Olney’s new artistic director to ‘raise some eyebrows’

Olney Theatre Center’s new artistic director is ready, in his words, “to raise some eyebrows.”

Martin Platt, who began his new role at Olney on May 28, thinks next season’s roster of plays will turn heads — which is exactly what he wants.

(Courtesy of Olney Theater Center) - Image of Martin Platt, artistic director or Olney Theatre Center. (Courtesy of Olney Theater Center. Contact Laura Asendio for re-use: lasendio@rmr.com)

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Platt, 63, former co-director of the New York-based producing company Perry Street Theatricals, hopes for Olney “to have a stronger profile in the D.C./Baltimore theater world,” he said. “I think it’s slipped a bit. Programming has gotten very conservative. I think part of my initiative is to really return Olney to being a real player in that area . . . both with the kinds of plays we like to do [and] the artists we bring down there.”

Olney’s previous artistic director, Jim Petosa, voiced similar desires when he stepped down from his post, citing how the theater’s financial limitations produced less-than-aggressive artistic programming.

Platt says it will be clear that Olney is headed in the right direction when it announces its upcoming 75th anniversary season Saturday.

The Beverly Hills, Calif., native (whose high school classmates included Richard Dreyfuss and Albert Brooks) has bounced all around theaterland. He started in 1971 as founder of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, where he stayed for 18 years as artistic director. Since then, he’s been a globe-trotting theatrical jack-of-all-trades, directing operas in Birmingham, plays in London, Spain and Vienna, and plays and musicals in New York. He’s been a producer all over the world, too: South Africa, the West End, New York and Washington.

Actually, that’s not entirely right — he isn’t a jack of all trades, because he is a terrible actor. According to a classmate of his from Carnegie Mellon University, Platt is “one of the 10 worst actors in the English-speaking world.”

Fair assessment? “I think it was close to accurate,” Platt said.

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