Theatre, Dance, and Motion Pictures
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W. Stuart McDowell
Chair and Artistic Director - Department of Theatre, Dance & Motion Pictures
Phone: (937) 775-3072
B.A., Macalester College; M. A. and Ph. D., University of California, Berkeley
W. Stuart McDowell, Chair and Artistic Director of the Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures, came to educational theatre after two decades in professional theatre in New York and California, working as a artistic director, actor, composer and translator, in addition to winning national awards as playwright, director and scholar.
He has won awards both for directing and playwrighting from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for 1913: The Great Dayton Flood (co-written with honors-student Timothy Nevits), which played to over 10,000 in Washington D. C. and Dayton in 1997, featuring recorded narration by Martin Sheen, Ruby Dee, and the late Ossie Davis. His original drama, The Brothers BOOTH! was workshopped with such actors as David Strathairn, David Dukes, Maryann Plunket, and Stephen Lang, and produced professionally as well. He has composed several hundred songs and incidental music for the stage, including the score for 1903: The Wings of Dreams, broadcast on PBS/ThinkTV. His wide range of interests have included hitchhiking through Europe from Oslo, Norway, to Athens, Greece; working on an archeological dig at Tel Gezer, Israel; training in Commedia dell'Arte with Master Teacher Carlo Mazonne-Clementi in northern California; studying at the Laterna Magica in Prague, Czechoslovakia during the "Prague Spring" of 1968; and researching and photographing the ancient theatres of Pompeii.
McDowell holds a BA degree from Macalester College and an MA and PhD from U.C. Berkeley. McDowell was a two-year Fulbright Scholar following a DeWitt Wallace Fellowship, both for residencies in Berlin at the acclaimed Berliner Ensemble and at the Munich Kammerspiele. McDowell has translated and directed numerous dramas from German, from Goethe's Faust and Frank Wedekind's The Chamber Singer to the cabaret sketches of Weimar-era Munich clown Karl Valentin, as well as a dozen plays by Bertolt Brecht, which include several major premieres, including the New York premiere of The Life of Edward II, produced by Joseph Papp and the New York Shakespeare Festival. McDowell’s writing on Brecht won the distinguished national award in the Amy and Eric Burger Theatre Essay Competition.
McDowell was the founding Artistic Director of the Riverside Shakespeare Company of New York City, which he helmed for a decade with his wife, Gloria Skurski, producing numerous dramas and Commedia dell'arte comedies by Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and Brecht. At Riveriside, McDowell mounted dramas and benefits with Jeremy Irons, Nicole Williams, Roger Rees, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and the late Ossie Davis, Raul Julia and Helen Hayes, as well as the first (and till now, only) New York stage production featuring Tom Hanks, in 1979. While at Riverside, McDowell also produced the first Shakespeare Project, a residency of actors from London’s Royal Shakespeare Company at the Shakespeare Center, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Prior to coming to Wright State, McDowell was Artistic Director for Grove Shakespeare in southern California, when the company received its first Los Angeles Theatre Critics Circle Award, and in 1993, he received the Los Angeles Drama-Logue Award for Stage Directing for Noel Coward’s Private Lives. Since his appointment as chair at Wright State, he has directed myriad dramas, comedies and musicals, from the classics Show Boat and South Pacific to Jekyll & Hyde, Titanic, and Phantom of the Opera, which set departmental box office records, selling over 6,000 tickets before the show opened in May of 2012.