David Binder, a theater producer best known for a critically acclaimed and commercially successful Broadway production of the punk rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, will become the first artistic director of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
BAM President Katy Clark announced the appointment, which will become effective next January. Binder will succeed Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo, who is retiring in December after 35 years at the Brooklyn institution. Under the leadership of the late Harvey Lichtenstein, BAM was transformed over the last four decades from a local arts presenter to a powerhouse cultural nexus offering established groups like the Royal Shakespeare Company and emergent international companies like Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal – programming exemplified by the Next Wave Festival, which since 1981 has brought theater, dance and music from around the world to the Fort Greene complex.
Later expanding into cinema and cross-genre art forms, BAM has been a significant force in revitalizing downtown Brooklyn, as other institutions and businesses – from headquarters for Theatre for a New Audience and the Mark Morris Dance Group to the Barclays Center – followed suit.
The new title of artistic director is meant to signal BAM’s intention to bring cohesion to its varied enterprises, which include live performances, cinema programs, education and humanities initiatives, visual art events, digital projects and artistic partnerships. He also will have oversight of new BAM spaces under construction.
Binder brings a formidable CV to a job that presents an array of challenges, both in maintaining BAM’s pre-eminence as a presenter and in remaining competitive in New York City. Producing cultural events is enormously expensive, not to mention risky, and will come at a time when the city is adding major new arts venues that will be competing with BAM, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Park Avenue Armory and Carnegie Hall for first-class programming. Lincoln Center recently killed its summer festival.
In addition to being an active and highly regarded producer on and off-Broadway, Binder is Guest Artistic Director of June’s London International Festival of Theatre. He produced the High Line Festival, curated by David Bowie, and the Dutch New Island Festival on New York’s Governors Island, 10 days of site-specific performance, music, theater, and dance from the Netherlands. He co-produced five shows with London’s Donmar Warehouse, and has been a teaching fellow at Princeton University and was on the faculty at the Yale School of Drama for six years.