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. 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.



Journalin-depth stories

  • Your Brain on Creativity
    I’m not sure the “I’m so busy” problem is unique to theater, but I personally find it a maddening part of institutional theater culture. Everyone is simply too busy to find time where those random eureka moments might occur. We rarely just hang out or create the kind of down time for ourselves that make a creative life possible. Have our theaters and their creativity suffered for a lack of REST? Is the business of theater antithetical to its creative soul?
  • Women, Leadership, and Parity: Interview with Julie Crosby
    With all of the conversations about gender parity, I have been thinking a lot about women and leadership and the particular problems that pertain to women at the top. Then I heard news of Julie Crosby’s departure from Women’s Project Theater under a cloak of secrecy and rumors. It felt important to me in this moment of heightened awareness of the role of women in our profession, and amidst the swirling gossip around what happened, to hear from Julie about her work over the last nine years. And so I asked Julie Crosby if she would sit down with me and talk about leadership and gender parity and Women’s Project Theater in the hope of bringing to light the person and her thoughts about these important issues.
  • The Kilroys Were Here: Moving Female Playwrights into Production
    On June 11, 2014, The Kilroys, an independent Los Angeles-based advocacy group of female playwrights and producers, released THE LIST, the results of the first annual industry survey of excellent new plays by female-identified playwrights nominated by 127 industry representatives. THE LIST is intended as a tool for producers committed to ending the systemic underrepresentation of female voices in the American theater. A few days ago, I had a chance to sit down with four of the Kilroys—Joy Meads, Carla Ching, Annah Feinberg, and Kelly Miller—to talk about how THE LIST was generated and responses since it was released.
  • The Anxiety of Generosity and the Abundance of the Commons
    What if we lead with an ethical frame? What if instead of stockpiling civic goods, we substitute ethics for self-interest? We must clarify the limits of the market in the theater—what belongs to the self-interested “I” of the market and what belongs to all of us. I insist we place theater in that realm of civic goods that belong to us all. This will require reimagining our definition of a theater economy, and taking a moral stand when corruption of that civic good is threatened.


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...