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Video Interview: Old Globe Hires New Artistic Director

Barry Edelstein, the new artistic director of The Old Globe, talks to KPBS.


Angela Carone, KPBS Arts Reporter


Barry Edelstein begins his post as artistic director on November 1st. He comes to The Old Globe from the Public Theater in New York City where he oversaw that theater's renown Shakespeare program, which includes the free Shakespeare festival held in Central Park every summer.

As a director and producer, Edelstein is considered one of the leading experts in the country on the plays of William Shakespeare. He is said to have directed half of the entire Shakespearean canon.

A theater like The Old Globe, with an annual Summer Shakespeare Festival on an idyllic outdoor stage, appealed to Edelstein, a theater artist who sees the Bard as central to his artistic vision. "What I’ve learned over the years is the most important thing to do is set everything up in conversation with Shakespeare, so that the Shakespeare play on the festival stage is somehow talking to the new musical on the other stage," explains Edelstein.

The Old Globe has been without an artistic director since last October when CEO Lou Spisto resigned. Spisto served as both artistic and managing director at the end of his tenure. Most theaters separate the two functions. In April, the Globe appointed Michael G. Murphy managing director. With Edelstein's appointment, the dual leadership model will be reinstated at the 77-year-old theater.

As artistic director, Edelstein says he’ll stage a mix of both accessible and challenging plays. "The special position of an institution like [the Globe] is that it has to take into account a wide variety of tastes and interests. So I think it’s about a little bit from column A and a little bit from column B."

In stints at New York City's Classic Stage Company (as artistic director) and the Public, Edelstein developed a reputation for casting big-name film and television actors like Uma Thurman and Philip Seymour Hoffman. "People like to see actors that they know and I certainly will be inviting them [to perform at the Old Globe]," says Edelstein. "I can’t wait for news of my appointment to be made public so I can start working the phones."

Edelstein says he also wants to see San Diego actors on the Globe stage. "I think it’s important that the Globe serve the local artist constituency."

While at the Public, Edelstein led a program that brought Shakespeare to underserved communities in prisons and homeless shelters. "Watching Shakespeare in a maximum security prison for women was the most powerful experience I've had in my career," says Edelstein. Talks are already underway, he says, to reach out to similar communities here in San Diego.

Edelstein is the author of two books on Shakespeare. Published in 2007, "Thinking Shakespeare" was called "a must-read for actors" by New York Magazine. His more recent "Bardisms: Shakespeare for All Occasions" offers quotes for life milestones and celebrations.

Edelstein is a graduate of Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.


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