Diane Paulus

Diane Paulus is a theatre and opera director, who directed Waitress the Musical.

Diane attended the Brearley School, studied dance at New York City Ballet and trained in classical piano, before graduating from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in Social Studies. She earned a master’s degree from the Columbia University School of the Arts. With her husband, Randy Weiner, Diane established a small theater troupe in New York City called Project 400 Theatre Group, specialising in the creation of avant-garde musical productions which married classic theatre with modern music. Her first production with the group was a rock version of The Tempest, as well as an R&B version of Phaedra and a hip-hop version of Lohengrin. Diane co-created The Donkey Show, a disco adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which ran off-Broadway from 1999 to 2005.

In May 2008, Diane was was named the artistic director of the American Repertory Theater, in an effort to revitalise their programme. In 2010, she directed directed Il Mondo Della Luna, an opera by Joseph Haydn, in the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, fusing live opera and stargazing using the 180-degree dome with projections courtesy of NASA.

In 2011, she staged a production of The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at the American Repertory Theater, which moved to Broadway in 2012. The production was nominated for 10 awards in the 2012 Tony Awards, winning Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for Audra McDonald.

In 2012, Diane directed a production of Pippin at the American Repertory Theater. She cast a woman, Patina Miller, in the part of Leading Player, originated by Ben Vereen. The production opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway on April 25, 2013. Diane won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, becoming the third woman to win the award after Julie Taymor in 1998 and Susan Stroman in 2001.

Diane became involved with bringing the 2007 film of Waitress by Adrienne Shelly to the stage as a musical in 2012. Diane said: “I loved the quirky tone and the fact that it was filmed with humour and whimsy and had a fairytale like quality to it, but behind all of that were very serious issues and a punch-to-the-gut emotional impact. I saw that character and I thought, I know who that woman is because I know people who go through that. And so I thought this thing of what happens when we lose our sense of self with really wrong things happening, like having an affair with your gynaecologist. Like, let’s just say that’s sort of wrong! But life is messy and that’s what the show is also about.

“It’s a musical, it’s on Broadway, it has a lot of fun songs, but underneath it there’s the subject matter of domestic violence and of this woman who is stuck in this relationship. We know the stats that one in four women in the United States has or will experience some form of sexual violence. In particular, domestic abuse just gets shoved under the carpet and people don’t like to talk about it or think about it. We’re at a moment where I hope this musical, in its own way, can contribute to that conversation.

“When I was in high school, I worked as the “dessert girl” in a restaurant during the summer. I stood behind a counter and was in charge of preparing all the desserts – mostly putting out slices of cake, pie, and fancy cookies. I remember one day my boyfriend at the time (now my husband!) came in and passed me a little piece of paper with “I love you” written on it. I was holding a large platter of cookies. When I saw what he had written, I dropped the entire platter. I was in such a daze, I didn’t know what to do. I just remember a co-worker at the restaurant leaning over and telling me to pick up the cookies and put them back on the plate.”

Selected Previous Credits

American Repertory Theater

  • Jagged Little Pill
  • Prometheus Bound
  • The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess
  • Pippin
  • Witness Uganda
  • Finding Neverland
  • Crossing
  • In The Body of the World
  • Best of Both Worlds
  • Johnny Baseball
  • The Donkey Show
NameDiane Paulus
FromNew York City, New York
TrainedHarvard University