Josh Hecht brings extensive experience as a director and educator to his new role as artistic director at Profile Theatre.Courtesy of Profile Theatre 

Josh Hecht, 38, the new artistic director at Profile Theatre, is rich with ideas about how to shape and nurture the Portland company. Theater, he believes, should awaken audience members to life, its mysteries and its strength as a community experience.

Profile Theatre, founded in 1997 by Jane Unger, is special in that it offers the work of a single playwright per season. Profile’s featured playwright this season is right up Hecht’s alley: At just 40, with a Pulitzer Prize under her belt, Philadelphia native Quiara Alegria Hudes is one of the young writers whom Hecht champions fervently, and finds perfect for Profile.

“I find her plays profoundly optimistic … without ignoring the complicated often painful realities of our lives,” says Hecht. “She’s an accomplished writer, yet she’s also someone for whom the bulk of her career lies ahead.”

Hudes, originally a musician before becoming a writer, won the 2012 Pulitzer for “Water by the Spoonful,” which Hecht will direct later this season in rotating repertory with its sequel, “The Happiest Song Plays Last.” Hudes’ main subject here focuses on three generations of a Puerto Rican family who served in the military, including a mother who was a nurse in Vietnam.

Although Hecht has commissioned works by established writers such as Terrence McNally, he is best known for his development of young playwrights, including Lucy Thurber, David Adjmi (whose work has been presented by Portland’s Boom Arts), Itmar Moses (whose work has been presented by Portland Center Stage) and Adam Bock (whose work has been presented by Portland Center Stage and Theatre Vertigo).

Hecht came to Profile in February after serving as a senior staff member at two prominent New York companies, MCC Theater and WET Productions, and as a freelance director whose work received a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience.

He’s also been on the drama faculties of the School of Drama at The New School and Fordham University, in addition to guest stints at The Juilliard School, New York University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Minnesota and elsewhere.

Before joining Profile, Hecht was hungry for attachment to a single theater. “I had been freelancing eight or nine years, and really missed working at a theater company and having an ongoing dialogue with an audience.” He sees that already happening in Portland, which he first visited and fell in love with during the 2011 Just Add Water playwrights festival at Portland Center Stage.

His thoughts on theater inevitably lean toward humanism.

“I keep thinking how this art form might help us practice our collective empathy, deepen our compassion and help us know ourselves in different ways,” he said.

“I think we are hungry for communal experiences,” he said on stage at Artists Repertory Theatre, which provides space for Profile. “The thing that the theater offers, that this space offers, is that we’re all in this room together, and for a brief moment we are able to transcend the isolation of being alive.”


Profile Theatre’s 2017 Quiara Alegria Hudes season

Up next: “26 Miles,” a road trip centering on an estranged mother and teenage daughter. The New York Times called the play “charming, spunky and ultimately heart-rending.” 

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, June 15-July 2

Where: Artists Repertory Theatre, Morrison Stage, 1515 S.W. Morrison St.

Tickets: $20-$36, or 503-242-0080

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