Murray Mednick

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Photo of playwright Murray Mednick in the 1960s
Murray Mednick
Born1939 (age 79–80)
OccupationPlaywright, poet, artistic director
Years active1965 - present

Murray Mednick (born 1939) is an American playwright and poet. He is best known as founder of the Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop/Festival, where he served as artistic director from 1978 to 1995. He has received numerous awards for his plays, including two Rockefeller Grants and an OBIE.

Life and Career[edit]

Born in 1939 to a family with Jewish roots, Mednick attended Brooklyn College and became involved with New York's off-off-Broadway company Theatre Genesis, where much of his early work was staged. He was eventually appointed to the post of artistic co-director in 1970. In 1974, Mednick moved to Los Angeles after being evicted from his apartment while on a trip to the Yucatán on a Guggenheim grant.

Mednick founded the long-running summer workshop Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop/Festival in 1978 with funding from LaVerne University, where he was teaching at the time. The workshop was meant to be an extension of his collaborations with Ralph Cook, his mentor and founder of Theatre Genesis. In his teachings at Padua, Mednick stressed a strong grounding in theater and literary history, specifically the Ancient Greeks, Shakespeare, and Beckett. Language was especially important. In a 2001 interview, Mednick said that Padua's teaching was "based in a literary knowledge, with a seriousness of purpose that isn't necessarily commercial. Both the writing and the acting are like realism-plus. Ordinary exchanges of life are put in an occasion that heightens them. The dialogue is really the action; it has a life of its own. The story is reflected by the dialogue."[1] Notable participants in the Workshop/Festival included Maria Irene Fornes, Sam Shepard, John Steppling, John O'Keefe, Jon Robin Baitz and Kelly Stuart".[2]

Padua ceased operation in 1995 and reemerged in 2001, premiering three Mednick works as part of a tribute series honoring influential local playwrights.

Mednick has been mentioned as influencing other playwrights, including Sam Shepard, Eduardo Machado, and David Scott Milton. Murray Mednick met Sam Sheppard in 1965, they went on to start a band called "The Heavy Metal Kid." Murray Mednick directed Sam Shepard's play Action starring Patti Smith.[3] Mednick and Sheppard were a part of the Off- Off broadway movement in NY.[1][4]

Works[edit]

Mednick's current productions include Mayakovsky and Stalin[5], which premiered in Los Angeles starting in October 2018, and will move to the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York, 2019.[2] The Gary Plays (8 separate works/ premiered in Los Angeles 2017)[3], Villon (premiered in Los Angeles, 2014). Past productions include; Scar (starring actor Ed Harris), an autobiographical series 16 Routines, Joe and Betty (concerning his parents' difficult marriage, starring John Diehl and Annabel Gurwitch, which performed in New York starting in June 2002), and Mrs. Feuerstein, [6] as well as Sand, The Hawk, Fedunn (produced by the Audrey Skirball-Kenis theatre), The Coyote Cycle, a series of one-act plays performed outdoors from twilight till dawn, involving four characters such as Spider Grandmother drawn from traditional Native American folklore. The Coyote character was also featured in Destruction of the Fourth World, part of the 2009 series performed by Padua Playwrights.

His published plays include VILLON and other plays (2016), Hipsters in Distress (2005), Three Plays (2003), The Coyote Cycle (1993), by Padua Hills Press. His play Switchback was published in 1997 by (Sun and Moon Press). Anthologized plays include Freeze, The Deer Kill, Willie the Germ, The Hawk, Sand, Switchback, Taxes, and others.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Mednick is the recipient of two Rockefeller Foundation grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an OBIE (The Deer Kill), several Bay Area Critics Awards, two LA Weekly Playwriting Awards (for Dictator and Fedunn), the American Theater Critics Association/Steinberg New Play Citation (for Joe and Betty), an Ovation Lifetime Achievement Award from Theatre LA for outstanding contributions to Los Angeles Theatre, a Local Hero Garland Award from Back Stage West for a Distinguished Body of Work, a Career Achievement Award from the LA Weekly, and the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle’s most prestigious honor, the Margaret Harford Award for “Sustained Excellence in Theater.”

Productions
Title Year City
Sand 1968 NY
The Hawk 1969 NY
The Shadow Ripens 1969 San Diego
Willie The Germa 1970 NY
The Hunter 1970 NY
Are You Lookin 1972 NY
The Deer Kill 1972 NY
The Coyote Cycle 1978-1988 LA, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Yogoslavia
Scar 1977 Los Angeles
The Actors Delicatessen 1984 NY
Shatter' n Wade 1990 LA
Skinwalkers 1991 LA
Heads 1991 LA
Freeze 1995 LA
Baby, Jesus! 1996 LA
Switchback 1997 LA
Tirade for Three 1997 LA
Dictator 1997 LA
G-Nome 1997 LA
Joe and Betty 2001-2002 LA, NY, Tel Aviv
Mrs. Feuerstien 2001 LA, NY
16 Routines 2001 LA
Fedunn 2002 LA
Destruction of the 4th World 2004 LA
Gary's Walk 2005 LA
Girl On A Bed 2005 LA
Out of the Blue 2007 LA
Nightmare Audition 2008 LA
Charles Story 2009 LA
Daddy O Dies Well 2011 LA
The Fool and Red Queen 2011 LA
Villion 2014 LA
The Gary Play Series (7 plays) 2015-2017 LA
Mayakovsky and Stalin 2018-2019 LA, NY

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shirley, Jon (2001-04-01). "Drawn back to Padua Hills". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-28.
  2. ^ Morris, Steven Leigh (2002-12-02). "THEATER; Surviving Brooklyn, and Finding a Voice Far Away". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-29.
  3. ^ John, Leland (August 2017). "How Sam Shepard Hit Downtown NY and Reinvented Himself". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Cresby, David; Edward Albee (2003). OFF-OFF BROADWAY EXPLOSION. New York: Back Stage Books. pp. 19, 28, 117, 121, 129–132, 146. ISBN 0-8230-8832-4.
  5. ^ Miller, Geri (July 2018). "The Lives and Loves of Russian Revolutionaries Mayakovsky and Stalin". The Jewish Journal: 1–10.
  6. ^ "Mrs. Feuerstein". Variety.

External links[edit]