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After Stint At Carnegie Mellon, D’Zmura’s Focus Shifts To Future

Published: February 15, 2012

Theater Arts’ Anne D’Zmura returned to campus after serving as artist in residence at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University in a dual appointment with the Drama School and the Center for Arts and Society where she continued her groundbreaking work in theater and ecology.

One of D’Zmura’s areas of expertise and passion is the examination of environmental issues through theatre. At Carnegie Mellon, she taught and devised a project titled “Shale Play: Our Brains on Frack,” a theater and ecology drama about the controversial Marcellus Shale gas drilling with its risks of environmental damage throughout Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

“The project examined the economic, political and environmental issues involved in this kind of drilling,” explained D’Zmura, a member of the university since 2005. D’Zmura began her time at Carnegie Mellon by teaching classes through Skype and “Blackboard”—Carnegie Mellon’s version of CSULB’s “BeachBoard.” Remote learning took place through the beginning of November when she journeyed to the school for classes, rehearsals and lectures. She returned to Long Beach in December and concluded her residency with Skype and Blackboard for the rest of the semester.

D’Zmura’s work in theatre and ecology began in 2007 when she developed a course at CSULB in conjunction with a University Players production titled “Green Piece,” which raised awareness of local and global ecological issues. “It was a really rewarding experience,” she recalled. “The students attended numerous guest lectures on environmental issues in addition to going on field trips to local organizations including Surfrider Foundation and the Colorado Lagoon. These experiences among others deepened their understanding of the textual material we chose to adapt for the production and informed many of our theatrical choices.”

At Carnegie Mellon, 33 students researched the topic of Marcellus Shale gas drilling and each student interviewed a minimum of two people. “They interviewed everyone from energy company officials to environmental activists,” said D’Zmura. “Our goal was to generate material for a devised presentation. The challenge was to put such complex issues into dramatic form. At CSULB, I continue to work with other faculty members to bring sustainability issues into the curriculum. It is a topic that many of us are very passionate about and are working hard to ensure that our student’s gain exposure to the political, social, economic and ecological issues that will have serious impact on our futures.”

D’Zmura is also spearheading a B.F.A. option in Theatre of Engagement. Her commitment to community engagement has sent her around the world.

“When you utilize theatre art to engage community members on topics that directly affect them the learning is immediate and has a long term impact.” she said. “Theater is a wonderful way to work with diverse communities. The process raises awareness and puts creative ideas into practice. Sustainability is one of those issues but there are many others we will be working with. I continually challenge myself and my students by asking how can theater art continue to be a highly effective tool for communication and social change?”

D’Zmura has served as resident director at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis where she directed “Peer Gynt,” “Bert’s Folly,” “Billy and Dago” and “Poster of the Cosmos”; artistic associate for the NYC-based the Acting Company, where she directed the national tours of “Macbeth” and “The Tempest”; artistic associate for the Playwright’s Center and artistic director for Yale Cabaret. She has served as visiting assistant professor at Denison University, guest director and educator at the Juilliard School, University of Minnesota MFA program, USD/Old Globe Theatre, University of Redlands, and University of Michigan. She was assistant director for Trevor Nunn on Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” on Broadway. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for The Arts/TCG Directing Fellowship, with which she studied in Bali, Indonesia; a New York Drama League: New Works/New Directors Grant; and a 2007 LADCC nomination for Best Ensemble for “The Cannibals,” which she directed for Cal Rep. She received her B.A. from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., and her MFA from Yale University School of Drama in New Haven, Conn.

Anne D'Zmura
PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNE D’ZMURA
Anne D’Zmura

Travel will continue to play a big role in D’Zmura’s work.

“I love to travel,” she said. “I find learning about new cultures to be incredibly invigorating. It is easy to stay in your own bubble of expertise. Travel brings me out of the bubble.”

In 2011, she co-directed the University Players production of Heather Raffo’s “Nine Parts of Desire” and the world premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky” at the South Coast Repertory Theater. When the semester ended, she packed her bags and set out for the CSU Summer Arts program in Fresno where she served as course coordinator for Cornerstone Theater: Community-based theater course.

She then headed to the UK to join her husband, professional actor and adjunct faculty member William McGuire, when he finished teaching their third Theatre and Cinema CSULB Short Term Study Abroad Course in Ireland. They continued on to teach in Tanzania from Aug. 1-18 with CSULB students to build a secondary school and create arts workshops with Bacho village children in collaboration with the Karimu International Help Foundation.

“We were living and working with astonishingly generous and beautiful people in a remote village. The trip was nothing less than life changing” she recalled. She returns to Tanzania with another class July 29-Aug. 17 and hopes to create a similar project in India in winter 2013.

Student feedback from her Carnegie Mellon course has been positive. “Their support has been overwhelming,” she said. “The biggest response I’ve received from many students is that before their participation in this class, they knew very little about what was happening in their own backyards. They were surprised by the risks of oil drilling. They were also truly astounded by the complexities of the issue. Awakening students to the world around them is imperative. As an educator and artist I seek to awaken young curious minds to what lurks beyond their comfort zone. The process is not always comfortable and certainly not easy but the rewards are plentiful and ongoing.”