My research as an artist is fundamental to my work as a teacher. Early in my career I focused on the founding of a professional laboratory space where peers, colleagues, alumni, and students can create, produce, and present contemporary cross-disciplinary performance. To that end, I founded the non-profit, Manbites Dog Theater with my partner Edward Hunt in 1987 and I continue to serve as Artistic Director for the company. This professional theater lab is currently in its 31st season of producing full evening works of theater (over that thirty-one years approximately 240 full evening works), all of them area or world premieres. In the last 31 seasons I have directed 95 of the 240 works that the company has produced. A list of the projects I have directed can be found in my vitae and for the years under review (2005-2018) under the “Productions” link on my website homepage.
In addition to the work that Manbites Dog Theater Company mounts, the company curates and produces the Other Voices series. This unique series produced 4-6 projects per season. The series is curated based on the quality of the work, artistic excellence and the future promise of the guest artists and companies who make the work. Additionally the theater has supported and curated a small visual art gallery in its lobby throughout its history. This gallery has exhibited the work of over 100 visual artists as a compliment to live performances. In 1997 the company purchased and opened a 6,500 square foot building in downtown Durham which housed the performance space, offices, lobby gallery, and support space.
The focus of my research is of fundamental importance to my teaching. This laboratory allows for rare participation by the most accelerated Duke student artists (current and alumni) and faculty colleagues by providing a professional venue for the exploration of their craft. Internships in Acting, Directing, Dramaturgy and Management with the company also provide students with the experience of working directly in a non-profit arts organization. The theater also showcases my professional directing. I teach with what I am making. Students learn not only how to be involved in theater, but to appreciate and discuss the work as members of audiences for the arts. This role as “audience for the arts” continues long after they have left the confines of Duke. The work produced at Manbites Dog feeds into the classroom discourse of many of my colleagues at Duke.
The main focus of this professional work is on supporting the new voices of directors, actors, playwrights, designers and cross-disciplinary collaborations between dancers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and visual artists. These productions have often been critically acclaimed and often have made the end of the year’s “Ten Best” lists. My work as a director and actor has also been seen in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, Portland, Boston, Orlando, The Sewanee Writer’s Conference, The Asheville Stone Leaf Festival, Carborro, and Raleigh as well as Durham. Plays I have written or acted as dramaturg for have focused on social and political issues of importance to the Southeast region. Indecent Materials/ Report from the holocaust (which was moved from Durham to the critically acclaimed Public Theater –at that time lead by artistic director Joseph Papp- to open the Public’s 1990 season) was a piece focused on AIDS and censorship. Other world premiere scripts include Hotline (communication and dissemination of Aids information,) A Tune for Tommy (Alzheimers disease,) Bucknaked (Tourettes Syndrome,) and Walking Miracles (survivors of incest abuse) to name a few.
Manbites Dog Theater has been the first company to introduce the theatrical writings of many notable playwrights in area and world premieres. This allows access to our Duke students and to the Triangle area to the best in cutting edge theater. Among them: Neal Bell, Howard Craft, Larry Kramer, William Mastrasimone, Jeffrey Jones, Janus Glowacki, Stephen Metcalf, Harry Kondoleon, Tony Kushner, Paula Vogel, Craig Lucas, Charles Ludlam, Emily Mann, Stephen Dietz, Joyce Carol Oates, Nicky Silver, Jose Rivera, Diana Son, Arlene Hutton, David Lindsay Abaire, Alan Gurganus, Ariel Dorfman, Jenny Schwartz, Tim Crouch, Nick Darke, Christopher Shinn, Will Eno, Jennifer Haley, Adam Bock, Naomi Iizuka, Len Jenkin, Naomi Wallace, Terrence Alvin McRaney, Anne Washburn, Kimber Lee, Mike Daisey, Lauren Gunderson, Mickle Mayer, Philip Dawkins. Annie Baker, Aaron Posner, Adam Bock and Mac Wellman, to name a few. The national reputation of Manbites Dog Theater is based on these “new” playwrights seeking a company that is willing and has the expertise to support their work outside of the mega urban areas like New York City and Chicago.
My company has historically received grant support from the Duke Arts and Sciences Research Council, The Duke University Council for the Arts, The Durham Arts Council, The North Carolina Arts Council, Duke Department of Theater Studies and the NEA. Support for Manbites Dog Theater breaks down into 3 funding sources: 1/3 ticket sales, 1/3 grant and corporate support, and 1/3 individual donors. The company operates year-round on a budget of approximately $160, 000/year.