Marsha Norman to Step Down as Co-Director of Juilliard's Playwrights Program
Posted by: Official_Press_Release 05:33 pm EDT 10/17/19

Marsha Norman to Step Down as Co-Director of Juilliard’s
Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program
at the End of the 2019-20 Academic Year

Tanya Barfield to Join David Lindsay-Abaire as the New Co-Director
of the Program Beginning Fall 2020
Playwrights Marsha Norman and Tanya Barfield
Marsha Norman (photo by Gregory Costanzo)
Tanya Barfield (photo by Bjorg Magnea)

Evan Yionoulis, Richard Rodgers Director of Juilliard’s Drama Division, announced today that Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman will step down as co-director of Juilliard’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

Playwright and Juilliard alumna Tanya Barfield will succeed Norman and will be joining Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire as the co-director of the playwrights program beginning fall 2020.

“We’re grateful for Marsha’s 25-year tenure, which has built this program into an incredible incubator for playwriting talent. Her generosity and mentorship have shaped a generation of writers, and we celebrate her remarkable legacy,” Yionoulis said. “We’re delighted that Tanya and David, both acclaimed playwrights who studied with Marsha at Juilliard, will continue to inspire and challenge our students to tell the diverse stories that only they can tell, stories that speak to the times with clarity and boldness.”

“Teaching with David, and Christopher Durang before David, has been one of the great joys of my career,” Marsha Norman said. “We have not ‘taught’ playwriting but rather listened to plays, talked about plays, told the writers what working playwrights go through, and gotten them ready for the critical decisions and collaborations that will make the difference in their careers as artists. I’m thrilled that Tanya will succeed me as co-director with David. She was one of my favorites at Juilliard. She was my assistant on the book for the musical, The Color Purple, and she is one of the most generous, thoughtful, and funny people I know. (And that’s exactly what I look for in humans.)”

“I’m thrilled to join David as co-director of the playwrights program next fall,” Barfield said. “Having had the honor of studying with Marsha as well as serving as Juilliard’s literary manager, I am deeply connected to the program. It’s a place to exchange ideas, teach and learn writing—and also it’s a return home.”

This season, Juilliard Drama is presenting Tanya Barfield’s play, Bright Half Life, directed by faculty member and alumna Rebecca Guy, November 6-10, in the Stephanie P. McClelland Drama Theater. The play features Group 49 acting students in their fourth and final year in the program.

Over the 25 years with Marsha Norman’s leadership, alumni of the playwrights program have garnered considerable recognition, including productions, commissions, publications, and awards, among them, Pulitzers for Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living (2018), David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole (2007), and David Auburn’s Proof (2001). So-called MacArthur “genius” grants have been awarded to Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (2016) and Samuel D. Hunter (2014), and Katori Hall received an Olivier Award (2010).

Upcoming and recently produced work by playwriting alumni includes Noah Haidle’s Birthday Candles, starring Debra Messing, which will be presented on Broadway by the Roundabout Theater Company in 2020; Adam Rapp’s The Sound Inside, starring Mary-Louise Parker, which is running on Broadway at Studio 54; and, Off-Broadway, Donja R. Love’s one in two, with the New Group, which opens in November, and second-year fellow Eboni Booth’s Paris, which opens in 2020 at Atlantic Theater Company.

Juilliard playwriting alumni have also worked extensively in television and film. TV show creators include Beau Willimon (The First, House of Cards), Carly Mensch (GLOW), Liz Meriwether (New Girl, Bless This Mess, Single Parents), Katori Hall (P Valley), Marco Ramirez (The Twilight Zone), Ron Fitzgerald (Perry Mason), Bathsheba Doran (Traitors), Alexandra Cunningham (Dirty John), and Jessica Goldberg (Away, Suspicion, The Path). Recent films by Juilliard playwriting alumni include J.C. Lee’s Luce, Sofia Alvarez’s All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and the upcoming P.S. I Still Love You, and Beau Willimon’s Mary Queen of Scots.
About Tanya Barfield
Tanya Barfield’s play Bright Half Life has been seen at multiple theaters around the country since premiering at WP Theater Off-Broadway; it also received a Lambda Literary Award. Her play The Call premiered as a co-production between Playwrights Horizons and Primary Stages. It was the first play that Tanya wrote after an absence from theater in which she took time off to raise two children.

In 2016, the Profile Theatre devoted its entire season to Barfield’s work. Previously, Tanya's play, Blue Door, was produced by Playwrights Horizons, South Coast Repertory, Seattle Repertory and Berkeley Repertory.

Barfield's play Of Equal Measure was performed at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles and nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Other work includes Chat (New Dramatists’ Playtime Festival) and The Quick (New York Stage & Film). Short plays include Medallion (co-writer, Women’s Project/Antigone Project), Foul Play (Royal Court Theatre, Cultural Center of Brazil), The Wolves and Wanting North (Guthrie Theatre Lab, named best 10-minute play of the year), and Feast (co-writer), which opened in London as a co-production between the Young Vic and Royal Court.

The recipient of a Lilly Award and the first inaugural Lilly Award Commission, a Helen Merrill Award, Honorable Mention for the Kesselring Prize for Drama, and a Lark Play Development/NYSCA grant. Barfield has twice been a finalist for the Princess Grace Award. She participated in the Lark Play Development Center’s delegation of artists to Romania and was part of the PBS documentary Legacy: Being Black in America, which was hosted by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Her residencies include the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, the Ucross Foundation, New York Stage and Film, the Royal Court International Residency, and Seattle Rep’s Women Playwrights Festival at Hedgebrook. She’s also an alumna of New Dramatists and the Dramatist Guild Council.

Before becoming a playwright, Tanya appeared in her solo show Without Skin or Breathlessness at the Public Theater’s New Work Now festival, Performance Space 122, Dance Theatre Workshop, and the Whitney Museum at Phillip Morris. As a solo performer, she received funding and recognition from the New York Foundation of the Arts and the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art. In addition, she was part of a performance collective, creating the devised multimedia theater pieces How to Get By and Be Easily Understood and Cakewalk, which ran at P.S. 122 and the Red Eye Theater in Minneapolis.

Barfield also writes for television (HBO, FX, Showtime) and shares a Writers Guild of America Award for her work on season four of FX’s The Americans. A proud alumna of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program, Tanya served as the Juilliard Drama Division’s literary manager from 2009 until 2014.

About Marsha Norman
Marsha Norman is co-director of Juilliard’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program. She was awarded the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and Hull-Warriner and Drama Desk Awards for her play ’Night, Mother. In 1992, she received Tony and Drama Desk awards for her libretto of The Secret Garden. She also wrote the books for The Color Purple, for which she received a Tony nomination, and The Bridges of Madison County. She won a Peabody Award for her writing on the HBO television series In Treatment and has received Emmy and Grammy nominations.

Her other work includes the plays Getting Out, Third and Oak: The Laundromat, The Pool Hall, The Holdup, Traveler in the Dark, Sarah and Abraham, Loving Daniel Boone, The Master Butcher’s Singing Club, and Trudy Blue; the novel The Fortune Teller; and numerous television and film scripts including Face of a Stranger, Cooler Climate, and Samantha, An American Girl.

Norman has served on the steering committee and the council of the Dramatists Guild since 1984. In 2009 she founded the Lilly Awards with Julia Jordan and Theresa Rebeck to advance and celebrate the work of women in the theater. She received the William Inge Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in Theatre Award and, in 2016, was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.

About Juilliard’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program
Juilliard’s playwrights program offers one-year, tuition-free, graduate level fellowships to four or five writers each year. Selected playwrights may be invited to continue their studies through a second academic year, thereby completing a total of 52 credits for the two-year fellowship period and earning an artist diploma in playwriting.

The cohort is purposely small. Fellows concentrate on the practical aspects of dramatic writing through a weekly master class with the program’s directors. The focus is on dramatic structure and the cultivation of each writer’s voice.

Twice-monthly Play Labs allow the writers to hear their work read by Juilliard acting students and alumni. Other opportunities include quarterly PlayTime sessions and informal readings throughout the year. Many of the working relationships begun at Juilliard between actors and writers continue to flourish long after graduation.

About Juilliard’s Drama Division
Since its inception five decades ago, the Drama Division at Juilliard has become one of the most respected and renowned programs for theater artists in the world. The program is dedicated to educating versatile 21st-century theater artists and empowering them to thrive in an ever-evolving performing arts landscape.

Founded in 1968 by the celebrated American director, producer, and theater administrator John Houseman and the French director, teacher, and actor Michel Saint-Denis, the four-year drama program combines vocal and physical training with extensive work on text—encouraging intellectual and imaginative daring and fostering a fierce commitment to emotional honesty. The program is both highly selective and extremely rigorous, attracting dedicated and focused young actors.

Having long conferred BFAs and certificates, Juilliard Drama began offering the degree of MFA in the fall of 2012, providing a diversity of experience for undergraduate and graduate students working side-by-side on projects that span from classic texts of Shakespeare and Chekhov to contemporary works. This variety and breadth of repertoire ensures that Juilliard actors enter the profession with the experience and craft to tackle the full spectrum of work and to bring to life the stories of writers who are deeply ingrained in theater history as well as the exciting work of living writers.

Juilliard actors have many opportunities to explore contemporary work during their training as an essential component of their work within the Drama Division lies in collaboration with Juilliard’s playwriting fellows. The Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program encourages the development of fresh and diverse voices in American theater and provides many opportunities for actors and playwrights to work together in the development of new work and build lasting artistic relationships.

The Juilliard Drama program seeks not only to provide a challenging and full curriculum of training but also to give students valuable exposure to the professional world. Over the course of their studies, our actors have many opportunities to work with professional directors, who come in to work as teachers and guest artists as well as to direct productions.

The Drama Division also forges connections with the broader theater community as part of the strong ethos of citizenship and community service at Juilliard. In addition to many other opportunities for interdivisional collaboration between students, our actors and playwrights regularly join forces with music and dance students to use their art to reach out to underserved communities around the world.

Juilliard Drama’s outstanding creative reputation, distinguished faculty, and rigorous professional training have enabled alumni of the program to excel as artists, leaders, and global citizens for more than five decades and will continue to shape the future of American theater for decades to come.

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