The La Jolla Playhouse has named its new artistic director, Anne Hamburger, a producer known for her Off-Broadway site-specific plays and musicals. She will take up her post early next year, replacing the theatre's current artistic director, Michael Greif, who announced a few months ago he would be leaving after the 1999 season.
Hamburger, 45, founded En Garde Arts in 1986. Since then her company commissioned 25 new works, mainly in New York, but also in Prague, London and Washington, D.C.
En Garde Arts won seven Village Voice Obie awards, two Drama Desk awards and a special Outer Critics Circle award during her reign. The company will disband with her departure.
Much of En Garde's work was produced outdoors -- in rail yards, city streets and Hudson River piers. In 1989, Hamburger trained to be a certified fire guard so that she could better handle fire department regulations.
"It will be a refreshing change to have a roof and not have to worry about rehearsing in the rain," she said in a statement. She was quick to point out, though, that many of her major productions have taken place indoors, including a 37-minute version of The Waste Land in 1996, starring Fiona Shaw. Hamburger has no immediate plans to produce site-specific work in La Jolla, though she did say that as she comes to know the community she "might find a site that's appropriate." Her interests, she added, have grown away from site work. "I'm more interested now in putting collaborators together and doing plays and musicals."
Unlike Greif and his predecessor, Des McAnuff, La Jolla's only artistic directors since the theatre opened in 1983, Hamburger is a producer rather than a director. The La Jolla board "was very smart" to sign a nondirector, Greif said. "She can more easily distribute her focus throughout the season than I could when I was directing a show."
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent