Essays, Practice, Opinions

Polly Carl

Polly Carl is the director and editor of HowlRound: A Center for the Theater Commons at Emerson College. Her work at HowlRound is focused on promoting practices for 21st Century theater making based on the core principle that theater is for everyone. She is also part of the ArtsEmerson programming team at Emerson College and is developing new works for the stage in that context. Over fifteen years in professional theater she has focused on developing and producing new plays, working with dozens of playwrights and theater companies from around the country. She spent two years as Director of Artistic Development at Steppenwolf Theatre and served eleven years at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis seven as Producing Artistic Director. She regularly teaches, consults, and mentors. In addition to continuing to make theater, she now devotes significant energy to researching innovative practices for the theater and writing and publishing essays. Her Ph.D. in Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society is from the University of Minnesota.


Journalin-depth stories

  • Interview with Lear deBessonet
    Director Lear deBessonet dazzled audiences and critics with her direction of the Foundry Theatre’s production of Brecht’s "Good Person of Szechwan" first presented at the Ellen Stewart Theater at La MaMa and then remounted last fall at The Public Theater, and the production of The Tempest which launched The Public Theater’s Public Works initiative. In a field that rarely comes to consensus over what makes great theater, deBessonet has us all nodding our heads in agreement. A former major in Political and Social Thought with a focus on Human Rights and Peace Studies, deBessonet’s work strives for expansiveness and inclusivity, while seeking to include elements of the theatricality of church, Mardi Gras, and football.
  • The Beauty of Complexity: Or the Death of the Pure Aesthetic
    We all want to be makers. And the biggest miscalculation of the not-for-profit arts institution in building its infrastructure is its belief that some people make things and some people just administer to that making. It’s been a failure of listening to why people get into theater in the first place.
  • A Conversation with Paula Vogel, Teo Castellanos, and Will Power
    Teo: So we can’t be squeaky clean in everything we do, but I think that what Will said about moving with integrity is the best that we can do and that’s all that we can do.. Just like in our art. We’re not going to please everybody with our work. We’re definitely not going to please every political party or every humanitarian effort, but we can only do our best by weighing our options and choices and really looking at the circumstance.
  • Summer Dreaming
    When you are possessed by a dream, when you are the inhabitant of a dream, you are driven by this, by a kind of heart...


NewCritcriticism & analysis

  • Criticism, Vitriol, and Announcing Our NewCrit Critics
    A couple of months ago we announced that we would add criticism to the HowlRound site. The idea met with both great enthusiasm and deep...
  • Call for Final NewCrit Critic!
    First off, a huge thank you to everyone who applied to write for our NewCrit initiative. We have been impressed by the quality of applicants...
  • Call for Critics! by Polly Carl
    When we started HowlRound a couple of years ago we intentionally avoided reviewing plays. We didn’t want theater artists to wake up in the morning...

Blognews, trends, insights

  • A New Year’s Diet for the Theater
    The deleterious effects of criticism are underscored by mainstream writers such as Ben Brantley and Charles Isherwood in the New York Times, who revel in their power to destroy productions they don't like for reasons that are always political, as well as aesthetic, and always masked by the “objectivity” that power bestows on their work. Against such entrenched practices and stereotypes, critical generosity stands as a refreshing and, I hope, principled alternative.
  • Not Planning to Cross Dress This Time…
    The last time I wore a skirt was in 1987 for Junior Parents Weekend in college. In some moment of self-awareness, seeing myself in full...
  • An Apology
    I had an opportunity to talk to Lily this morning and I know she shares in this apology with me. I believe so strongly in...
  • Video: Culture Coin—Watch, Share, Vote Daily!
    Help co-create Culture Coin! Dear HowlRound reader: We’ve made it to the semi-finals in the ArtsFwd Business Unusual National Challenge ! To move forward to...