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Huskies Share Dirty Story

Story by
Nancy Joseph
September 2012Perspectives Newsletter

When the creative team for Intiman Theatre’s summer production of Dirty Story gathered for the first time, it was a Husky reunion of sorts. Nearly all team members, from the director and assistant director to the scenic, sound, and costume designers, are UW faculty or alumni.

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Clockwise from upper left: Valerie Curtis-Newton, Deb Trout, Jennifer Zeyl, and Matt Starritt. Media credit: by LaRae Lobdell for Intiman

Dirty Story director Valerie Curtis-Newton, associate professor of drama and Donald E. Petersen Endowed Faculty Fellow, expresses little surprise at the number of Huskies on the creative team. “Most of the time, at least two of my designers are UW people,” she says of her directorial work in the Seattle area. “The School of Drama has a seat at the table of every theatre in Seattle.”

Andrew Russell, artistic director of Intiman Theatre, says that the theatre has grown accustomed to collaborating with the UW. He rattles off a half dozen recent examples of UW faculty working on Intiman productions, adding that it is an honor to have them on board. “It’s apparent that these teaching professionals yearn for the chance to put their craft in practice,” he says. “The teaching improves the doing, and the doing improves the teaching, it seems.”

Curtis-Newton echoes that sentiment. “The quality of our teaching is rooted in the quality of our ideas and how we put them into practice,” she says of School of Drama faculty. “We hone that skill by making art. As faculty at a research university, this is our research. We take that part of our mission as seriously as a scientist or doctor. I’m not going to publish a book, but I do productions that are performed and evaluated by critics and audiences.”

Drama alumnus Gavin Reub (BFA, ‘2010) has seen firsthand how the faculty’s involvement in the Seattle theatre community enriches their teaching. “For teachers to be relevant, it is incredibly important to understand how the culture is shifting and where it is going,” says Reub. “The theatre community does change rapidly, so people who are getting out there and experiencing that world are preparing students in a more accurate way. And because they are working, they have lots of friends in the theatre world. They can create a bridge for students.”

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Gavin Reub continues to tap his UW professors for guidance."They’re the people who taught me and sent me into the world," he says. "If I have questions, I know they’ll be there to answer them.”

Reub took acting and directing classes from Curtis-Newton as an undergraduate, then stayed in touch after graduation. He expressed an interest in working with her as an assistant director and finally got his opportunity with Dirty Story. He marvels at how much he continued to learn from his former teacher by working beside her.

“Working with Val, I got to be one of her students again, even though I’m out of school,” says Reub. “There’s so much to be taught. In the classroom, she can only begin to cover it. At the UW, she builds a foundation for her students. But to see her use all her tools, many of which I didn’t know she had, was impressive. And now these are tools that I can use as well.”

Along with Curtis-Newton and Reub, UW members of the creative team for Dirty Story included Jennifer Zeyl (MFA, ‘03) as scenic designer, drama professor Deb Trout as costume designer, and Matt Starritt (BA, English, ‘05), guest faculty in the School of Drama, as sound designer.

Reub, currently a producer and dramaturg for Chekhov’s The Seagull, to be performed at ACT (A Contemporary Theatre) this season, continues to tap his UW professors for guidance.

“They’re my theatre parents,” Reub explains. “They’re the people who taught me and sent me into the world. If I have questions, I know they’ll be there to answer them.”