Arthur Yorinks has written and directed for opera, theater, dance, film, and radio and is the author of over thirty-five acclaimed and award-winning books, including Hey, Al, a children’s book, which earned the Caldecott Medal in 1987. In addition to his literary career, he is considered one of the leading figures in the reinvention of audio theater.
Born on Long Island, New York, Yorinks, from the age of 6 studied to be a classical pianist under former Juilliard professor Robert Bedford. At 17, veering from a potential profession as a classical musician, and moving to New York City, Yorinks began his nearly five decades-long work in the literary and performing arts. His wide-ranging career is known for unique collaborations among a broad spectrum of celebrated artists—from Andre Serban and Richard Foreman to Bill Irwin and Maurice Sendak to legendary filmmaker Michael Powell among many others.
In the field of opera, Yorinks was Philip Glass’s librettist for the operas The Juniper Tree and The Fall of the House of Usher, both of which have been performed all over the world. In theater, Yorinks has written and directed numerous stage plays at The Kennedy Center, the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York and other theaters.
In the 1990's, Yorinks collaborated with Maurice Sendak to form The Night Kitchen Theater. For nearly ten years, they developed, created, and produced compelling work culminating in a new production of Hans Krasa's opera, Brundibar, with an English libretto by Tony Kushner.
In the field of dance, Yorinks helped create a full-length dance/theater piece entitled A Selection with the renowned dance company Pilobolus.
Among his many published works for adults and children, his writings for children have been hailed as “one of the most distinctive prose styles in children’s literature.” Through his over forty years of picture-book making, he has teamed up with many famed illustrators including William Steig, Sergio Ruzzier, Mort Drucker, David Small, Richard Egielski, and Maurice Sendak. His book, Mommy?, was a New York Times bestseller. Making Scents, his new graphic novel, was published in June 2017. Presto and Zesto in Limboland, his collaboration with Maurice Sendak, was published in September, 2018.
Bringing all his talents to the fore and compelled by the use of sound in the theater, Yorinks has, for over twenty-five years, experimented with the relationship between audio and live performance. He is at the forefront of a quest to redefine audio theater and create and produce what he has coined A New Theater of Sound for the 21st century—theatrical work in which the core of the dramatic narrative comes primarily from the use of sound—as both a live experience and a recorded and broadcast medium.
He has written and directed over 40 original audio plays performed live in several series he established at The Kennedy Center, The Henry Street Playhouse, The Jacob Burns Film Center, and The New Victory Theater in New York City as well as other venues across the country. His audio work has been broadcast nationwide on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio and on New York Public Radio.
Yorinks has directed the radio works of Tom Stoppard, adapted and directed for radio Garson Kanin's The Rat Race, Kafka's The Metamorphosis, Gogol's The Portrait, Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and many other works of literature. His multimedia audio theater work, The Invisible Man, was commissioned by WNYC Radio and premiered at the opening of The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in New York. In 2012, Yorinks wrote an original audio play adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. The play, starring Phylicia Rashad and Roslyn Ruff, was performed live in New York City and was directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Yorinks directed the radio broadcast, which premiered on September 14, 2012. A live version of the play recently re-opened the historic Billie Holiday Theater in Brooklyn, NY. Yorinks's three and a half hour audio play, Dubliners: an audio play suite, based on the work of James Joyce, premiered to great acclaim in June 2014.
Exploiting his unparalleled vision and talent in the field of theatrical audio programming, Yorinks founded Airwayv, a company devoted to creating and producing original audio content. Its initial offerings were an edgy episodic comedy series - Taking Care of Paul - as well as two works from Yorinks's audio play cycle American Song, in which Yorinks wrote 13 dramatic audio plays covering the landscape of America from the 1900’s to the present. Developed with Jim Simpson and The Flea Theater, along with the help of Bruce Fagin, American Song has included the talents of Sigourney Weaver, Frances McDormand, Peter Gerety, Reg E. Cathey, Linda Powell, Danny Burstein, Rebecca Luker, Francis Jue, Jay O. Sanders, Lois Smith, Adam Driver, Maryann Plunkett, Annette O’Toole, David Hyde Pierce, Brandon Dirden, Jennifer Van Dyck, Mandi Masden, Steve Mellor, Stephen deRosa, Dana Ivey, Karen Ziemba, Aedin Moloney, Catherine Russell, and many others.
Yorinks recently completed a commission from The Maurice Sendak Foundation to adapt Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are for the stage. The New Victory Theater will produce the world premiere in the fall of 2020. His new theater work, The Fall of the House of Usher, was recently in residence at MassMoCA. Yorinks’s new book, One Mean Ant, will be published in February, 2020.
Arthur Yorinks presently continues to write and direct for the theater in addition to pursuing his career as an author.