Two years into his tenure as artistic director of LCT3—Lincoln Center Theater’s program for producing new works—Evan Cabnet says that, in some ways, his process isn’t all that different from his earlier days as a freelance director.
“The impulse is identical,” says Cabnet of reading a script and knowing that it just had to be done. The difference is that now Cabnet, a long-time champion of new works, can make that happen. Calling a playwright and delivering the news that LCT3 will produce their play—often their first professional production—is the most thrilling part of his job.
But with only three slots to fill a year, a lot factors into the curation of each season. “I think a lot about context,” explains Cabnet. “What does it mean to be making new work at LCT, which is a place that honors tradition and history… I think about the kinds of storytellers—and how theatre as a form—can contribute to the conversations that are happening on the Lincoln Center campus.” For Cabnet, a play like Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over, which LCT3 produced over the summer, is the perfect example of this collision between the contemporary and the classic. A play that felt immediate, and yet was also borrowing from scripture and Beckett.
Cabnet saw Pass Over during its world-premiere run in Chicago, a trip he makes often and just one of the ways that he and associate director Natasha Sinha stay abreast of new writers around the country. “We really try to cast an incredibly wide net in terms of the artists we’re pay-ing attention to and the ways in which we find them,” he says. Cabnet became familiar with playwright Miranda Rose Hall, whose play Plot Points in Our Sexual Development LCT3 is presenting this October, after missing her show at Yale’s annual Carlotta Festival. He encouraged her to send him work and the two have been in dialogue since.
Cabnet is not just an advocate for emerging playwrights, but for young directors and designers as well. Knowing firsthand how difficult it is to forge a career as a freelancer in New York, it’s the part of his job he finds the most satisfying—not just by inviting them to be a part of a production, but in the “million different ways” in which artists can support one another. “I’m here because many people made gestures on my behalf,” he says. “To be able to wear a new hat and be an advocate is something that I think about a lot and take very seriously.”
And to do that work now, in a period that Cabnet describes as a historically “fertile moment” in American theatre—is the best part of all.