The UMass Amherst Department of Theater is pleased to announce that the 2011 Rand Lecturer will be Molly Smith, artistic director of Arena Stage in Washington DC and a long-time ardent supporter of new theater. The Rand Lecture will take place on Thursday, November 10, at 4 p.m. in the Rand Theater, and is free and open to the community.
Among the playwrights she has supported is UMass Theater's own Marcus Gardley, whose every tongue confess inaugurated Arena's new Kogod Cradle last year. The New England premiere of his play Hell in High Water serves as the catalyst for our invitation to Smith.
Over the past 13 seasons, Molly Smith has been instrumental in leading the re-invention of Arena Stage. From the programming for the architecture to the envisioning of the Kogod Cradle, Smith has focused her creative life on the building of this new Center for American Theater. This re-invention has been part of a major artistic change as well, into the production, presentation, development and study of American Theater which leads Arena into the 21st Century.
Ms. Smith has been a passionate leader in new play development for the past 30 years while at Arena Stage as well as at Perseverance Theatre in Alaska, the theater she founded and led for 19 years. She has commissioned or championed numerous world premieres, including Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize-winning How I Learned to Drive and Mineola Twins; Tim Acito's The Women of Brewster Place; Moisés Kaufman's 33 Variations; Charles Randolph-Wright's Blue; Zora Neale Hurston's lost American play, Polk County; Karen Zacarías' Legacy of Light; and Passion Play, a cycle by Sarah Ruhl; some of which she has directed. She founded Arena's downstairs series, which has read or workshopped some 60 plays, half of which have gone on to full productions. In 2009, two shows nurtured at Arena Stage (33 Variations and Next to Normal) moved to Broadway. Ms. Smith's directorial work has also been seen at the Shaw Festival in Canada, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Trinity Repertory Company, Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, and Centaur Theatre in Montreal and includes classics such as South Pacific, Mack and Mabel, Anna Christie and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Smith has served as literary advisor to Sundance Theatre Lab and formed the Arena Stage Writers Council, composed of leading American playwrights.
Molly Smith comes to the Department thanks to Margarita Hopkins Rand, the wife of Professor Frank Prentice Rand, who died in 1971 and for whom the Rand Theater is named. Mrs. Rand supported the arts as much as her husband did and created a sort of salon in her home where faculty and students gathered to share ideas and socialize. In her will, she left the department funds to support scholarships for theater students and to provide "entertaining and articulate lectures of interest to students in the Humanities."