AUSTIN: Playwright and director Steven Dietz will leave his full-time faculty position at the University of Texas at Austin, effective Aug. 31. Dietz will continue to do occasional classes on a select basis with the university. He will also continue to work as a Dramatist Guild “traveling master,” conducting workshops and master classes around the country.
“This has been a watershed period of my life,” Dietz said. “I leave my full-time position with enormous thanks to my colleagues at UT/Austin, profound gratitude for the professional comrades who contributed so much to my time there, and deep and abiding faith in the grit, mojo, and artistry of the next generation of theatremakers.”
In his 12 years at UT Austin’s Department of Theatre and Dance, Dietz co-created a new MFA directing program, launched a yearly new play showcase for third-year MFA playwrights (UT New Theatre), and fostered multiple and ongoing professional observerships for his students. His legacy includes significant professional achievement among his graduates. Dietz’s former students include directors Halena Kays, Will Davis, Luke Leonard, and Courtney Sale and playwrights George Brant, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Martin Zimmerman, Meghan Kennedy, Abe Koogler, Kimber Lee, Andrew Hinderaker, Katie Bender, and Gabriel Jason Dean, among many others.
“Steven is the rock on which our church is built,” said UT Austin professor and playwright Kirk Lynn. “Now with the remarkable leadership of KJ Sanchez, we’re poised to deepen the groove cut by SJD’s generosity as we carve into new territory.”
Lynn said that he was personally excited by Dietz’s finishing, because in their personal relationship, “there will be less attention given to the shared bureaucracy of UT and more time to talk about love and kids and novels and music—the stuff of which plays are actually made.” He noted that Dietz will stay in Austin, remain close to the program, and stop in “to teach us all something and to remind us about humility and generosity and the really hard work of loving one another.”
Dietz and his wife, playwright Allison Gregory, will continue to divide their time between Austin and Seattle. Dietz’s two interlocking plays for adult and young audiences (The Great Beyond and The Ghost of Splinter Cove) will premiere and run concurrently next year at Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte and Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, respectively.
“There is nothing like the daily rigor of teaching to road test your own foundational beliefs,” Dietz said. “Teaching is an emotional act disguised as an intellectual one. In 12 years, my students have changed, deepened, complicated and inspired me. I am in their debt. I am fond of telling them: ‘You are the thing the American theatre has never had before.’ As I move forward with new plays and ongoing master classes, I hope to repay this debt.”