Force Behind the Festival Is a Driven Man--Literally


One thing you can say about L.A. Festival Director Peter Sellars --he is certainly driven.

Part of the drive has to do with keeping up with a frantic schedule: He is booked for the next three years.

He is also driven for another reason. Sellars doesn’t drive a car or own a license. RTD bus drivers or a member of the festival staff are driving Sellars around the city as he organizes and promotes the festival.


“I just never learned to drive,” said Sellars. “At first it was an environmental statement. But I think I’m going to have to learn to do it in this city.”

His productions have been as acclaimed as they are controversial. Much of the hubbub occurred over his work on operas in the Mozart-Da Ponte cycle, which he set in modern times. He has also dabbled in modern operas. His production of John Adams’ and Alice Goodman “Nixon in China” has already been seen in Houston, Washington D.C. and Brooklyn, and will be one of the highlights of the L.A. Festival.

The 32-year-old Sellars has directed more than 100 productions in large and small theaters all over the world. He has come a long way from the Lovelace Marionette Theatre in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa., where he worked as a 10-year-old apprentice.

He graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover in 1975, and from Harvard University.

In 1983, Sellars was one of the recipients of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and was also made artistic director of the Boston Shakespeare Co. He denies reports that his costly productions financially crippled the company.

“They were going to close anyway,” he said. “I put $120,000 of my own money into that venture, it was so bad off.”

He was then made director of the Kennedy Center’s American National Theatre in Washington, D.C, in 1984, where he was also attacked for “Those charges are insanely exaggerated,” he said. “There are shows that lose money. That’s what shows do. Harold Prince has lost money.”