Adrian Hall, 95, the founding artistic director of Trinity Repertory Company, died on February 4, 2023 at his home in Van, Texas. Hall led Trinity Rep from its first production in 1964 through 1989. For the final six years of his tenure at Trinity Rep, he also served as the artistic leader of the Dallas Theater Center in Texas. In 1989, he turned to freelance directing and teaching, which continued to keep him in active in the American theater for decades.
“Adrian Hall was a visionary artist, not only in the way he challenged the aesthetic limits of the stage, but also in the challenging subject matter he produced as artistic director,” current artistic director Curt Columbus said. “With Adrian at the helm of Trinity from the late 1960s onward, the work onstage addressed topics that were rarely discussed in public forums at the time – the persecution of gays and lesbians, the legacy of slavery and its impact on how we deal with race in America, the limits of democracy and freedom, and so much more. His boundary-breaking vision for the theater as a public square is the greatest legacy that he left us, one that we will continue to carry forward.”
In 1963, a group of Rhode Islanders interested in forming a professional regional theater in Providence, recruited Adrian Hall, a New York-based director originally from Texas, to be the artistic leader of the nascent company. By the next year, the theater began performing at Trinity United Methodist Church, located on Broad Street in Providence.
During the two and a half decades under his leadership, Trinity Rep grew and thrived. In 1966, the company received substantial funding from the newly founded National Endowment for the Arts to fund the landmark Project Discovery program, which allowed high school students from all over the state to attend professional live theater for free. This brought a fair amount of attention to the theater, both in the state as well as nationally, and the funding from the NEA also helped to stabilize the theater’s financial health. In 1968, Trinity Rep became the first American theater company to perform at the Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland.
Hall led the efforts to move the company into a larger space. The company purchased and renovated Emery’s Majestic Theater on Washington Street in downtown Providence and in 1973, moved to its present home, the Lederer Theater Center. Later that decade, Hall laid the groundwork for Trinity Rep’s commitment to actor and director training, starting the Trinity Rep Conservatory in 1977. This program would later evolve into the current Brown/Trinity Rep MFA program.
Trinity Rep’s reputation continued to grow, culminating in the company receiving the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater Company in 1981. During the next decade, the theater produced four television productions for PBS, toured India and Syria, and continued to show a strong commitment to the development of new works.
Adrian Hall’s impact is still present at Trinity Rep. His annual production of A Christmas Carol has now been part of Rhode Island’s holiday tradition for more than four decades. Hall’s vision of creating a brand-new production each year with a new cast, director, and design team has led the company to consistently produce one of the most highly attended productions of the show in the country. In addition, Hall developed the Trinity Rep aesthetic with longtime collaborator Eugene Lee, who remains the company’s resident scenic designer. Their approach to design and direction remains an important part of Trinity Rep today and has led the audience to expect the unexpected from the company’s designs, staging, and performances.