- August 24, 2015
Sarasota County’s international artist oasis the Hermitage Artist Retreat, located on Manasota Key in Englewood, FL, is receiving a new leader to search for the most talented mid-career musicians, playwrights and musicians deserving of the Hermitage’s six-week artistic residency. Emily Mann, the current artistic director and resident playwright of the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ, will head the Hermitage's National Artist Advisory Committee. Mann is replacing Joseph V. Melillo, the executive producer at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, who has led the committee since the Hermitage began acting as a formal artistic retreat in 2005.
The organization’s national artist advisory committee is comprised of more than a dozen leading artistic directors and leaders from around the country who are responsible for inviting national and international artists to the Hermitage. A residency at the Hermitage is only through nomination by the advisory committee. There is no open application process. So, the composition and leadership of the committee is integral to maintaining a high quality of artistic excellence for the Hermitage’s future resident artists.
Mann first became involved with the Hermitage as a member of the 2014 Greenfield Prize jury, which awarded the prize that year to playwright Nilo Cruz. Mann directed Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Anna in the Tropics” on Broadway in 2003.
“Her being at the Hermitage then and understanding our full role of understanding and helping artists brought her into our organization,” says Bruce Rodgers, executive director of the Hermitage. “When we were talking about evolving this committee we thought Emily would be the perfect person to bring fresh insight and perspective to the organization.”
According to Rodgers, it was Melillo and he who began looking for the former's replacement as head of the advisory committee. Melillo will stay with the Hermitage in an emeritus role, but going forward Rodgers says that there will be term limits on how long one can stay on the advisory committee so as to bring fresh perspective and opinions to the Hermitage and thus affecting the artists that will be invited in the future. And when Rodgers and Melillo began looking, he says only one person came to mind: Emily Mann.
“She knows a lot about theater and art and his highly respected,” says Rodgers. “She is an artist that has the respect of everyone else on the committee and national respect from the greater community of artists.”
Mann has the artistic background and creative resume worthy to take the reigns from founding committee director Melillo. She has served as the artistic director of the Tony Award-winning McCarter Theatre Center for over 25 years and has help produce over 200 productions. She wrote the play “Having Our Say,” which premiered at the McCarter Theatre before it moved to Broadway in 1995, which earned her a Tony Award-nomination for best direction of a play.
Other theatrical accomplishments include accepting the Tony Award for best play for Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” which was originally produced and developed at the McCarter Theatre. Mann has also adapted three of Anton Chekhov’s plays (“Uncle Vanya,” “The Cherry Orchard,” and “The Seagull”). She has received the Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award, which is an annual award given to playwrights whose work deals with difficult religious, political or social subjects. She is the recipient of an honorary doctorate of arts from Princeton University (the home of the McCarter Theatre Center). She also received the National Theatre Conference’s 2011 Person of the Year honors.
More recently, Mann has adapted Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage” to the stage, which premiered in September 2014 at New York Theatre Workshop. And just this year, Mann received the 2015 Margo Jones Award from The Ohio State University for having achieved “a significant impact, understanding and affirmation of the craft of playwriting, with a lifetime commitment to the encouragement of the living theatre.” Previous recipients of the award include such theater luminaries as Lucille Lortel, Joseph Papp, Jon Jory, Lloyd Richards, George C. White, Bill Rauch and Christopher Durang and Marsha Norman.
“I have invited to make this process her own,” says Rodgers. “We’ll see what exactly that means and she’ll make it her own in collaboration with us. Those kinds of changes are good for any organization. We’re excited to see the Hermitage evolve.”