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Hytner, Sir Nicholas (b. 1956)  
 
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Sir Nicholas Hytner, the British-born theater director, is acclaimed for his work on musicals and plays, in London as well as on Broadway. He is perhaps best known for his direction of the blockbuster musical Miss Saigon and a 1992 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, and such plays as The Madness of George III and The History Boys. In addition, he has found success directing films and operas.

In 2003, Hytner was named Artistic Director of London's Royal National Theatre, where he has been associated with such productions as a two-part adaptation of Philip Pullman's fantasy novel trilogy His Dark Materials, the controversial Jerry Springer: The Opera, and the award-winning War Horse, which incorporated elaborate puppetry in its production to tell the story of a British cavalry steed during World War I.

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In an assessment of Hytner's first year as Artistic Director for the National Theatre, critic Nicholas de Jongh wrote in the London Evening Standard, "If you were to look for a single individual who epitomizes the brightest and best of London theatre . . . Nicholas Hytner would be the absolute winner."

Despite being openly gay, Hytner is reluctant to discuss his sexuality publicly. When asked by a writer for the Advocate about the first time he became aware of his sexual orientation, Hytner replied, "I always cringe when I read something like that in the papers."

"I think to myself," he continued, "Shut up and tell us ideas. Tell us something interesting. What I would dearly love is not to ever have to say that I'm gay. The reason I do is that I would be far more humiliated by being thought to have something to hide than I am by saying that I'm gay, which is not humiliating at all. Ultimately, I'd like to talk just about the work."

As far as discussing personal relationships, Hytner says, "I just don't talk about anything like that. Other people are involved, and I don't think it's anybody's business. Let's just say I lead a boring and contented life and leave it at that."

Born Nicholas Robert Hytner on May 7, 1956, in Didsbury, an affluent suburb of south Manchester, he is the eldest of four children. His parents, Benet, a barrister, and Joyce, then a publicist at Granada TV and later a well-known theatrical fundraiser, are of Eastern European Jewish extraction. Hytner has, perhaps evasively, described his upbringing as being that of "a typical Jewish, cultured family."

But his parents' marriage was deeply troubled; in interviews Hytner has called his childhood a "domestic psychodrama." His parents divorced in 1980, and later remarried in 2003.

As a boy, Hytner retreated from the "unpredictable world" of his home life into his imagination. He covered the walls of his bedroom with images of Shakespearean characters and created plays on a toy theater his parents had given him.

Hytner attended Manchester Grammar School, where he sang in the boys' choir and played the flute. He also took advantage of school outings to Stratford-upon-Avon to see productions at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, as well as the opportunity to perform in school plays. In fact, Hytner was cast as Toad in a school production of Toad of Toad Hall, A.A. Milne's adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's classic of children's literature The Wind in the Willows.

"The place that seemed most alive," Hytner once reminisced, "was backstage, the rehearsal, the school play. That's when I felt happiest."

After graduating, he attended University at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he studied English.

While still a student, Hytner acted in several student productions, including co-scripting and performing in a televised production of the 1977 Cambridge Footlights Revue, an annual comic revue by the Footlights Club, a group of writer-performers at the University of Cambridge.

Although an early ambition of Hytner's was to be an actor--"I was a showoff," he confessed--before long he decided that acting was not one of his strong points. "I think I was savvy enough when I went to Cambridge to discover that I was a poor actor," he later admitted.

Instead, he became much more interested in directing. While still at Cambridge, Hytner directed a production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's satirical opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.

"If you can't act, and you can't write, it's the next best thing," Hytner has said of directing. "It gives you the impression of first-degree creativity."

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