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Former Yale Dean to Head SMU Drama

by Jerome Weeks 10 Feb 2010 7:47 AM

The man who simultaneously headed up one of our most prestigious drama schools and its repertory theater will be the next chair of SMU’s drama program. This fall, Stan Wojewodski, Jr., former head of the Yale School of Drama and Yale Rep, will replace Cecil O’Neal, who is retiring.


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The former dean of one of the most important drama schools in the country will be the next chairman of the Southern Methodist University theater department.

Stan Wojewodski, Jr. ran the Yale School of Drama and the Yale Repertory Theatre for 11 years — teaching and working with some of America’s most talented stage artists. This fall, he will succeed Cecil O’Neal as the chair of SMU’s theater department.

Jose Bowen, dean of SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, said that because Wojewodski has directed professional theaters, taught students and run a college, he was “the best of all possible worlds” to head the department.

BOWEN: “The biggest issue was convincing him to go back into administration. He came here because he could direct again. I had to convince him that he could still do that and direct the department.”

As a graduate conservatory, Yale has produced such actors as Paul Newman, Sigourney Weaver, Edward Norton and Meryl Streep — and such playwrights as Christopher Durang and John Guare. Yale Repertory shows have won eight Tony Awards — and the theater itself has won a regional Tony Award. But Wojewodski says that he left Yale in 2002, in part, because when you add his time running Center Stage theater in Baltimore, he’d been an artistic director for 25 consecutive years. That’s why he chose just to freelance, directing different shows around the country. He didn’t want to be “institutionalized” any longer, he said with a laugh.

In fact, Wojewodski was in town in 2004 staging The Importance of Being Earnest at the Dallas Theater Center when SMU approached him about talking informally to faculty and students. Wojewodski was familiar with SMU’s program, having worked with the earlier generation of graduates — once known as the “SMU Mafia” — including actor Kathy Bates, playwright Beth Henley and the late Guthrie Theater director, Garland Wright.

It was just an informal talk at SMU, but a student asked Wojewodski if he missed being dean. No, he said, but he missed teaching. That led faculty members to ask if he’d like to teach there.

At SMU — where Wojewodski became an artist-in-residence in 2005 — he found it was different teaching undergraduates, and teaching these undergraduates, whom he found to be smart and committed.

WOJEWODSKI: “I was delighted by what I found. It was very challenging and really, really rewarding.”

Wojewodski became a tenured professor at SMU but has continued to freelance — he’s directing Samuel Beckett’s Endgame at the Undermain Theatre in April. Then, when Cecil O’Neal decided to retire, Wojewodski was asked if he’d like to replace him.

WOJEWODSKI: “I really resisted it for[laughs] for what I think of as a long time. And then faculty members and Cecil and Jose proved to be very persuasive. And I also discovered – I had no idea when I came here that I would miss that kind of ongoing contribution to a community.”

Wojewodski’s appointment as chair of SMU drama runs for three years.