News & Updates

October 13, 2014

Soho Rep's Artistic Director Sarah Benson featured in The New Yorker

True Grit
The unsentimental vision of SoHo Rep’s director.

The thirty-five-year-old British-born director and producer Sarah Benson has helmed the SoHo Rep since 2007, and under her directorship I have never seen a boring production—a very rare thing, indeed. Her deeply individual sensibility is not compromised by needs other than those of the work at hand, and it’s that freedom, structured around shows that I may not agree with but always learn from, that distinguishes the SoHo Rep, a seventy-seat house filled with big ideas.

As a young student, Benson thought that she might be an actress. But, although she loved the stage, her understanding of the theatre was fairly rudimentary, and she eventually realized that her work was behind the scenes. After emigrating to the States, in 2002, she got her master’s degree in directing from Brooklyn College’s stellar theatre program. In the seven years that she’s been with the SoHo Rep, Benson directed Sarah Kane’s hard and strange “Blasted,” in 2008; David Adjmi’s frightening 2011 piece, “Elective Affinities”; and, in 2013, Lucas Hnath’s “A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney.” Benson has imbued each work with a tough, unsentimental core; she’s also made the plays into distinct visual works that help us see the words. The Adjmi piece took place in a gilt-edged and pillared mansion on the Upper East Side, and the “Disney” set looked like a conference room designed by Salvador Dali.

This season, Benson is producing works by writers as diverse as the British-born Debbie Tucker Green, whose “Generations” (now in previews) tells stories of South Africa, and the American writer Anne Washburn, whose “10 Out of 12” (opening in May) furthers Washburn’s interest in exploring theatre about theatre. The ideas in these plays fall perfectly in line with Benson’s various enthusiasms, feeding her seemingly never-ending energy and curiosity when it comes to writers, actors, designers, dramaturges, and sound engineers, whose real work to imaginative ends has rarely had a more intelligent champion, let alone compassionate architect.♦


To view the article in the New Yorker, click here.

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