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D’Zmura’s Schedule Keeping Her Plenty Busy, On The Move

Published: March 15, 2011

Theatre Arts’ Anne D’Zmura has a pretty full schedule the next few months, with commitments from Long Beach to Tanzania to Ireland.

First up, The University Players production of Heather Raffo’s award-winning “Nine Parts of Desire” directed by D’Zmura which opens March 18 and continues through April 9.

D’Zmura’s next stop is the Tony award-winning South Coast Repertory (SCR) where she directs the world premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky” from April 1 to May 1. When the semester ends, she’ll pack her bags and set out for CSU Summer Arts in Fresno from June 26 to July 9 where she serves as coordinator for a course with members of nationally acclaimed Cornerstone Theater Company.

She then heads for Ireland to join her husband, professional actor and adjunct faculty member William McGuire, for their third Theatre and Cinema CSULB Short Term Study Abroad Course. They then continue on to Tanzania from Aug. 1-18 with CSULB students to build a secondary school and create a community-based arts project with the Bacho village children in collaboration with the Karimu International Help Foundation.

This fall 2011, D’Zmura will serve as guest artist/scholar at Carnegie Mellon University in a dual appointment with the Drama School and The Center for Arts and Society to continue her groundbreaking work in Theatre and Ecology.

“Nine Parts of Desire” won a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Special Commendation and the Marian Seldes-Garson Kanin Fellowship. Its New York premiere in 2004 at the Manhattan Ensemble Theater opened a nine-month run before a national tour in 2005. D’Zmura shares directing responsibilities with Theater Arts’ guest director Trevor Biship.

“Heather wrote and performed `Desire’ as a one-woman play,” explained D’Zmura, who joined the university in 2005. “The play features nine female characters and their individual stories of living in Iraq. We have cast three actors to play the women. This choice best serves our educational goals. We experience these women with compassion and honesty. These women are not victims. Heather is adamant about that. They are survivors,” she said. “The characters range from a young Iraqi girl to a 90-year-old woman. This play explores their experiences during wartime. Through the interweaving of their stories, they open up a new world of perceptions and experiences. The play is about courageous people in times of excruciating turmoil.” D’Zmura and Raffo last worked together on the national tour of “Macbeth” for the Acting Company which D’Zmura directed and in which Raffo played Lady Macbeth. For more information, call the CSULB Arts Ticket Office toll-free at 562/985-7000.

The month of April sees D’Zmura returning to SCR where she directed “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” in November. She believes that SCR tapped her a second time for her lifelong interest in science. “I’ve always been curious about the connection between art and science,” she said. Her current production of “Silent Sky” follows 1900s woman Henrietta Leavitt at the Harvard Observatory where she joins a group of female “computers” to chart the stars for the male astronomers. As she measures the light of distant starts, she also takes the measure of her life on Earth. Leavitt made a connection between luminosity and time that was key to helping future astronomers understand how to measure distance in the universe and has changed the course of astronomy.

D’Zmura also spearheads the development of a new BFA in Theater of Engagement geared towards actors, directors, designers and writers who want to learn how to create viable, socially oriented community-based work. “The Theater of Engagement option is about learning how to take art into the community and create work that is immediate, revelatory and speaks directly for and to the community it serves. Two of my three summer course offerings are about engagement through the arts and community service,” D’Zmura said.

Her work at CSU Summer Arts with the Cornerstone Theater Company members extends her ability to provide opportunities for her students to gain hands-on experience learning the cutting-edge methodologies that have made Cornerstone the foremost community-based company in the country.

The CSULB Short Term study abroad class “Theatre Today” to Tanzania furthers this initiative as well. CSULB Theatre Arts student Cassandra Babcock led D’Zmura to collaborate in developing this course with the founders of Karimu International Help Foundation. Karimu raises funds each year to go with a group of volunteers to Bacho village in Tanzania to help build their schools. CSULB students will join the volunteers in the mornings to build Bacho’s secondary school.

D’Zmura's Schedule Keeping Her Plenty Busy
Anne D’Zmura

In the afternoons, the students will work with the village children to create a collaborative community-based arts project which she described as a very hands-on course combining service learning with training in community-based theatre methodologies. “Since early last fall our CSULB students have been incredibly proactive in raising funds to ensure they can go to Tanzania and to ensure Karimu has the funds for building supplies and a fund for the Bacho children’s other educational needs,” she said. Those interested in more information on this project, can contact D’Zmura.

Between Fresno and Tanzania, D’Zmura will join up with the CSULB students in Ireland. They will live at Trinity College in Dublin for the first week, exploring the city, visiting famous theatres including The Abbey and The Gate and participating in numerous events with Trinity Summer School. The students then move to Galway for the remaining two weeks to take advantage of the Galway International Film Festival and the Arts Festival events.

“The students are getting an extraordinary exposure to and experience with Irish theater and cinema from 1900 on and to highly acclaimed cutting-edge international arts groups. It is an amazing course,” she said.

D’Zmura has served as resident director at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis; artistic associate for the New York-based The Acting Company where she directed national tours of “Macbeth” and “The Tempest;” and artistic director for Yale Cabaret. In addition, she has also directed at numerous venues across the country ranging from The Juilliard School to Shakespeare Santa Cruz. 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 Indonesia, NY/ Drama Leagues 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 in directing from Yale School of Drama.

D’Zmura sees her taste for timely, socially impactful plays as reflecting a seriousness of purpose. “Theater is about effective and immediate communication. It is about raising important issues for our communities to actively consider and debate — creating a dialogue that moves us to act. I am fortunate to be in a department that nurtures our educational and artistic missions and encourages us to continually deepen our commitment to training the next generation. We do this by serving as engaged professional role models and developing programmatic opportunities for our students to gain the skills and experience necessary to make a difference in our world through their art,” she said.