ALBANY, NY (04/18/2017) (readMedia)-- Dael Orlandersmith, actress and Obie Award-winning playwright, will deliver the 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 an informal seminar. Free and open to the public, the events are cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and UAlbany Theatre Program, and are funded by the Jarka and Grayce Burian Endowment.
Dael Orlandersmith is a playwright and actress whose work explores racial tensions, family relationships, and the Harlem neighborhood in which she grew up. Stuart Miller, in his profile of Orlandersmith that recently appeared in American Theatre described her as "an extraordinary poet of the complexities of life." She received an Obie Award for her play Beauty's Daughter (1995), about a young girl growing up in Harlem. Her play Yellowman (2002), the story of the relationship between a dark-skinned black woman and a light-skinned black man was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
In his review of Beauty's Daughter for The New York Times, Wilborn Hampton called Orlandersmith "an exciting new voice...the language of Ms. Orlandersmith's poetry is like an electric charge, lively in imagination and illuminating in its insights, at once full of anger and compassion." 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, commended Orlandersmith's Forever (2015), her one-woman memoir play about her turbulent relationship with her mother, 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."
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 to 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."
Orlandersmith's visit to UAlbany 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 the 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 http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.