How would you describe your artistic philosophy?
First and foremost, it is that everything on our stage must be a truly excellent version of whatever it is trying to be. Great theater can be in service to its audience by entertaining, challenging, edifying and transforming them – but no matter what it is trying to do, it must be produced at the highest quality to be successful. Personally, I place delight among the things that matter most to me in a theatrical experience, and I veer toward theater that is beautiful and moving and stimulating. The theater that excites me explores cultures from a wide variety of perspectives, takes us on journeys to other communities, asks us to use our imaginations to try on someone else’s shoes, and demands that we lean forward in our seats and open up our minds.
I also believe that the time has come for us to explore ways in which our audiences engage more deeply and authentically with the work on our stages; I’m interested in blurring the lines between the art-makers and the art-receivers. Whether it is creating community-based projects that reach out beyond our walls into under-served communities, or offering theater education, or inviting our audiences as co-curators for the work on our stages, I am seeking ways to allow the theater to become more permeable, and more multi-vocal.
What do audiences have to look forward to next season?
I don’t know if it’s next season or beyond, but I’m really intrigued to deep dive in to our country’s all-but-forgotten canon of Yiddish Theater. By WWI, there were 22 Yiddish Theaters in NYC, and they were producing new works, adaptations and translations. Some of the plays I’ve read are utterly surprising, and there is a wide variety; there’s one strand that is huge and imaginative and metaphoric, and another that is small and domestic and honest, almost Chekhovian. I don’t know how we’ll engage with these texts (in translation, adaptation, or other ways) and I don’t know when, but I’m confident that we’ll see some of these lost masterpieces on our stage in a coming season. Until then, you might find me in the library, poring over scripts and wishing I knew how to read Yiddish!
Here’s what I know for sure about the first season I will program: Theater J’s audiences can look forward to a bold season of programming that will delight, provoke, stimulate and engage them throughout the entire season. We will continue to use theater to examine our world through a Jewish lens; tackling the great moral, social and political issues of our time for Jews and non-Jews alike, in this country and abroad. We will seek work that celebrates the uniquely Jewish voice, tells our stories (both triumphs and tragedies), and honors our heritage, but we will also present plays that expose us to other cultures that share many of our challenges—immigration and assimilation, language and family, living one’s life religiously in an increasingly secular world, and the struggle to make ethical choices. I know it is going to be a provocative, thrilling season full of some of the best theater in the country.
What excites you about Theater J’s mission?
When I look at Theater J’s mission, I see a company committed to creating theater that heals the world. We must use our art form, which is first and foremost entertainment, to reflect the world on stage, giving us and our audiences a chance to learn, to grow and to change.
What’s your favorite play and why?
This is the hardest question ever! Honestly, I think it’s whatever I’m directing at the moment. So right now that is Julia Cho’s masterpiece, The Language Archive. It is a stunning new play about language itself, about the words of love and the challenge of communication. A love story about how love can be as hard to learn as any language. It is whimsical, magical, funny, moving and exquisite—and it takes on the eternal mystery of communication: our never-ending struggle to articulate the synaptic connections of our brains and share our thoughts with others. I’m directing it at Bristol Riverside Theater (in Pennsylvania) and as I write I’m in the middle of casting the last actor in what promises to be a really brilliant ensemble.
Adam Immerwahr was most recently the Associate Artistic Director at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ. His directing credits at McCarter include The Understudy and The Mousetrap. NYC directing credits include productions at The Public, Theater Row (both for Summer Play Festival), Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Wild Project, and NYU’s Studio Tisch. Internationally, he directed the African premiere of The Convert in Zimbabwe (nominated for the National Arts Medal Award, Zimbabwe’s highest arts award). He has directed and developed work for Luna Stage, Hangar Theatre, Bristol Riverside, Premiere Stages, Playwrights Theatre of NJ, PlayPenn, the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, Princeton Summer Theater, Westminster Choir College, Theatre Masters, and Passage Theatre Company in Trenton, where he served as Resident Director.
Adam’s documentary theater works include his many years as the Artistic Director of OnStage Seniors: a community project of McCarter Theatre, in which he led a group of Mercer-county based senior citizens who gathered and performed the stories of their community. He has also developed, written, and directed community-based projects for Nassau Presbyterian Church (where has been the artist-in-residence from 2014-2015) and for Passage Theater and Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Central New Jersey (for whom he is currently developing a piece a documentary work around central NJ’s Holocaust survivors).
At McCarter Theatre, Immerwahr was part of the producing team that commissioned and premiered Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (starring Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce), which went on to transfer to Broadway and win the 2014 Tony Award for Best Play, and Fiasco Theater’s Into the Woods, which premiered at McCarter before transferring to San Diego’s The Old Globe and then The Roundabout in NYC, where it won the 2015 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Revival. Other producing credits include works created by some of the world’s top artists, including Ken Ludwig, Mary Zimmerman, Emily Mann, Danai Gurira, Stephen Wadsworth, Phylicia Rashad, John Kani, and Fiasco Theater. Adam is the recipient of a 2008 Drama League Directing Fellowship and the 2010 NJ Theatre Alliance “Applause Award.” Adam was the winner of the 2014 Emerging Nonprofit Leader Award presented by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Center for Excellence and the Center for Non-Profits.