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Waitress director Diane Paulus: ‘Theatre is transformative and the world needs it now more than ever’

Waitress director Diane Paulus. Photo: Susan Lapides Waitress director Diane Paulus. Photo: Susan Lapides
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Tony award-winning director Diane Paulus – whose production of Waitress comes to the West End next month – has claimed a world in turmoil needs theatre “now more than ever”.

She said she no longer questions whether funding theatre can be justified against a backdrop of famine and other world issues, adding the theatre offers a “transformative experience”.

Paulus, who won a Tony for her revival of Pippin in 2013, told The Stage: “As a theatre artist, producer and artistic director of theatre I feel I spend so much time obsessing on how I will justify giving money to the arts when there is famine and cancer.”

But she added: “The past few years I have not had that crisis of what is important enter my brain, as I know in my gut we need the theatre now more than ever. We need to come together in a space… and sit side by side with strangers, and have a transformative experience in a space, about a story that is not our own.”

She also said people have become “desensitised” to important issues and described reading negative news stories as “numbing”.

She described musicals as a “unique way to get at tough issues”.

“My next passion project is to do a musical about climate change, as I feel if I can crack how to get climate change into the consciousness in way that it’s not just another depressing article… there is a lot of room for transformation,” she said.

Paulus is working with singer and songwriter Sara Bareilles on Waitress, having worked with Gary Barlow on Finding Neverland.

She said musicians who end up working in theatre from a pop background make the industry “a richer, broader and more diverse place”.

Paulus also said a transfer of her production of Pippin was possible, following the opening of a production in Tokyo this summer.