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Monday, May 1, 2017
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, Uptown Campus
8:00 p.m. The Burian Lecture| Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, Uptown Campus


Sponsored by the Department of Theatre and Co-sponsored by the NYS Writers Institute

Dael Orlandersmith, Obie Award-winning playwright, will deliver the Jarka and Grayce Burian Lecture, at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, May 1 in the Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center on UAlbany’s Uptown campus. Earlier that same day, at 4:15 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Orlandersmith will hold a seminar. Free and open to the public, the events are cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and UAlbany Theatre Program, and funded by the Jarka and Grayce Burian Endowment.

Dael Orlandersmith, author and performer of the Obie-winning play Beauty’s Daughter (2015), as well as Pulitzer Prize finalist Yellowman (2002), will deliver the Burian Lecture, sponsored by the Jarka and Grayce Burian Endowment.  The New York Times’ Ben Brantley, reviewing Yellowman, touted Orlandersmith for her “poet’s gift for building imagery by stealthy repetition. Her use of sensory detail—in describing the swing of a walk, the lilt of a laugh, the shimmer of sweat on flesh—is especially incisive, befitting a play in which the term ‘skin deep’ takes on new resonance.”  In similar praise, Charles Isherwood, also of The New York Times, commends Orlandersmith’s one-woman play Forever (2015) for language that is “always spare and simple, with rhythms now jagged and discordant, now incantatory and soothing, Ms. Orlandersmith holds us in a taut, quiet spell.”  Brantley and Isherwood highlight many aspects of the repertoire Orlandersmith brings to her numerous commanding and conscientious works, which IndieWire points out frequently deal with “racism, urban strife, relationships, and color-consciousness among African-Americans,” and Margaret Gray of The LA Times notes often portray “young black women determined to rise above bleak circumstances, who find salvation in art.”
The latest work by Orlandersmith, Until the Flood (2016), was commissioned by the St. Louis Repertory Theatre in response to the police shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. in 2014.  Rosalind Early, of Americantheatre.org, explains that Orlandersmith took a provocative approach in shifting focus away from “the disputed details of the shooting,” instead focusing on “how individuals from different walks of life responded to what happened” in hopes of sparking “much-needed conversations between people with differing views.” Noting that Orlandersmith interviewed some 15-20 St. Louisans in order to hone the play’s eight characters (all played by Orlandersmith) Early goes on to call the play “a simple act of listening and speaking—of listening to people who were not talking to each other, and then getting an audience to listen with her to perspectives they hadn’t considered, refused to hear, or felt were distasteful.”  Radio station KDHX called the show “pointedly effective.” Tina Farmer noted in her review, “Orlandersmith challenges easy assumptions while making the case for continued conversation. As an actor, she is thoroughly engaging, with a clear purpose and focused action.”  Judith Newmark of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch admires Orlandersmith’s defiance of “the limitations of race and gender” in her portrayal of “a Ferguson landlord…willing—maybe even eager—to shoot someone like Michael Brown,” a character whom Orlandersmith gives “a vivid incarnation….that’s beyond venom and ultimately beyond criticism. He is who he is, and her play incorporates Dougray into the Ferguson story without diminution.”

Orlandersmith’s visit is funded by the Jarka and Grayce Susan Burian Endowment. The late Jarka Burian taught in the Theatre Department at UAlbany from 1955 to 1993. He was the leading American scholar of Czech theatre and author of the award-winning book The Scenography of Josef Svoboda, a seminal critical study of the work of one of the twentieth century’s most influential theatrical designers. Grayce Susan Burian, who received her M.A. degree from UAlbany and also taught there, is best known for her long tenure as the director of the theatre program, which she founded, at Schenectady County Community College.

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