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Moisés Kaufman

Moisés Kaufman is the founder and artistic director of Tectonic Theater Project, an award-winning director and playwright, and an activist-in-art. In recognition of his contributions to the theater and to international conversations about social justice, he has received numerous professional and humanitarian honors. Moisés is an Obie and Lucille Lortel award winner, a 2002 Guggenheim Fellow in Playwriting, winner of the 2002 Humanitas Prize, and has been nominated for Tony, Emmy, and Drama Desk awards. He was awarded the 2015 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama, which he accepted in a ceremony at the White House in September 2016.

Moisés was born in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1963, and he grew up surrounded by the city’s thriving international performance scene. He studied with several theater companies at home and then, in 1987, moved to New York City to complete his education at New York University. He attended NYU’s groundbreaking Experimental Theatre Wing, where he deepened his investigation of the role of text in the creative process and his love of challenge in theatrical structure. When he finished school in 1991, Moisés founded Tectonic Theater Project with his husband, Jeff LaHoste. Many of their first collaborators came from Moisés’s artistic circle at the Experimental Theatre Wing.

Tectonic’s early productions were a natural expansion upon the themes that had absorbed Moisés in his studies: structurally difficult plays demanding extensive problem-solving in stagecraft. He found his path to creative maturity, though, in applying that passion for form and experimentation to his own new work, most notably 1997’s critically acclaimed Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, which ran off-Broadway for a year and a half. Gross Indecency gained Moisés and the company national recognition and its success enabled them to travel to Laramie, Wyoming to pursue their next undertaking.

That next work, The Laramie Project (which Moisés wrote in collaboration with members of Tectonic after an extensive community-based research process), is an examination of the cultural conflict surrounding the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. It opened at the Denver Theater Center in March 2000 and moved to New York shortly thereafter. TIME called Laramie “one of the 10 best plays of 2000,” and it was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. It was also recently selected by the New York Times as one of their “25 Best American Plays Since ‘Angels in America’” and remains among the most performed plays in the United States. In 2002, Moisés co-wrote and directed HBO’s film adaptation of The Laramie Project, which garnered two Emmy Award nominations—Best Director and Best Writer.

In the years since Gross Indecency first brought his methods to wider attention, Moisés has continued to refine his devising process with Tectonic, always with an aim toward using the powers unique to theater to explore primary sources and understand underrepresented stories—old and new. His writing and adaptation credits include 33 Variations (2007), The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later (2008), One Arm (2011), and Carmen (2013-2016); as artistic director he has also guided the  development of Anushka Paris-Carter and Andy Paris’s Uncommon Sense (2017).

Moisés is also a dedicated teacher. Since 2000, he and the company’s teaching artists have been sharing Tectonic’s techniques in lectures, training labs, and educational residencies. In 2018, he co-wrote Moment Work: Tectonic Theater Project’s Process of Devising (Vintage), a comprehensive introduction to his theatrical principles and the company’s creative tools.

On Broadway, Moisés has directed the 2012 revival of The Heiress with Jessica Chastain, the Tony-nominated 33 Variations with Jane Fonda , Rajiv Joseph’s Pulitzer Prize finalist Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo with Robin Williams, and Doug Wright’s Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning I Am My Own Wife with Jefferson Mays. He recently helmed the off-Broadway revival (Second Stage) and Broadway transfer of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song.

Other directing credits include The Tallest Tree in the Forest with Mark Taper (Brooklyn Academy of Music), The Nightingale (La Jolla Playhouse), The Common Pursuit (Roundabout), Macbeth with Liev Schreiber (Public Theater), This Is How It Goes (Donmar Warehouse), Tennessee Williams’s One Arm (New Group and Steppenwolf Theatre Company), El Gato con Botas (New Victory Theater), Master Class with Rita Moreno (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), and Into the Woods (Kansas City Repertory Theatre). In January 2019, Moisés directed the world premiere of the musical Paradise Square at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

Most recently with Tectonic, Moisés has written and directed the workshop premiere of The Album (Here There Are Blueberries) at Miami New Drama in June 2018. It is in ongoing development with Tectonic, as is the new work Euphoria, both of which will be workshopped throughout 2019.

Friday Phone Call # 7

Friday Phone Call # 7

Moisés Kaufman of Tectonic Theater Project

10 February 2012

On this week's edition of Friday Phone Call, David Dower talks to Moisés Kaufman of Tectonic Theater Project about challenging assumptions about theater, how it works, and the artists who make it.