Award-winning playwright shares knowledge with NDSU students
Published April 2017
NDSU students recently had the opportunity to work with Tony Award-winning playwright Mary Zimmerman.
She was in Fargo for the “Mary Zimmerman Festival,” hosted by the theatre departments of NDSU, Concordia College and Minnesota State University Moorhead.
During her talk, “Advice for Young Artists,” Zimmerman held a casual and informative hour-long conversation with 30 NDSU student actors, set designers, directors and stage managers.
“Theater communicates through more than dialogue and characters,” Zimmerman explained. “It’s also light, composition and design.”
Through a series of questions from the students, Zimmerman revealed she held backyard plays as a child and a performance art class in graduate school was the launching pad for what became her career. “I’m 95 percent director and 5 percent playwright,” she told the undergraduate students. “My advice is to practice to become good at your art. Gain experience and then get better.”
Zimmerman has received a MacArthur Fellowship, the 2002 Tony Award for best director and 10 Joseph Jefferson Awards, including ones for “Best Production” and “Best Direction.” She is a member of the Lookingglass Theatre Company of Chicago, an artistic associate of the Goodman and Seattle Repertory theatres and a professor of performance studies at Northwestern University.
“Mary is an elite artist. Her work is powerful, magical and visionary,” said Jess Jung, Theatre NDSU’s artistic director. “It is an honor to have her work with our students.”
Zimmerman’s laidback approach to teaching resonated with students.
“She believes in the magic and the mystical realness of the theatre,” said Matthew Dryburgh, a senior from Grafton, North Dakota. “The theatre can be bigger than the people in the play and the story. That message was very powerful for me, as an artist and director.”
Dan Ajak, a senior from Stillwater, Minnesota, excitedly stopped to chat with Zimmerman afterwards. “It’s crazy to have someone so famous come in to talk with us,” he said. “For her to share her personal experiences like this was really eye-opening. And she comes across as a normal person, just like me and the other kids in the department.”