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Encyclopedia > Gregory Mosher

Gregory Mosher presently serves as Director of the Columbia University Arts Initiative. He is a director and producer of nearly two hundred stage productions – at the Lincoln Center and Goodman theatres, on and off-Broadway, at the Royal National Theatre, and in the West End - and a film and television director, producer, and writer.

His career began in Chicago, where after attending Juilliard as its first directing student, he went to head the newly formed Goodman Stage 2, the one of the pioneering theatres of the 1970’s Chicago theatre scene. At the age of twenty-seven, he was named Director of the Goodman Theatre. Beginning with a new version of Richard Wright’s Native Son, and focusing on new work, the Goodman soon gained wide national attention.

After seven seasons at the Goodman, Mosher was invited by former mayor John V. Lindsay to head the theatre at Lincoln Center, which, despite the leadership of such theatre giants as Elia Kazan and Joseph Papp, had faltered through much of its twenty year history. At the time of Lindsay’s offer, the theatre had not produced a play in over four years; it had virtually no operating capital, little ability to generate it, and no community of artists to energize the stages.

Mosher launched an innovative production schedule and revolutionized marketing efforts, discarding the traditional subscriber arrangement to seek a younger, less affluent, and more diverse audience. These efforts, supported by a remarkable board and staff, and a freshly enthused giving community, quickly sparked theatrical life; the company’s two houses were soon filled, and annual income rose within two years to nearly $45 million.

During this period, Mosher continued to focus on new work. While many of the creators (such as Julie Taymor) were at that time relatively unknown in New York, others were legendary; Lincoln Center and Goodman audiences saw new work from Samuel Beckett, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Elaine May, Stephen Sondheim and eventual Nobel prize-winners Wole Soyinka and Derek Walcott.

Among the most celebrated of Mosher’s productions were John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves and Six Degrees of Separation, David Rabe’s Hurly-Burly (starring William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Harvey Keitel and Christopher Walken, directed by Mike Nichols); the South African township musical Sarafina!, Mike Nichols' version of Waiting for Godot (starring Robin Williams and Steve Martin), James Joyce’s The Dead (Tony Award for author Richard Nelson), numerous Spalding Gray premieres (including Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box), David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow (starring Madonna, Joe Mantegna and Ron Silver), John Leguizamo’s Freak, Anything Goes, the long delayed world premiere of Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes’s Mulebone, and the widely acclaimed revival of Our Town, for which Mosher won his second Tony Award.

Lincoln Center Theatre productions were adapted into a dozen feature films, presented in cast recordings, and on television for NBC and PBS. Productions at the Beaumont and the Newhouse theatres frequently were extended or transferred for long runs on Broadway, as well as venues in England, Europe and Japan.

Mosher directed and produced the premieres of twenty-three of David Mamet’s plays, beginning with American Buffalo in 1975. His Broadway production of Glengarry Glen Ross garnered Mamet the Pulitzer Prize.

His collaboration with Samuel Beckett spanned the final decade of that writer’s life, and included Beckett’s own production of Endgame, and the Lincoln Center production of Waiting for Godot, directed by Mike Nichols.

His collaboration with Tennessee Williams included William’s final full-length play, A House Not Meant to Stand, directing and producing the 1992 Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange, and the recent production of The Glass Menagerie, starring Sally Field.

During South Africa’s apartheid period, Mosher was a frequent visitor to Johannesburg and Soweto. He organized the first-ever festival of South African drama (Woza Afrika!) at Lincoln Center, showcasing theatrical productions and funneling tens of thousands of dollars to Township arts groups and individual artists.

During the NEA “decency” debate of the early 1990’s, Mosher, with the support of John Lindsay, was one of a very small group of arts administrators to decline the Endowment’s annual grant.

His film The Prime Gig (starring Vince Vaughn, Ed Harris, and Julia Ormond) played the Venice, London, and Los Angeles Film festivals. He directed (for TNT) Mamet’s A Life in the Theatre (starring Jack Lemmon and Matthew Broderick), which won the Cable Ace Award for Best Drama, and produced the film version of American Buffalo, starring Dustin Hoffman and Dennis Franz. For the BBC, he directed Uncle Vanya, starring Ian Holm, David Warner, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. He has written three screenplays, including an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark.

Mosher is an adjunct professor at Columbia’s School of the arts, and has lectured or guest-taught at Yale, NYU, Penn, and Julliard. While at the Goodman he created a full-fledged accredited residence program for NYU undergraduates, which continues, nearly twenty years later, in New York. He has lectured or participated in symposia on theatre and film at such places as the 92nd St. Y, the Royal National Theatre, and the Independent Feature Project. He is a member of the New York Institute of the Humanities.

He has frequently directed special events for such organizations as The New Yorker, PEN, and various social/political causes; artists have included Woody Allen, Don DeLillo, John Updike, Jack Lemmon, Seamus Heaney, Robert Pinsky, Whoopi Goldberg, Ricky Moody, Tracy Chapman, Joan Didion, Henry Louis Gates Jr., John Ashbury, Robin Williams, Simon Schama, Martin Amis, Janet Malcom, Jon Stewart, and many others.

He has received every major American theatre award, including two Tonys.



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