September 21, 2013

Spotlight on Alumni: Elizabeth Bradley

Elizabeth Bradley Elizabeth Bradley

Elizabeth Bradley (BFA 1976), Arts Professor at the Dept. of  Drama at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, took a moment out of her busy schedule to share details of where she is now and the very remarkable path she took to get there. 

This past summer I traveled to Seattle in my role as “Senior Creative and Strategic Associate” to work with the Intiman Theatre.  This Tony Award winning regional theatre is reinventing itself under new leadership with a completely re-envisioned producing model.  Intiman premiered a new musical “Stu for Silverton” about the first transgendered mayor in the United States and I am closely involved in the development of the piece and plans for its future. 

Co-producing with London based Richard Jordan Productions, we brought a revised version of HIRSCH, Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson's evocation of the late Stratford artistic director to the Edinburgh Festival.  Plans are underway for a London production and subsequent Canadian and US engagements.

August found me in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.  I was invited by the iconic Market Theatre to teach a two week intensive version of the artistic entrepreneurship course, SELF START which I developed at Carnegie Mellon and New York University.  The team worked with twenty four students from South Africa and Zimbabwe consisting of mid-career artists and matriculating students from the Market's Lab  certificate training program.  This was a highlight of my teaching life so far!

Liz Bradley and the participants in the Market Theatre of Johannesburg's SELF START program Liz Bradley (centre, seated)
and the participants in the Market Theatre of Johannesburg's SELF START program

What have I been up to since graduating?  A challenge to be both grateful and succinct!  In my twenties I apprenticed on Broadway — this helped prepare me for the major American tour and Broadway run of Brian Macdonald's Gilbert and Sullivan productions produced with Ed and David Mirvish.  Founding the Performing Arts Development Fund of Toronto which brought a half price ticket booth to Toronto along with other audience development programs. Helping to stabilize the Canadian Stage Company in the early years of that fine idea.  Bringing international dance companies to the now Sony Centre such as Cloud Gate from Taiwan.  Founding the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts.  Working with international colleagues to create the first international arts forum in Bejing, China in 2004.  Managing the transition from producer to programmer to venue director to educator – and in some cases – back again.  Leading the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon.  This was an experience which changed me completely as a professional and a person. Working with Des McAnuff's team during his tenure at the Stratford Festival. The privilege of becoming a part of the New York theatre community again with my appointment at the Tisch School of the Arts.

What were the most valuable things you got to do at York?

The flexibility I was afforded to follow my interests as they developed along with a serious professional ethic.  Anatol Schlosser's classes in non-Western theatre complemented by the programming presented at Burton Auditorium gave me insight into theatrical possibilities beyond the conventional.  The opportunity to work as a student assistant on the theatre portion of the series was a huge gift.

What did you not get from time in the Department of Theatre, that you wished you had gotten?

An extended course progression and mentoring/internships that would have furthered my interest in directing.  (Don't we all want to be directors?)  At the time I had no notion that graduate directing programs even existed, or that a path might be forged for women entering the field.

What did you enjoy outside of the theatre program at York?

The Film department!  I took as many film studies courses as I could muster.  As I look back the best writing I may have done in my life was in those courses. 

A moment that was most useful in your life beyond York was…

When the acting teacher Norman Welch told me that I should be running theatre companies!

If you could go back in time to when you were a student at York, would you have any advice for younger self?

Honor your creativity — be brave and believe you have earned a place in theatre-making.  I was fearless about helping others to make work but cowardly about failing with my own.

And finally: any advice for graduates?

Understand the extent that you will need to self-generate.  Be prepared to self-manage your own careers.  The good news?  Opportunities to cut through on your own terms have never been more abundant!

For more on the remarkable Elizabeth Bradley, please see the 2009 Summer edition of YorkU Magazine and their story “Drama Queen.”