How Lynne Meadow Has Kept Manhattan Theatre Club at the Forefront of Theatre for 46 Years

Interview   How Lynne Meadow Has Kept Manhattan Theatre Club at the Forefront of Theatre for 46 Years
 
The Manhattan Theatre Club’s artistic director has nurtured new voices into household names.
Lynne Meadow
Lynne Meadow Joseph Marzullo/WENN

When Lynne Meadow took on the role of artistic director at Manhattan Theatre Club in 1972, it was a choice between running the newly established theatre company—then a small not-for-profit housed in a three-story space on East 73rd Street—and working in the cheese department at Zabar’s. Fresh out of Yale and one of the few women directors around, she had one ambition: to create theatre. She was also a daring young artist with a taste for making the impossible possible, and at MTC, Meadow saw an opportunity.

Under her leadership, along with MTC’s long-standing executive producer Barry Grove, the theatre has become one of the nation’s leading not-for-profit companies, producing on and Off-Broadway, with 23 Tony Awards and seven Pulitzer Prizes to its name. Daring to dream big has been at the core of Meadow’s artistic leadership, from spearheading such projects as the New York Theater Strategy in her very first year—23 plays in six weeks by playwrights like Terrence McNally and Lanford Wilson—to producing Alan Ayckbourn’s House and Garden, two plays performed simultaneously by the same ensemble in separate theatres.

Throughout her career, Meadow has come to rely on her instincts. “There are so many choices that are made in the artistic arena,” she says. “To try to preserve equanimity about making those choices, I’ve really learned to listen to my instincts. I think that’s a very important part of [this job].” When Meadow read the script for Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living, which went on to win the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, she didn’t think too much about the complicated logistics of staging the story. She thought only of saying yes.

“There have been so many plays, if you actually thought about the details you would just say, ‘This is impossible,’” says Meadow. “But I don’t think anything is impossible. I feel that if you really want to do something, you find a way.”

Though admittedly fond of “a little chaos,” Meadow is ultimately addicted to talent. During her tenure, she has encouraged many playwrights who came of age on MTC’s stages and went on to become household names. The theatre’s mission has always been to support writers, and has a long tradition of robust developmental work behind the scenes of its mainstage marquees. Writers like Jocelyn Bioh, Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Ayad Akhtar may not have had plays produced at the theatre, but have been supported by MTC through its reading series.

As Manhattan Theatre Club continues to evolve, Meadow remains committed to her own growth, both as an artist and a leader. “I’m so lucky. My work feels very vital to me,” she says. “It’s alive. I don’t tend to be complacent and I’m always striving to get better.”

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