Tony Award winner Mark Medoff joining UH School of Theatre & DanceCelebrated Playwright, Screenwriter to Work with Students Developing New Productions

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He’s a Tony Award-winning playwright, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and sometimes, he’s even an actor. Now, Mark Medoff is adding another credit to his impressive resume – University of Houston professor.

Medoff, the writer behind the play and film versions of “Children of a Lesser God” among many other productions, will begin teaching at the UH School of Theatre & Dance in spring 2008.

“I love teaching. I could have quit long ago from a financial perspective, but continue to teach because I receive as much as I give,” Medoff said. “As a younger man, I had to pretend I knew more than I do. Now, I know how little I know, but know the little I know is worth passing on.”

During his first semester at UH, Medoff will work with two classes: “Playwriting” and “Producing New Plays.” He will hold the title of distinguished lecturer.

“Mark Medoff's affiliation with UH continues a long tradition that has included theater greats such as Lanford Wilson, Edward Albee, Jose Quintero and Sir Peter Hall,” said John Antel, dean of the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “We are continuing to build an internationally recognized theater and dance program.”

For “Producing New Plays,” Medoff will select three new plays from professional playwrights and assign them to student production teams who will then work to get them on stage.

In his “Playwriting” course, he will assist aspiring playwrights as they craft new plays that will be developed though the course of the semester and, ultimately, presented in stage readings during the UH New Play Festival this spring. The following fall semester, he’ll continue to oversee these plays, some of which may become part of the spring 2009 “Producing New Plays” class and see fully-realized productions.

“It always is a great opportunity for students when they can work with a major American playwright such as Mark Medoff,” said Steven Wallace, director of the School of Theatre & Dance. “He is a very hands-on teacher and is very engaged with students and the teaching process. He’s one of the best teachers I know, and his presence will be an asset to the university.”

Medoff’s playwriting credits include 1974’s “When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?” and 1980’s “Children of a Lesser God,” which received the Tony for Best Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play. Medoff adapted both of these plays for film. He was nominated for an Oscar for his screen adaptation of “Children of Lesser God.” Other screenwriting credits include “Clara’s Heart” starring Whoopi Goldberg and “City of Joy” starring Patrick Swayze. He has also made brief acting appearances in some of the films he’s written.

His directing credits include the 2002 film “Children on Their Birthdays” and stage productions of “Waiting for Godot,” “Equus,” “Hot L Baltimore” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Medoff has also taught at New Mexico State University, the University of Oklahoma (OU) and at Florida State University (FSU). At OU and FSU, he worked alongside Wallace, who commends his role as both classroom leader and longtime mentor for aspiring writers.

“Mark is still in touch with many of his former students,” Wallace said. “He continues to serve as a mentor long after a class ends. Students here at UH who want to be a writer can expect to not only learn from one of the best but also to have a professional relationship that will continue beyond the classroom.”

For Medoff, working with new playwrights in UH’s School of Theatre & Dance is reward enough, but he admits that working with a former colleague is a bonus.

“Steve Wallace is not only one of my favorite collaborators, but also a visionary educator,” Medoff said “His recognition of the need to nurture young playwrights and to do so beyond writing at home alone or around the conference table in a class puts him high on my list of people to lend support.”

Medoff follows in the footsteps of Pulitzer Prize winners Albee and Wilson, both of whom previously taught UH student playwrights. Albee helmed a playwriting workshop that was named for him from 1989 – 2003 before handing the reins to Wilson, who oversaw student playwrights from 2004 – 2007.

Medoff will join an esteemed UH theater faculty that includes Distinguished Professor (and Houston Shakespeare Festival founder) Sidney Berger and Tony Award-winning producer Stuart Ostrow.

Although concentrating on playwriting courses this spring, Medoff has offered to eventually conduct workshops at the university focused on auditioning for film and television.

The School of Theatre & Dance offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theatre, teacher certifications in dance and a master of fine arts. Each fall and spring, the school produces four plays performed in the Wortham Theatre, two dance concerts, the Stuart Ostrow Musical Theatre Workshop, various student productions, the Houston Shakespeare Festival and the Children's Theatre Festival.

For more information on the school, visit http://www.hfac.uh.edu/theatre/.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A photo of Medoff is available at http://www.uh.edu/admin/media/nr/2007/10oct/medoffph.html.

About the University of Houston The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.

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