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Brody Named New Provost for the Arts

By Jennifer Lane
Associate News Editor

Professor Alan Brody, head of the humanities department's music and theater arts section, was named as the second-ever associate arts provost last Friday.

Brody replaces Professor of Music Ellen T. Harris, who held the post for six years and is stepping down to concentrate on writing a book about George Frederic Handel.

Harris will continue to serve as associate arts provost in a part-time capacity until Brody returns from sabbatical at Oxford University's Balliol College in January, said Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Philip S. Khoury, who headed the search committee. Brody was unavailable for comment.

A senior administration official, the associate provost for the arts is responsible for overseeing programs in all fields of the arts at the Institute. He also serves on the academic council, advising the provost and president on non-academic activities related to the arts, and is responsible for resource development for the arts.

Brody was chosen from over 270 applicants because he, "has great leadership qualities and a vision of how important arts are at the Institute, especially in light of all of the federal funding cuts in the arts," Khoury said.

Because of those cutbacks, "it is possible that universities will have to compensate and become centers for artistic creation," Khoury said. The committee felt Brody was aware of the situation, and is ready to act on it.

In addition, Brody is extremely committed to affirmative action, Khoury said. This was an important issue for the committee because the department has had difficulty recruiting outstanding minority faculty members. Brody has realized this goal of recruiting in the music and theater arts section, and could now feasibly make improvements in the entire department, Khoury said.

Brody, who is currently working on a new play, will continue with MIT student theatrical ventures. In recent years, he has directed several Dramashop and other student productions.

Visual arts remains one focus

The committee had been looking for a creative artist to fill the position. Harris had been more of a historian, and the committee wanted to see what a creative artist could do with the position, Khoury said. Brody, an outstanding playwright, fulfilled this criteria exceptionally well.

Khoury said that the search committee had been looking for someone who was deeply committed to all areas of the arts, possessed excellent administrative skills, and had the potential to become a good fund-raiser.

While assessing applicants to the position, the committee "continually urged Brody to apply," Khoury said. Initially, however, Brody declined, saying that he had overwhelming commitments within his department, Khoury said.

The search committee also looked for candidates outside of the Institute, but couldn't find anyone with all of the qualities they desired, and kept returning to Brody, Khoury said.

Brody sat through many meetings and evaluations with the rest of the committee, and eventually decided that he would become a candidate. At that point, "the committee was very excited," Khoury said.

As a playwright, Brody has won numerous awards, most recently Best New American Play of 1995 by Live Oaks Theater, Austin, Texas, for The Housewives of Manheim.

Brody holds undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees from Columbia University and has performed with the Boston Pops.

Brody's fields of interest also include: psychophysical studies in performance; Elizabethan, Jacobean, and folk drama; American theater history; and performance theory in film and theater.