One week after Robert Greer graduated from MIT, he headed to Harvard Square for a roast beef sandwich, stopping along the way at a bookstore for something to read during lunch. He chose a collection of one-act plays by August Strindberg.
“After I ate the sandwich, I stayed four and a half hours reading and drinking coffee,” he says. “When I finished the book, I slammed my fist on the table and said, ‘I’m going to become a director.’”
Now, Greer is artistic director of the August Strindberg Repertory Theatre, the resident company of the Gene Frankel Theatre in New York City’s East Village, where his Strindberg productions have been widely applauded. The New York Times called Easter “an admirable undertaking,” and the Huffington Post called Mr. Bengt’s Wife “an answer to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.” Greer has directed English-language and world premieres of leading Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian playwrights for 25 years.
“What drew me to the theater was August Strindberg,” he says. “The man was brutally honest. Maybe he wasn’t the nicest man in the world, but he just couldn’t tell a lie. His truth and integrity definitely were what attracted me.”
A director, producer, singer, dancer, and translator, Greer graduated from MIT in 1975 with a degree in music, although he had started out in the School of Engineering: “I went to MIT also to pursue electrical engineering, because my parents didn’t want me to study only music.” After graduation, he sang with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, and he has sung at Boston’s Symphony Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall.
He worked toward a master’s in directing at Emerson College, and he later pursued a PhD in theater at the City University of New York, where he has taught for 36 years. He speaks Swedish and Norwegian, translates Danish, and knows classical Greek.
Greer says his MIT education served him well. “MIT really allowed me in my career to use all of my humanities capacities—and even my computer skills,” he says. “In the theater, I’m often able to work with the audio and video technicians and the lighting and sound designers on the computers.”
A dance aficionado, Greer often attends performances of the New York City Ballet and takes ballet classes himself. He loves to read and has absorbed much of Strindberg’s 72-volume complete works. He lives in Times Square and enjoys the walk to the restaurants on 9th Avenue or 32nd Street, where he loves sampling Thai, Balinese, and Korean cuisines.