Emily Mann: Rebel Artist of the American Theater is the story of a remarkable American playwright, director, and artistic director. It is the story of a woman who defied the American theater's sexism, a traumatic assault, and illness to create unique documentary plays and to lead the McCarter Theatre Center, for thirty seasons, to a place of national recognition.
The book traces and describes Emily Mann's family life; her coming-of-age in Chicago during the exuberant, rebellious, and often violent 1960s; how sexual violence touched her personally; and how she fell in love with theater and began learning her craft at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while a student at Radcliffe.
Mann's evolution as a professional director and playwright is explored, first at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, where she received an MFA from the University of Minnesota, then on and off Broadway and at regional theaters. Mann's leadership of the McCarter is examined, along with her battles to overcome multiple sclerosis and to conquer—personally and artistically—the memories of the violence she experienced when a teenager.
Finally, the book discusses her retirement from the McCarter, while amplifying her ongoing journey as a theater artist of sensitivity and originality.
Mann's many awards include the 2015 Margo Jones Award, the 2019 Visionary Leadership Award from Theatre Communications Group, and the 2020 Lilly Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2019, she was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater.
Alexis Greene is the author and editor of numerous books about theater, including The Lion King: Pride Rock on Broadway, written with Julie Taymor, and the biography Lucille Lortel: The Queen of Off Broadway. In addition to writing and editing books about women and theater, Greene's career spans acting, theater criticism, and teaching (she holds a PhD from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York). Born and raised in New York City, Greene lives part-time in Gotham and part-time upstate in Walton, New York, with her husband, Dr. Gordon R. Hough.
"Alexis Greene’s authoritative biography of playwright/director Emily Mann narrates the life and artistic story of one of the most important people in contemporary American theatre since the Civil Rights era. Mann, the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, was the first woman to direct on the stage of the Minneapolis’s Guthrie Theatre, the first to become the artistic director of Princeton, NJ’s, McCarter Theatre, and the first to write plays that became known as “theatre of testimony.” The book chronicles her career in the American theatre at a historical moment when movements for racial, gender, and social justice, in Mann’s vision, gave it purpose and energy.
EMILY MANN also recounts Mann’s artistic determination and decisions in ways that illuminate all the important micro choices that allowed her to mount theatre productions that spoke into their cultural moment. Greene’s painstaking research allows her to recreate Mann’s landmark productions, many of which became central to American theatre history.
Most of all, EMILY MANN elegantly traces how Emily Mann became herself, and how her personal and political engagements with immigration, civil rights, anti-Semitism, feminism, and social justice became the palimpsest for her vital, indelible, inspiring artistic, professional, and personal life" —Jill Dolan, Annan Professor of English and Theatre, Princeton University