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January 16, 2004

Contact: Eric Gerber
713/743-8189 (office)

‘Hot L Baltimore’ Author Will Collaborate with Edward Albee on ‘Playwrights’ Workshop’

HOUSTON, Jan. 16, 2004 – The tradition of recruiting some of the greatest names in theater for its faculty continues at the University of Houston. Renowned playwright Lanford Wilson has joined the School of Theatre.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist, known for such works as “Hot L Baltimore” and “Talley’s Folly,” will teach two courses in the upcoming Spring 2004 semester. He will be working in partnership with UH Distinguished Professor of Theatre Edward Albee in preparing student scripts for Albee’s annual Playwright’s Workshop.

“I’m excited to become part of an institution that has such passion for the theatrical arts,” Wilson said. “I’m not sure I can get used to being called ‘Professor Wilson,’ but I am looking forward to working with the students.

It’s so invigorating to be around people who really love the theater.” He holds the title Distinguished Lecturer.
“We’re honored to continue the mission of bringing the very best professional artists to this university,” said

Sidney Berger, director of the School of Theatre. “Obviously, Lanford’s presence will be a great resource for our theater students, but it will also help take Houston’s cultural reputation up another notch.”
Wilson joins an illustrious School of Theatre teaching roster that currently includes Sir Peter Hall, creator of the

Royal Shakespeare Company; Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Stuart Ostrow; stage designer Kevin Rigdon, who has worked with the Royal National Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre and the Kennedy Center; and Albee, winner of three Pulitzer Prizes for Drama.

Wilson’s work, with its themes of alienation and fading illusions, has been compared favorably to the plays of William Inge, Lillian Hellman and Tennessee Williams. One literary analysis of his plays, Anne Dean’s book

“Discovery and Invention,” cites several recurring Wilson themes: the importance of individuality and personal history, the necessity to preserve the past and learn from it and, especially, the importance of familial support - surrogate or otherwise. New York Times critic has applauded him “a writer who illuminates the deepest dramas of American life with poetry and compassion.”

Wilson began writing as a student at the University of Chicago in the late 1950s. After graduation, he moved to New York City and became involved with the Off-Off-Broadway scene as a playwright, actor and director. His first play, “So Long at the Fair” was produced by Caffé Chino in 1963. His massive Bohemian study “Balm in Gilead,” with some 35 characters, was staged at Café La Mama in 1965. In 1969, he co-founded the critically acclaimed Circle Repertory Company and served as resident playwright for three decades. The first major success was “Hot L Baltimore” Wilson’s 1975 effort about a shabby hotel whose clientele included old-age pensioners, derelicts and prostitutes.

He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1979 for “Talley’s Folly,” a two-character romance set in the 1940s in which a Jewish accountant from St. Louis woos Sally Talley, the daughter of a well-to-do, WASP-ish family.

Other plays include “The Mound Builders” (1975), “Fifth of July” (1978), “Angels Fall” (1982), “Burn This” (1988) and “Book of Days” (2001).

Wilson’s appointment is for the spring semester only, but Berger expressed hope that Wilson would consider extending his affiliation with the UH School of Theatre. “Having a talent of Lanford’s stature here is exactly the sort of undertaking that we’re interested in as we begin developing the Mitchell Center for the Arts,” Berger said, referring to UH’s new $20 million program. (See http://www.uh.edu/newsroom/centerforarts/)

Wilson was recruited by Albee to collaborate with him in supervising this year’s Playwright’s Workshop, the annual showcase of new work being staged by UH students. Wilson and Albee worked together to select the students and projects for the event. Wilson will teach the two day-to-day courses – playwrighting and production – that help develop the new works and Albee will be on hand to help oversee their staging in April.

This will be the 15th edition of the Albee Playwright’s Workshop.

For more information about the UH School of Theatre, visit the Web site http://www.class.uh.edu/theatre/.

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