Joe Brancato Starts Fifth Decade as Penguin Rep Artistic Director

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Joe Brancato was a high school English and drama teacher in 1977 when he peered into an abandoned 1880's hay barn in Stony Point, New York, and visualized his future: a theatre of his own.

40 years later, Penguin Rep - the theatre Brancato started -- has grown from a summer theatre to become one of the Hudson Valley's most influential nonprofit cultural institutions, reaching tens of thousands of theatergoers each year at its home, in New York City and beyond - with its work moving to Off Broadway and to stages across the country and around the world.

And come this spring when the Bronx-born Brancato begins his fifth decade at Penguin, he is widely believed to be the longest-serving founding artistic director in the U.S. today!

Under Brancato's dynamic leadership, Penguin has presented more than 150 productions - over 100 directed by Brancato himself -- including premieres by Warren Leight, Arthur Laurents, James Sherman, Elizabeth Swados, Lee Blessing, William Mastrosimone, Tom Dudzick, Lainie Robertson and Ronald Harwood.

He commissioned and directed the world premiere of Allan Knee's "The Man Who Was Peter Pan," which was the basis for the film and Broadway musical "Finding Neverland."

Brancato's work as a director outside of Penguin is prolific, with credits at venerable companies including The Alley, Cleveland Play House, George Street Playhouse, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Seattle Rep, Westport Playhouse, and Williamstown Theatre Festival.

He recently directed Angelo Parra's "The Devil's Music: The Life & Blues of Bessie Smith" in its West Coast premiere at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, California, where the production was selected as a Los Angeles Times "Critic's Pick" and its run extended.

"The Devil's Music" was conceived and originally staged at Penguin, Brancato's artistic home, in 2000, and since that time he has reprised his direction Off Broadway, in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, and Canada.

The day after Brancato returned home from California, he began rehearsals at Primary Stages for "Daniel's Husband," Michael McKeever's Carbonell Award- winning drama, which he previously staged at Penguin last year. "Daniel's Husband" begins previews March 22, opens April 7 and runs through April 28 at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

During Penguin's 2017 season - the theatre's 40th - Brancato will re-visit his celebrated staging of Lee Blessing's "Cobb," which he initially directed in 1995 and subsequently directed in 2000. The latter presentation was produced by Kevin Spacey and Melting Pot Theatre Company at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, and garnered a Drama Desk Award for Best Ensemble in 2001.

It is expected that the remainder of Penguin's 2017 season will be announced on March 25, 2017.

Photo Credit: Dorice A. Madronero

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