BAM Artistic Director David Binder to Step Down in July
Binder, who is 55, has drawn some buzzy work to BAM, which primarily presents shows developed by other companies.
Last year’s pandemic-delayed production of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” which starred James McAvoy and transferred from London, was both a critical and a popular success, becoming the best-selling show in the history of the BAM Harvey Theater. And this month, BAM was the only institution with two shows on The New York Times’s list of things critics are looking forward to this year: the theater critic Jesse Green wrote about anticipating a production of “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window,” with Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan in the starring roles, and the dance critic Gia Kourlas wrote hopefully about BAM’s U.S. premiere of Pina Bausch’s “Água,” a piece created two decades ago in Brazil.
Binder arrived at BAM saying he wanted to bring in new artists — his first New Wave festival there, in 2019, featured only artists who had not previously performed there. Over the course of his tenure, Binder said he will have presented more than 50 debuts of artistic companies as well as solo performers.
Ticket sales during his time have generally exceeded projections; BAM says it is attracting new audiences, and there have been multiple programming highlights: Simon Stone’s “Medea” adaptation, produced by BAM, starring Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale; a new spring music series, curated last year by Hanif Abdurraqib and this year by Solange; and an annual artist residency program.
“Through the pandemic and through the leadership changes, I feel that the team and I at BAM have stayed focused on putting fantastic work on our stages, and when we couldn’t do it on our stages, we did it outdoors or site-specific or virtually. And the work we’ve done has been really successful,” he said. “We always tried to mix it up: We had the National Theater of Korea’s opera of ‘Trojan Women,’ and ‘Kiki and Herb Sleigh’; we had the Lithuanian opera ‘Sun & Sea,’ which won the Golden Lion at Venice; and we also hosted the world premiere of Madonna’s ‘Madame X’ tour.”
In the commercial arena, Binder is best known as the lead producer of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” which won the Tony Award for best musical revival in 2014. Binder said that he would soon announce that “Hedwig” was “finally coming to the West End in a big way.”
Beyond “Hedwig,” Binder is among a handful of commercial producers who have continued to focus on the production of plays, which tend to be riskier than musicals. He says he plans to resume work on his longtime effort to bring the German director Thomas Ostermeier’s production of “An Enemy of the People” to Broadway. (Last fall, Binder brought Ostermeier’s “Hamlet” to BAM; that production was in German, but “An Enemy of the People” would be presented in English.)