Jump to content

Tanya Barfield

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Tanya Barfield
EducationNew York University (BFA)
Juilliard School (GrDip)

Tanya Barfield is an American playwright whose works have been presented both nationally and internationally.[1]

Early life[edit]

Barfield was raised in Portland, Oregon and attended Metropolitan Learning Center.[2] Barfield fell in love with theater at a young age. Her high school didn't have a theater program, so she sought acting electives at another school.[3] While she was there, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival sent actors to her school to perform a condensed version of Macbeth. She walked away from that experience knowing that she wanted to have a career in the field of theater and making the decision to direct that very same play at her own high school months later.[3]

She graduated from New York University where she studied acting.[4] She starred in a one- woman show Without Skin or Breathlessness.[5] She then attended the Juilliard School Playwrights program, receiving an Artist Diploma. At Juilliard, she was the drama division's literary manager and a member of The Lila Acheson Playwriting Program.[6]


Her plays include: Bright Half Life, The Call, 121° West, Blue Door,[1] Dent, The Houdini Act, Medallion, Of Girl & Wolf and Wanting North, Pecan Tan and The Quick.[7][8] She authored a book for a children's musical entitled Civil War: The First Black Regiment.

She taught playwriting at Primary Stages School of Theater and Barnard College, New York University and she served as the literary manager of the Juilliard Drama Division from 2009 to 2014.[6] In 2016, Profile Theatre in Portland dedicated their entire season to her work, producing four of her plays.[9] As of 2020 she replaced Marsha Norman as the co-director of The Acheson program.[10] She is a proud alumna of New Dramatists and a member of the Dramatists Guild of America sitting on the council.[11]


Barfield's most nominated play Blue Door [1][11] features a prominent African American mathematician in crisis [that] begins to lose his grip on reality, and "the ghosts of his ancestors [that] shatter the silence of an insomnia-filled night."[5] Her play Blue Door had its world premiere at the South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, California in May 2006. It was then produced at the Off-Broadway Playwrights Horizons in September 2006 to October 2006, directed by Leigh Silverman.[5] The CurtainUp reviewer noted: "Barfield's play is filled with words that spin into near poetic riffs and define the past and the present philosophical and cultural attitudes of African-Americans in a unique and refreshing way....The title refers to a family memory and a tradition stemming from the days in the slave quarters when the door was painted blue to "keep the bad spirits out and the soul family in." It also was produced at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in 2007, Berkeley Repertory and Harare International Festival of the Arts, Zimbabwe (HIFA). Blue Door was developed at the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, Utah, in 2005.

On June 29, 2008, her play Of Equal Measure premiered at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, California directed by Leigh Silverman[12] through the sponsorship of the National Endowment for the Arts. The play was a NAACP Theatre Awards nominee.

The Call opened Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in a co-production with Primary Stages in March 2013 to May 2013, directed by Leigh Silverman.[13] The TheatreMania reviewer wrote that "...whatever the work's shortcomings, it's never a bad thing to leave the theater thinking about the problems of the world at large and looking at your own neighbors in a new light."[14] The Call was a New York Times Critic's Pick.

Barfield's newest and self-proclaimed best play Bright Half Life[15] explores the relationship between two women in love. According to press notes,

"Erica meets Vicky. Vicky marries Erica. Lives collide. Rewind. Pause. Fast forward. Bright Half Life is a kaleidoscopic new play about love, skydiving and the infinite moments that make a life together."[16]

Bright Half Life ran Off-Broadway at the Women's Project Theater in February 2015 to March 2015, directed by Leigh Silverman. It was a "Time Out" Critic's Pick, and the script received the 2016 LAMBDA Literary Award.[17]


Growing up, Barfield had little interaction with dramatic media on TV.[3] She enjoyed television, but she never saw herself writing for the screen because it didn't have the riveting material that she wanted to explore.[3] However, according to her,

"TV got better and better. The stories became so unexpected, with complicated characters. It started to feel like something truly exciting was happening onscreen, the vanguard of dramatic narrative. It felt rich and full of possibility in a way that it hadn't felt before."[3]

She then began writing for television with her first writing credit being season 4, episode 7 of The Americans (FX).[18]

Barfield is now a working television writer as well as a playwright, yet she still struggles with finding the time to balance the two mediums.[4][18] She has written for the Starz series The One Percent, and The Americans (FX). Her most recent writing credits include Here and Now (HBO), Mrs. America (FX) and the upcoming Jack Johnson.[18]

Awards and nominations[edit]


2020 Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Long Form – Original, for Mrs. America on FX. Barfield shares this award with six other writers.[19]

2016 Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Dramatic Series for The Americans on FX. Barfield shares this award with six other writers.[19]

2006 Lark Play Development / NYSCA grant[20]

2005 Honorable Mention – Kesselring Prize for Drama[20]

2003 Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights[20]

2013 Lilly Award[21]


2020 Primetime Emmy, Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special for Episode 3 Mrs. America entitled "Shirley" on FX. 2020 Primetime Emmy, Outstanding Limited Series for Mrs. America on FX.[18]

2007 Audelco Award for Blue Door, Playwright[22]

Two Nominations for the Princess Grace Award.[15][20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c DeVoti, Emily. "Blue Door: Painting within the lines of history with Tanya Barfield" brooklynrail.org, October 2006, Accessed 13 September 2104.
  2. ^ "Barfield, Tanya". Current Biography Yearbook 2011. Ipswich,MA: H.W. Wilson. 2011. pp. 47–50. ISBN 9780824211219.
  3. ^ a b c d e Miller, Hillary (2020-02-11), "Tanya Barfield", Playwrights on Television, New York: Routledge, pp. 19–28, doi:10.4324/9781351131032-2, ISBN 978-1-351-13103-2, S2CID 243295960, retrieved 2022-04-26
  4. ^ a b "Interview with Playwright Tanya Barfield". Portland Shakespeare Project | Igniting A Passion For The Classics. 2020-07-07. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  5. ^ a b c Jones, Kenneth (August 21, 2006). "Barfield's Two-Actor Blue Door Will Swing Open Off-Broadway Sept. 28". Playbill.com. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Staff Portrait. Tanya Barfield" juilliard.edu, accessed October 11, 2015
  7. ^ Barfield biodata Archived 2008-07-06 at the Wayback Machine doollee.com
  8. ^ "Tanya Barfield" New Dramatists.org, Accessed 13 September 2014.
  9. ^ "2016 Tanya Barfield Season". Profile Theatre. 2015-06-28. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  10. ^ Culwell-Block, Logan (October 17, 2019). "Tanya Barfield Named New Co-Director of Juilliard's Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program". Playbill.com. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  11. ^ a b "About Tanya Barfield". Profile Theatre. 2015-06-28. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  12. ^ McNulty, Charles. "Theater Review. Shapeless history" Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2008
  13. ^ The Call playwrightshorizons.org, accessed May 8, 2015
  14. ^ Lipton, Brian Scott. "Reviews. The Call " theatermania.com, April 14, 2013
  15. ^ a b Koster, Rick (July 18, 2014). "Barfield's 'Bright Half Life' closes National Playwrights Conference". theday.com. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  16. ^ Clement, Olivia (January 20, 2015). "Pulitzer Prize Nominee Tanya Barfield and Tony Nominee Leigh Silverman Reunite for Off-Broadway Premiere". Playbill.com. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  17. ^ Productions, Brave New. "Bright Half Life". Brave New Productions. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  18. ^ a b c d "Tanya Barfield". IMDb. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  19. ^ a b "Tanya Barfield". IMDb. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  20. ^ a b c d "Playwright Details | Playscripts, Inc". www.playscripts.com. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  21. ^ "2013 Lilly Awards". The Lillys. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  22. ^ "Dramatists Play Service, Inc". www.dramatists.com. Retrieved 2022-04-26.

External links[edit]