Professor Sullivan has directed more than forty productions on Broadway—outpacing any living director—in addition to scores of productions Off Broadway and at regional theatres throughout the United States. From 1981 to 1997, he served as artistic director for the Seattle Repertory Theatre, where he became known for his subtle, nuanced style as a director. As a result of Professor Sullivan’s patient dedication, the Seattle Rep rose to become a “flagship theatre” in the United States known as a nurturing laboratory for new work. It was within this construct that the Seattle Repertory Theatre received the 1990 Tony Award for Regional Theatre.
Professor Sullivan serves as a key member of the three leading non-profit companies that have theatres in both the Broadway and Off Broadway arenas—Manhattan Theatre Club, Lincoln Center Theatre, and Roundabout Theatre Company. He also serves as resident artist for the Off Broadway-centric New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre, for which he frequently directs must-see summer productions in Central Park. Over the past two decades, he has served in a variety of roles for these companies such as associate artist, teaching artist, associate director, associate artistic director, and interim artistic director.
Professor Sullivan was honored with the 2001 Tony Award for his direction of the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Proof by David Auburn. He has also been nominated for the Tony Award on six other occasions. Productions directed by him have been nominated for more than fifty Tony Awards. In two of those instances when he was personally nominated for a Tony Award, the plays he helped to shape and bring to fruition—Rabbit Hole (2007) by David Lindsay-Abaire and The Heidi Chronicles (1989) by Wendy Wasserstein—went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Professor Sullivan’s work with the play Dinner With Friends (2000) by Donald Margulies assisted in the play being given the Pulitzer Prize. His honors include the George Abbott Lifetime Achievement Award, the Obie Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the NAACP Image Award, the Ovation Award, the Joan Cullman Award for Extraordinary Creativity, and the Julia Hansen Award for Excellence.
In the past few years, Professor Sullivan has demonstrated that he continues to break new ground, as he did in the Shakespeare in the Park production of The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino as Shylock, which later transferred to Broadway (2010). His production of Merchant forced the theatre going public, critics, and scholars, to rethink how we consider the performance of what we now might call anti-Semitic stereotypes. It was a year after this production that Professor Sullivan received the highest honor available to a theatre artist: induction to the Theatre Hall of Fame (2011).