Erik Ehn leaving CalArts to head playwriting program at Brown


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Erik Ehn, the dean of the School of Theater at California Institute of the Arts, is leaving his position to head the graduate playwriting program at Brown University.

‘He did a good job, but the position went against his nature. He truly is a writer at heart,’ CalArts President Steven Lavine told Culture Monster today. ‘I asked him if we could do anything to make him stay. In the end, he just received the perfect job offer from Brown.’


Ehn is currently traveling and could not be reached for comment. He will leave CalArts on July 1 and will begin his professorship at Brown at the start of the coming semester.

CalArts has asked two faculty members from the theater school -- Leslie Tamaribuchi and Ellen McCartney -- to serve as acting co-deans for the next academic year while the school launches a formal search for a replacement. The theater school currently has 55 faculty members plus additional instructors and technical staff.

Prior to serving as dean for three years, Ehn directed CalArts’ playwriting program with Suzan-Lori Parks. An alumnus of the Yale School of Drama, he also has served as literary manager for Berkeley Repertory Theatre and has held teaching positions at the University of Iowa, UC San Diego, the University of San Francisco and Princeton.

An active playwright, Ehn is best known for ‘The Saint Plays,’ an ongoing cycle of short plays about the lives of the Catholic saints. His writing tends to be poetically abstract and is known to make quite a few demands on viewers. When his play ‘Chokecherry’ was produced at the Ivy Substation in Culver City in 2000, the Times reviewer wrote: ‘In a world of timid wordfolk, playwright Erik Ehn keeps his radio tuned to the unruly language of the night sky.’

In a Times interview in 2006, Ehn said: ‘I believe strongly that the world needs to change radically in the next few years, and that theater will be a part of that change. I can feel it like a person with a broken leg can feel the rain coming, that this need for coalescing is in the air. Whatever causes that coalescence is going to be what we call theater next.’

-- David Ng

Photo: Erik Ehn. Courtesy: California Institute of the Arts