April 17, 2014  

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Robert Caisley Named 2011 Blaine Quarnstrom Playwright in Residence

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Robert Caisley

University of Southern Mississippi English and theatre students will spend four days learning the ropes from an established American playwright as part of the 2011 Blaine Quarnstrom Playwrights’ Series Jan. 27-30.

Robert Caisley, associate professor and head of the Dramatic Writing program at the University of Idaho, will conduct a series of workshop writing sessions for 20 students in the departments of English and Theatre and Dance. The sessions are free for students, but require a commitment to all four sessions in order to attend. Spots are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“Students interested in playwriting are strongly encouraged to sign up,” said Lou Rackoff, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance. “The great benefit for students and the goal of the series is to give students access to a professional playwright.”

The series begins with a question-and-answer session with Caisley at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27 in the Martha R. Tatum Theatre, followed by a dessert reception. Next, Caisley will host a special seminar called “Playwriting in America” at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 28 in the Martha R. Tatum Theatre. The seminar is open to all interested students, faculty and staff from both the Department of Theatre and Dance and Department of English.

A reading of Caisley’s own work begins at 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30, followed by a discussion and closing lunch reception in the Woods Theatre of the Theatre and Dance Building.

Each year the playwright in residence structures four consecutive workshops around their own interests. Caisley’s research focus areas include new play development, Native American playwrights, contemporary American and European drama, theatre and film of the Holocaust and devised theatre.

His plays include “Kissing,” “Push,” “Letters to an Alien,” “The Apology,” “The Lake” and “Three Wishes.” His collection “Santa Fe and Other Short Plays” was published in 2010.

Brooke Aiello, a master of fine arts in acting performance student from Visalia, Calif., said opportunities like the Blaine Quarnstrom Playwrights’ Series is why she decided to study theatre at Southern Miss.

“When I was looking at graduate programs having the opportunity to work with published playwrights and maybe participate in a new work is what drew me here,” Aiello explained. “I believe that art needs to be cross-pollinated to reach its full potential. Having new blood, new ideas and a new way of looking at things can only help me as an artist.”

The first playwright in residence for the Series was Gary Garrison, now Executive Director of Dramatist’s Guild. Other playwrights who participated in the series are Kia Corthorn, Dawson Moore and Beth Lincks. 

For more information on the 2011 Blaine Quarnstrom Playwrights’ Series, call 601.266.4994.

2011 Blaine Quarnstrom Playwrights’ Series Schedule

Thursday, Jan. 27 at 7:30 p.m., Martha R. Tatum Theatre – Q&A with Robert Caisley

Friday, Jan. 28 at 10 a.m., Gilbert F. Hartwig – Special seminar with Robert Caisley “Playwriting in America”

Sunday, Jan. 30 at 11:30 a.m., Woods Theatre – Reading of Caisley’s plays

Workshop Writing Sessions (open to students only):

Friday, Jan. 28 at 2 p.m. - 5 p.m., TAD 124

Saturday, Jan. 29 at 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., TAD 124

Saturday, Jan. 29 at 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., TAD 124

Sunday, Jan. 30 at 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m., TAD 124