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. 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, writes, consults, and mentors. In addition to continuing to develop and produce new plays, she now devotes significant energy to researching innovative practices for the theater. Her PhD in Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society is from the University of Minnesota.





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 skepticism. We expected this. When we originally discussed this idea with a large group of advisors, a warm and friendly meeting turned tense. Just the...
  • 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 from Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, and San Francisco, and look forward to finalizing our first cohort. However, we received no applications from Boston. As...
  • 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 to a bad review. And two years later, we still don’t want to review plays. But we do want to foster more in-depth dialogue about...

Blognews, trends, insights

  • The Trans Artistic Body
    I’m at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the women’s restroom washing my hands. A woman walks in, “I must be in the wrong place,” she says and walks out. Then she walks back in, “No, you’re in the wrong place,” she says, seething with confidence. I walk out, not sure of my place.
  • 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 makeup and girl clothes, I knew I had to address the dissonance between the expectations of my gender and who I felt myself to be...
  • 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 the work of HowlRound because I long for open and transparent conversation for the theater. So often we do the hard work behind closed doors...