Hartford Stage (1985-1993), he represented over 50 shows, from Mark Lamos’ productions of Hamlet and Peer Gynt with Richard Thomas to Marvin’s Room, Other People’s Money, and Our Country’s Good, the latter three prior to New York runs.

Since 2011, Sherman has also become an influential advocate for high school theater education, notably taking an active role in content challenges by school administrations. He writes extensively about intellectual and creative freedom in secondary theatrical education. He was named one of the “Top 40 Free Speech Defenders of 2014” by the National Coalition Against Censorship and will receive the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund 2015 “Defender” Award for his work on artists’ rights and theatrical censorship.

Sherman has taught at the Yale School of Drama, North Carolina School of the Arts, Emerson College, Brooklyn College, Hartt School of Music, SUNY Purchase and University of Connecticut, and was a board member of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

In addition to consulting for arts organizations on management and communications, Sherman currently writes two regular columns for The Stage in London, one focused on production news and the other on the business of U.S. theater. He has contributed articles to American Theatre Magazine, National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal‘s “Speakeasy” blog, the Los Angeles Times’ “Culture Monster” blog, The Guardian‘s “Guardian Culture Professionals” site, and HowlRound, the journal of the Center for Theatre Commons at Emerson College. Many of his blog essays from this site are cross-posted to The Huffington Post.

Wolf’s course examines the Broadway musical’s unique conventions of aesthetics and form, and its status as popular entertainment that shapes and is shaped by its historical and cultural context. Special guests are visiting the class throughout the semester. Upcoming guests include Emmy and Grammy Award-winning music director and composer Paul Bogaev who will return to the class on April 7 for a conversation with Thomas Schumacher, theatrical producer and current president of Disney Theatrical Group. On April 14, students will participate in a master class and conversation with Judith Clurman, Emmy and Grammy-nominated conductor, educator, and choral specialist. Doug Reside, curator of the Billy Rose Theater Collection at the New York Public Library, will speak about the resources of the Library in April. These events are also free and open to the public to observe.

Wolf is a professor of theater and director of the Princeton Arts Fellows in the Lewis Center where she teaches courses in American musical theatre history, dramaturgy and dramatic literature, histories of U.S. performance, performance theory, and performance studies. Wolf is the author of Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical; A Problem Like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical; and the co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical. She has published articles on theatre spectatorship, performance pedagogy, and musical theatre in many journals, including Theatre Journal, Modern Drama, and Camera Obscura. She was the editor of Theatre Topics: A Journal of Pedagogy and Praxis from 2001 to 2003. She also directs the Lewis Center’s Music Theater Lab and has experience as a theater director and dramaturg.

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