A director and theoretician of performance, Herbert Blau (born 1926) is Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood Professor in the Humanities at the University of Washington. As co-founder (with Jules Irving) of The Actor's Workshop in San Francisco (1952–1965) and co-director of the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center in New York (1965–67), Blau introduced American audiences to avant-garde drama in some of the country's first productions of Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, and Harold Pinter including the 1957 performance of Beckett's Waiting for Godot at California's San Quentin State Prison.
In 1971, after three years as a dean and provost at the newly formed California Institute of the Arts, Blau formed the experimental group KRAKEN, where he continued presenting challenging productions for another decade. The two books that emerged from that work—Take Up the Bodies: Theater at the Vanishing Point (University of Illinois Press, 1982) and Blooded Thought: Occasions of Theater (Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1982)—received the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. Blau's most recent book is The Dubious Spectacle: Extremities of Theater (University of Minnesota Press, 2002). His first is The Impossible Theater: A Manifesto (Macmillan Company, 1964). In addition to the theater, Blau has taken up the subjects of literature, visual arts, fashion, postmodern culture and politics.
California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) conferred an honorary Doctor of Arts degree to Blau in May 2008. Blau was CalArts' first provost and played a leading role in shaping its radical educational model.
He was married to actress Beatrice Manley, who died in 2002. Their son is film professor Dick Blau.