Dramatic change at McCarter Theatre: Longtime artistic director announces retirement

File photo Emily Mann, the retiring artistic director.

Emily Mann, the artistic director and resident playwright of the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton for more than three decades, will retire from her position following the upcoming season, McCarter announced.

“Three decades ago, McCarter took the brave and bold step of casting a young female artist as its artistic director, long before women writers and directors were widely embraced in American theater,” Mann said. “After what has been an extraordinary journey, it is time to pass the torch to the next generation of artistic directors, many of whom I have been privileged to mentor, so that they may impart their own unique signatures at McCarter as I enter a new personal and professional chapter of writing and directing opportunities.”

Having begun her tenure in 1990, Mann oversaw more than 160 productions, including more than 40 world premieres, such as Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” and her own Tony-nominated “Having Our Say,” adapted from the best-selling memoir embracing nearly 200 years of American life through the eyes of two educated and “privileged” sisters-of-color.

Early in her career as artistic director, Mann increased season ticket holders by nearly 80 percent by the time the theater won the 1994 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre and was twice nominated herself for Tony Awards, as both a playwright and director.

Mann earned additional recognition with a Peabody Award, the Hull Warriner Award from the Dramatists Guild, a Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwright award, awards from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, eight Off-Broadway Theatre Awards (Obie) awards, the 2011 Person of the Year Award from the National Theater Conference, the Margo Jones Award from Ohio State University, a Guggenheim Fellowship and an honorary doctorate of arts from Princeton University.

Her new play, “Gloria: A Life,” a bio-drama based on the life of Gloria Steinem, opened off-Broadway in October.

“Emily ushered in an exceptionally robust artistic period that catapulted McCarter to the world stage,” Reginald M. Browne, interim president of the McCarter board of trustees, said. “She has been a trailblazing force in shaping the course of American theater through her focus on diversity and inclusiveness and her passion for nurturing scores of emerging and established artists whose creative expression has challenged convention and enriched our collective community. Her imprint as an agent of change is as inspiring as it is indelible.

“As both Emily and McCarter turn to our next acts, it is an honor to thank her for her lifetime of service to McCarter and salute her for the numerous achievements that have earned our theater and community worldwide recognition.”

McCarter’s board of trustees is expected to begin the formal process of hiring a new artist director in the coming months.