John Clinton Eisner Retires After 27 Years as The Lark’s Artistic Director
Eisner founded the Off-Broadway company dedicated to amplifying the voices of playwrights.
The Lark Founder John Clinton Eisner is retiring after 27 years as the artistic director of the international play development laboratory. His replacement, selected last month, will be announced in March.
During Eisner’s tenure, The Lark established new initiatives and programs to support the development of new plays and the playwrights who author them. The company, founded in 1994 as a counterpoint to a commodity-based culture of theatre, currently prioritizes voices that have been historically under-resourced and marginalized through fellowships that support artists at all stages of their careers, including the Apothetae and Lark Playwriting Fellowship and Initiative, which supports Disabled playwrights, the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship, which supports playwrights of color aged 30 and under, and the Venturous Fellowship, supporting risk-taking plays.
“It is a critical moment of inflection both inside and outside The Lark, and we’ve used the time during the pandemic to hold space for our affiliated artists and align our mission and values with our plans for the future,” said Eisner. “The search committee, composed of board members, staff, and artists, completed the process in January 2021, and I am delighted and energized by their choice. What we imagined in soft focus a year ago has become tangible reality through the collaborative action of a group of stakeholders who care deeply about The Lark and its community. This is a consequential moment of passage for the organization and the artists we serve.”
“John Eisner created and guided the Lark to become a vanguard organization, empowering playwrights when our plays were in danger of being over-developed by theatres and facilitating international exchange when few other organizations supported this work,” added Lark board member and playwright David Henry Hwang. “Now, The Lark is transforming to meet the needs of today, by welcoming exciting new leadership which will help guide post-pandemic theatre to greater artistic excellence through equity, diversity, and inclusion. We are deeply grateful to John for his service, vision, and hard work, and wish him well on his next creative chapter. He remains an inspiration to us all.”
Trained as an actor, Eisner began his transition to directing and producing through his experiences at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference, the National Theatre of the Deaf, the Denver Center Theatre Company, and Williamstown Theatre Festival. He worked in casting for Johnson-Liff Casting Associates, ticket sales at the Roundabout’s Criterion Center box office, and as managing director and associate artistic director at Rhode Island’s Colonial Theatre, where he co-founded Westerly Shakespeare in the Park.
He worked with hundreds of writers on new plays at The Lark, including Hwang, Kristoffer Diaz, Katori Hall, Rajiv Joseph, Arthur Kopit, Koffi Kwahule, Javier Malpica, Theresa Rebeck, Saviana Stanescu, Sinan Unel, Tracey Scott Wilson, and Karen Zacarías. He served on the boards of the National Theatre Conference and the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America and acted as advisor for CEC Artslink, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Theatre Development Fund, Theatre Communications Group, National New Play Network, TheatreForum Magazine, Transport Group, and the Lucille Lortel Awards Committee.