Mary Beth Easley
Mary Beth comes to The University of Iowa from Brooklyn College, where she was the Artistic Director of the Department of Theater. Focusing on new play development, intercultural theatre expression, and outreach to under-represented urban and rural communities where she utilizes devised theatre as a means to deepen awareness and foment change, Ms. Easley has been directing plays, coaching, and teaching acting in New York City for many years. She has directed Off-Broadway and in regional theatres throughout the Midwest. Her work has been featured at The Bushwick Starr, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Circle Rep, The Women’s Project, The New Federal Theater, and LaMama ETC, among others. At Theater de la Jeune Lune, MN, she directed Krasang Tree, an intercultural chamber-opera, developed with Cambodian poet, U Sam Oeur. She directed NYC premieres of Levy Lee Simon’s God, the Crackhouse and the Devil (LaMama), and Caseload (The Workshop Theatre). With Mr. Simon and composer-lyricist, Mark Bruckner, she created Same Train, a spoken-word musical, produced at Algonquin Theater in NYC, and featured as a main-stage production at the 2011 National Black Theater Festival. In March 2012, she directed the NYC premiere of Jeffrey Sweet’s Court-Martial at Fort Devens for Woodie King’s New Federal Theatre, earning an Audelco Award for Best Direction of a Dramatic Production. In the Spring of 2014, she directed the premiere of William Burke’s the food was terrible for the Bushwick Starr, which received a critic’s pick from Time Out New York. She worked with Randy Noojin on the development of his one-person show Seeger, which played at the 2016 New York Fringe Festival and is currently touring. A guest director and responder at the Great Plains Theater Conference since 2013, Ms. Easley is currently working with composer Mark Bruckner and author Diane Glancy (an alum of the UI Writer’s workshop) on adapting Ms. Glancy’s novel Pushing the Bear into a multi-media musical.
During her tenure as Artistic Director at Brooklyn College she built a relationship with the MFA Playwriting program headed by esteemed playwright, Mac Wellman. This 8-year interdepartmental collaboration featured a monthly reading series of plays-in-progress, which fueled the production of eight world premieres by graduates of the playwriting program. She also served on the planning committee for the three-year collaboration with The Public Theater, funded by the Leonard Tow Foundation; and she oversaw the 2017 edition of The Weasel Festival --- a series of one-act plays by alums of the Brooklyn College MFA playwriting program --- hosted by the Public Theater. Ms. Easley developed and produced New Works Brooklyn, a festival of new play workshops by a diverse cadre of established playwrights. In this festival, guest directors led workshops of new plays culminating in a staged reading featuring casts of both professional and student actors. Guests included, among others, playwrights Keith Jusef Adkins, Jaclyn Backhaus, Erin Courtney, Christopher Diaz, Lindsey Ferrentino, Nambi Kelley, Rehana Lew Mirza, Jose Rivera, and Anne Washburn; and directors, Elena Araoz, Lear DeBessonet, Kamilah Forbes, and Dan Rothenberg.
As an acting teacher, Mary Beth focuses on helping actors to develop an “independence of acting” through exercises and practices aimed at freeing the imagination, tuning the body, and deepening kinesthetic awareness. Her private coaching clients have appeared on and off-Broadway, and in television and film, and have garnered numerous nominations and awards for their work in the field. Ms. Easley has been on the faculties of the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting, the New American Theatre School, the Academy of Film and Television in Minneapolis, and Brooklyn College.
She holds a dual MFA in Acting and Directing from the University of Georgia, where she studied under the mentorship of esteemed director and scholar, August Staub. She earned her BFA from Missouri State University. She is a recipient of the Charles Revson Directing Fellowship, which allowed her to study Shakespearean reinterpretation with A.J. Antoon, British comedy with Bryan Murray, George Bernard Shaw with Stephen Porter, and Samuel Beckett with Nagle Jackson.