July 1, 2020

Entering Final Week, McCarter’s Mann Thanks All “Who Sustained Our Dream”

To the Editor:

As I enter my final week as artistic director and resident playwright of McCarter Theatre Center I want to thank all of you who sustained our dream.

I came here in the summer of 1990 expecting to stay for 3-5 years, and I am still here 30 years later. Why? It’s very simple. I fell in love — with my staff and Board, with our audience, an audience Athol Fugard called “the best audience in America.” I fell in love with this beautiful garden of a town, graced by one of the finest universities in the world. Princeton became home — my artistic home and my personal and spiritual home.

The audience here believed in my vision of the classic repertoire seen as if new and new work seen as if it were already classic. They flocked to new work by Ntozake Shange, Nilo Cruz, Regina Taylor, Athol Fugard, Edward Albee, Danai Gurira, Chris Durang, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Ken Ludwig, and so many others. They supported my new work as well — from Betsey Brown and Having Our Say to this season’s Gloria: A Life. They reveled in the classics of Marivaux, Ibsen, Chekhov, and Shakespeare and cheered the finest actors, designers, and directors in this country and abroad. These artists created plays and productions that became some of the most frequently produced work in America.

We developed a nationally recognized Education and Engagement department to bring the healing magic of theater to all in our community, both those who could afford a ticket and those who could not — to those in shelters and challenged school districts, to those in senior facilities and half way houses.

I often said ‘I have the best job in the American Theater.’ That was not hyperbole. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling life in the theater.

In closing, let me borrow the words of my dear friend, Gloria Steinem, when asked to whom she was passing her torch. She said: “I’m not passing my torch — I’m using my torch to light the torches of other people.”

I have tried to do that throughout my time at McCarter — from those I have mentored to those I have been honored to welcome here as masters in their craft. And now, allow me to light the torch of the new artistic director of McCarter Theatre, Sarah Rasmusssen. May she enjoy this extraordinary audience, community, and staff as much as I have. Long may she blaze.

And finally, I am not retiring. I will be writing and directing as long as I have breath. So — let’s all take this time of national reckoning to reflect and look to the future, as uncertain as it may seem right now, knowing theaters have been closed before by plague and remembering — they reopen. I look forward to being with you all again, embracing you again in person — live — at the theater — in a new and hopefully, stronger and more just America.

Until then, be well.

My most profound gratitude for the past — astonishing — 30 years.

Emily Mann
McCarter Theatre Center