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Grayce Susan Burian
Grayce Susan Burian

Actor, author, and theatre professor will sign copies of her bew book
From Jerry to Jarka: A Breezy Memoir of a Long, Peripatetic Marriage

Tuesday, April 1, 2014
3:00 p.m. Book Signing | Science Library Room 340, UAlbany Uptown Campus

Grayce Susan Burian,
actor and theatre scholar, is the author of the new book, From Jerry to Jarka: A Breezy Memoir of a Long, Peripatetic Marriage (2013), about her 54-year marriage to Jarka Burian, the primary western scholar of Czech theatre, and long-time Theatre Professor at the University at Albany. Among other things, the memoir recounts the couple’s numerous extended stays in Czechoslovakia (and later, the Czech Republic) over a period of several decades from the 1960s to the 2000s, as that country experienced dramatic political upheavals and cultural transformations.

After spending long periods in Czechoslovakia throughout the 1960s, the Burians happened to arrive in Prague just days after the Soviet Bloc invasion in 1968 and remained there during the course of that fateful year. In her memoir, Grayce Burian bears witness to the determination of the Czech people— writing about the student protests, the immolation of Jan Palach, and meetings with dissident artists including Václav Havel that she and Burian experienced. Their research travels also included other European countries and China, enabling Grayce Burian to consider the different communist regimes in which they lived as well as echoes of the Nazi occupation— a Jewish friend remembering her escape from a Nazi camp, a young German struggling to reconcile his heritage, and the Burians themselves staying in Hitler’s private suite in Wrocław, Poland.  The Burians were also in Prague immediately following the 1989 Velvet Revolution and were ideally placed to view the changes, good and bad, in process.  In 2002, they were living in Old Town when the Vltava flooded, devastating large parts of Prague.

From Jerry to JarkaThe book also chronicles the Burians’ experiences as actors in New York City (where they met while performing in an off-Broadway play in the 1950s), their long teaching careers in Albany and Schenectady, and their extensive involvement in helping to build the theatre community of the Capital Region.

Grayce Burian earned her B.A. (1963) and M.A. (1964) in Theatre from the University at Albany. She is a Professor Emerita at Schenectady County Community College, where she served for 21 years as director of the Theatre Program, which she founded and nurtured into one of the most successful two-year theatre programs in New York State. She has also taught theatre courses at the University at Albany, The College of Saint Rose and Hudson Valley Community College. At UAlbany, she sits on the Executive Board of the Emeritus Center, and also serves as that organization’s Hospitality Director. She also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the community theatre group, Theater Voices.

Grayce BurianIn order to advance the study and celebration of theatre in the Capital Region, Grayce and her husband founded the Jarka & Grayce Susan Burian Endowment, which funds the annual Burian Lecture Series of the New York State Writers Institute and the University at Albany Department of Theatre. Beginning in 1997, this yearly event has brought leading scholars and practitioners of the art of the theatre to the UAlbany campus. Past visitors have included Colman Domingo, John Sayles, John Patrick Shanley, Rita Moreno, A. R. Gurney, Michael Mayer, Wallace Shawn, Ruby Dee, Harold Gould, and many others. Tony-winning playwright Christopher Durang is this year’s featured lecturer (March 10, 2014).

The late Jarka Burian, who taught at UAlbany from 1955 to 1993, was the author of numerous scholarly works, including the award-winning book The Scenography of Josef Svoboda, a seminal study of the work of one of the 20th century’s most influential stage designers, and of the landmark study, Modern Czech Theatre: Reflector and Conscience of a Nation (2000).

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.