Moises Kaufman will help shape UA Theatre’s fall semester

Moises Kaufman will help shape UA Theatre’s fall semester

There’s not a theater kid in the country who doesn’t know the name Moises Kaufman. What you might not know is that he’ll be on the University of Arkansas campus this fall with his Tectonic Theater Project, working with the Theatre Department’s new cohort of MFA students.

“All 23 MFA candidates will work with Tectonic to learn [Kaufman’s] technique of moment work, an expanded notion of devised theater,” says Theatre Department Chairman Michael Riha. “You can use it with a script, but it’s how he developed ‘The Laramie Project’ — lots of research and then the acting company on their feet. It’s sort of an expressive way to maximize the skill set of all the theater artists. It’s very bare bones, very low tech, but a high impact way to connect with storytelling.”

Tectonic will return in October to see what students have developed, Riha says, then Kaufman will be on campus for a week in late November.

If you don’t recognize the name, Kaufman is not only the founder and artistic director of Tectonic Theater Project, he’s a Tony- and Emmy-nominated director and playwright, and a 2015 recipient of the National Medal of Arts.

His play “The Laramie Project” — the story of the anti-gay hate crime that ended the life of Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie — is among the most performed plays in America. And his directing credits on Broadway include the revival of Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song”; the revival of “The Heiress” with Jessica Chastain; and Rajiv Joseph’s Pulitzer Prize finalist “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” with Robin Williams.

Kaufman’s visit is part of Riha’s effort to build connections among theater students, something he found was so important during the isolation of covid. Although designers, directors and actors were in different rooms, Zoom let them take deep dives into various theater topics together, and “it really worked.” So with an entirely new set of MFA students, who will spend their student careers together, “we’re going to make a concerted effort to create a real company atmosphere,” he says. “There will be undergrad projects, student-led projects — more events but with lower stakes.

“Students want the opportunity to work; it doesn’t matter the level. So we’re going to offer more smaller-scale opportunities.”

That being said, University Theatre will still produce a season series of four mainstage productions:

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — According to, “four Athenians run away to the forest only to have Puck the fairy make both of the boys fall in love with the same girl. The four run through the forest pursuing each other while Puck helps his master play a trick on the fairy queen. In the end, Puck reverses the magic, and the two couples reconcile and marry.” Nov. 3-12.

“Witch” — A charming devil arrives in the quiet village of Edmonton to bargain for the souls of its residents in exchange for their darkest wishes, Concord Theatricals capsulizes the plot of this “sharp, subversive fable” by Jen Silverman. Feb. 23-March 3.

“The Prom” — Four eccentric Broadway stars are in desperate need of a new stage, Theatrical Rights Worldwide explains. So when they hear that trouble is brewing around a small-town prom, they know that it’s time to put a spotlight on the issue — and themselves — in the musical by Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin and Matthew Sklar. March 1-10.

Arkansas Moves — A dance concert by The Movement, UA’s dance program. April 5-7.

Theater is changing, Riha concludes, especially academic theater, and asking students to commit to five or six nights of rehearsal for six weeks per show is not ideal.

“We’re trying to find ways to engage them in smaller productions and empower them to make their theater experience their own.”



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Categories: Theater