‘It was a crusade’: Karen Brooks Hopkins reflects on her BAM tenure

The other lasting memory, she said, was of John Turturro playing Hamm in a wheelchair, with Max Casella as Clov, in the “relentless and unforgiving” play “Endgame.”

One night, she recalls, the wheelchair collapsed, sending Turturro flying through the air. “He never broke character, even when the stagehands came to get him and the wheelchair off the floor,” Hopkins said. “The audience went crazy that night.”

Lichtenstein discovered the work of American director Robert Wilson, who was making a name for himself in Europe, around the time he took over as director of the Academy in 1967. “Harvey, in his most avant-garde heart, loved Robert Wilson and felt he was on a divine mission to ensure Bob’s large-scale work was seen in the United States,” Hopkins said. “There was hardly anyone in the audience for early plays like ‘Deafman Glance’,” she said. “Or they would go home, do laundry, come back; the songs went on for hours!

In 1984, Lichtenstein told his team they needed to raise $300,000 to pitch a collaboration by Wilson with composer Philip Glass, titled “Einstein on the Beach.” Hopkins agreed. “I don’t know how, but we’ll do it,” she said.

“Einstein” was a success. “After that, the legend only grew and grew,” she said; the show returned to the Academy in 1992 and again in 2012. “Bob works in a very reversed way, not traditionally theatrical and very stylized,” Hopkins said. “But it comes from the gut and although the pieces may seem cold, they are not. The warmth comes from the ice around it; it is an artistic journey.

She added that she particularly enjoyed her 2014 adaptation of Soviet writer Daniil Kharms’ “The Old Woman” starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe. “It was devastating, about someone starving, and you felt it,” she said.

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