Lileana Blain-Cruz’s Director’s Cut | The New Yorker

We all know that theatre is an ephemeral art. Looking back on a given production, we dance around in and then sort out what the critic Arlene Croce called “afterimages,” fragments that are either tied together by the director’s style—by the nuances in the way that he or she set the scenes and had the actors move and speak, by the surprises that he or she managed to draw out of the script—or made dull and forgettable by a lack thereof. In the past decade or so, American theatre has been rethought by a number of serious, original, and deeply ambitious playwrights, including Annie Baker, Thomas Bradshaw, Lucas Hnath, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Richard Maxwell, Sarah Ruhl, and Young Jean Lee. But their scope and their style have not, unfortunately, been matched by their directorial contemporaries, partly because of financial limitations. Theatre directors coming up today are rarely given the time and the money to develop their voices and, in order to have something approaching a career, they often turn to TV. There are exceptions, though—theatre artists, inspired by legendary directors ranging from José Quintero to JoAnne Akalaitis, Richard Foreman, and Elizabeth LeCompte, who fight to establish and maintain their vision.

I have seen five shows directed by the thirty-three-year-old Lileana Blain-Cruz, a graduate of the Yale School of the Arts, where she studied with Liz Diamond, an unforgettable directorial force; in each one, I’ve seen and learned things that I want to remember, thanks in large part to Blain-Cruz’s ability to make highly verbal material visual. (She won an Obie for her direction of last year’s revival of Suzan-Lori Parks’s dense work “The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA the Negro Book of the Dead.”) In her current production, “Pipeline,” by Dominique Morisseau (at the Mitzi E. Newhouse), Blain-Cruz pursues another of her fortes, which is to draw us into the playwright’s world and make us understand…

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