Polly Carl

Polly Carl is the Co-Artistic Director of ArtsEmerson where s/he programs an annual season of international work for the downtown theaters of Emerson College. S/he develops, dramaturgs, and presents an eclectic array of theater from diverse artists from around the globe. Operating from the core belief that theater is for everyone, Carl seeks to use the power of live performance in concert with opportunities for public dialogue to foster civic transformation through the shared experience of art. In addition, as a Distinguished Artist in Residence on the Emerson faculty, s/he has initiated a creative producing curriculum for Emerson College students to fully explore the professional work of ArtsEmerson and HowlRound. Carl is also the Director and co-founder of HowlRound, a knowledge commons by and for the theater community. HowlRound is an online platform as well as an in-person convener of theater practitioners that explores key issues in the field and extends an open invitation for international participation. S/he previously worked as the Producing Artistic Director at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, and as the Director of Artistic Development for Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. S/he holds a PhD in Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society from the University of Minnesota. 



  • Five Years
    On the five-year anniversary of HowlRound , Polly Carl looks back with a grateful eye to the future.
  • The Risk of Shared Leadership
    Polly Carl asks if a shared leadership model can make a dent in the problem of diversity in our institutions.
  • An Interview: Tanya in TV-Land
    Polly Carl interviews playwright Tanya Saracho on how writing for television has affected her work and her life in the theatre.
  • Polly Carl in Conversation with Martha Lavey
    Polly Carl and outgoing artistic director of Steppenwolf Theatre, Martha Lavey, in conversation.


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!
    A huge thank you to everyone who applied. We are opening up the call for critics nationwide to determine our final city.
  • Call for Critics! by Polly Carl
    A call to bring the art of criticism to HowlRound , utilizing respectful dialogue to foster more in-depth conversations about the theatre we work hard to make.

Blognews, trends, insights

  • Carnaval 2015 Opening Remarks
    Lisa Portes, Polly Carl, and José Luis Valenzuela offer opening remarks on Carnaval 2015 at the Theatre School at DePaul University.
  • 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...