STONY BROOK, N.Y., April 5, 2012 – Stony Brook University’s Master of Fine Arts in Theatre may be new, but it has impressive bloodlines thanks to two existing programs at the university’s Southampton Campus.
The new program grew out of the MFA in Writing and Literature and the annual Southampton Writers Conference, which have long attracted award-winning playwrights, actors and directors to the expanding graduate arts campus. Teachers and students in those programs have produced works that found their way to Broadway, Off-Broadway and Lincoln Center.
The new MFA in Theatre adds to that tradition with tracks in playwriting, directing, dramaturgy and film. Students will have the opportunity to study with internationally acclaimed artists in an interdisciplinary, collaborative environment. The program provides advanced training for experienced artists who wish to hone and expand existing skills. The three-year program includes a core curriculum, a specialization (track), lab projects, a culminating MFA performance project, MFA written thesis, and a professional internship.
"We are building a world-class graduate arts campus at Stony Brook Southampton," said Robert Reeves, Professor and Associate Provost of the Stony Brook Southampton Arts Campus, "and this new program represents important progress toward that goal. This is exciting news for Stony Brook University, for the Southampton campus, and for the East End community."
The MFA in Theatre is directed by professional actor, director and educator Nick Mangano, working with a team that includes screenwriter, producer and Emmy Award winning documentarian Annette Handley-Chandler, Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor co-founder Stephen Hamilton, four-time Emmy winning writer, director and producer Mitchell Kriegman, playwright and producer Bill Burford, and Manhattan track coordinator, producer, author and MFA alumna Magdalene Brandeis. Also serving on the MFA faculty is artist, author, playwright and screenwriter Jules Feiffer and award-winning playwrights Marsha Norman and Jon Robin Baitz.
The new graduate program began with successful summer workshops in playwriting, screenwriting, theatre directing and digital filmmaking and joins a vibrant Southampton arts community.
In July 2012, Southampton Arts Summer (the new name for the Southampton Writers Conference) will host the Michael Chekhov Association (MICHA) 2012 International Workshop & Festival, bringing to the Southampton campus more than 60 actors from around the world under the leadership of theatre and film actress Joanna Merlin, the last surviving actor to have studied with Chekhov himself.
In addition, Southampton Arts student and New York Times contributor Bob Morris is developing a new play in Manhattan that was written in the MFA in Writing and Literature program.
“With emphasis on new work, our program offers unparalleled opportunities for students to experiment while studying with the best theatre and film artists in the world,” said Nick Mangano. “I can't think of another program where students can crossover between theatre and film disciplines, and also collaborate with poets, novelists, children’s book authors and visual artists to create and produce innovative work.”
Among the many other successes of the MFA in Writing and Literature and the Southampton Writers Conference:
- The world premiere of Thomas Higgins’s “Wild Animals You Should Know” opened Off-Broadway in a Manhattan Class Company production at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in November 2011, starring Tony Award–winner Alice Ripley and directed by Trip Cullman. Higgins is a longtime member of the Southampton Arts community, and the first draft of “Wild Animals You Should Know” was completed in Jon Robin Baitz’s playwriting workshop at the Southampton Arts Manhattan campus in the spring semester of 2009, before being further developed at the 2009 Southampton Writers Conference in a workshop led by playwright/director Emily Mann and then given a staged reading at the 2009 conference directed by Joe Mantello. http://mcctheater.org/ In his very favorable review in the December 5, 2011 edition of The New Yorker, John Lahr concluded that “`Wild Animals You Should Know’ is a chilling, arch little play that augurs bigger things for its young playwright.”
- The world premiere of “Hand to God” by Robert Askins, which opened at NY’s Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST) on October 27, 2011 and has now returned for an extended run, was developed in Southampton in 2011 by EST, the Writers Conference theatre company in residence, and was presented as a staged reading at the Duke Lecture Hall on the Southampton campus directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel.
- Southampton Arts faculty member Jon Robin Baitz’s “Other Desert Cities” made a splash last year at Lincoln Center and has made a successful transfer to Broadway. The show features Stockard Channing, Stacy Keach, Trip Wyeth, Judith Light, and Rachel Griffiths, and is directed by Southampton Arts community member Joe Mantello.http://lct.org/showMain.htm?id=208
- “Sistas: The Musical,” which debuted at the Midtown International Theatre Festival and opened at Off-Broadway's St. Luke’s Theatre October 23, 2011, was written by Southampton Arts student Dorothy Marcic. http://www.sistasthemusical.com/
- Teaching in the first theatre directing workshops offered in the summer of 2011 were Austin Pendleton; Oscar, Tony and Emmy winner Tony Walton; three-time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall; and Mark Wing-Davey. Other teachers and panelists at the summer conferences in 2011 included Marsha Norman, Emily Mann, Leslie Ayvazian, Adam Bock, and Edward Albee, to name a few. In the fall, Obie Award-winning playwright Annie Baker joined the faculty at the Manhattan campus.