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"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." –Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
With the critical acclaim and popularity of the musical Hamilton, historic renderings on the stage have gained new attention from the historical profession. Heather Nathans in the Journal of the Early Republic recently observed, “artists used Hamilton to consider critical moments in the nation’s passionate and often painful debates about race, citizenship, and belonging.” While historians are recognizing anew the value of theatre and the arts in the telling of a more whole “American” story, Professor Oliver Mayer has been devoting his life to engaging history in his playwriting and teaching. “The subject of my writing is history,” writes Mayer. “I use historical research as a way of seeing ourselves now – who we really are, what we really feel, what our biggest questions are – by bringing to life characters and events of the past.” Mayer’s method is to “unearth rich, violent, even taboo, stories of marginal Americans, and to force the characters to actively reclaim their identities during moments of intense conflict.” Just last year in fact, in the wake of the horrific Orlando massacre, Mayer joined a cohort of some of the most admired theatre-artists across the world to curate plays to collectively address the grief, the anger, the hope and the desire to combat the violence of our society. Come and join Professor Mayer in conversation where we will learn from him how to weave the narrative threads of our own pasts, presents, and futures into a stunningly rich and textured tapestry.
Oliver Mayer, Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives & Professor of Dramatic Writing
Oliver Mayer is an associate professor and associate dean of Strategic Initiatives at the USC School of Dramatic Arts, and the author of nearly 30 plays, including his newest The Sinner from Toledo, adapted from a short story by Chekhov. He also wrote Blood Match, inspired by the play Bodas de Sangre by Federico Garcia Lorca, Fortune is a Woman, The Wallowa Project, Dias y Flores, Dark Matters, Conjunto, Young Valiant, and others. He has also written the libretto for the opera America Tropical, as well as the words for several sung pieces with orchestra. He is a member of The Temblors, an LA writer’s collective. He received his MFA from Columbia University.