UT Hires Playwrights Annie Baker and Branden Jacob-Jenkins

MacArthur Fellows will teach in theatre department, Michener Center

Annie Baker (l) and Branden Jacob-Jenkins

Aspiring playwrights are about to have two new reasons to want to come to the University of Texas – two big new reasons, and their names are Annie Baker and Branden Jacob-Jenkins. The two MacArthur Fellows have just been hired by the university to teach in the Department of Theatre & Dance and the Michener Center for Writers.

Baker's name will be familiar to anyone who's spent time at Hyde Park Theatre in the last several years. HPT Artistic Director Ken Webster is a major fan of her work and to date has produced Body Awareness, Circle Mirror Transformation, The Aliens, John, her Pulitzer Prize winner The Flick, and most recently, The Antipodes. One thread that runs through all of those scripts is a keen observation of human folly, and it can make her plays extremely funny, though not at the expense of her characters' humanity. As much as you may laugh at them, you're more likely to leave one of Baker's plays feeling more empathy toward her people than disdain.

Jacob-Jenkins has yet to find a champion in Austin's theatres, but he's certainly deserving of one. His play Gloria was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer for Drama, and last year Everybody was a finalist for the same prize. In 2014, his one-two punch of Appropriate and An Octaroon earned him the Obie Award for Best New American Play. If you're looking for a writer who will tackle race and class onstage, and do so with fearlessness and a sense of satire that will make you laugh and unsettle you at the same time, you need look no further than Jacob-Jenkins.

Associate Professor KJ Sanchez, who currently heads the playwriting and directing programs at UT's Department of Theatre & Dance, says that the two playwrights "are re-inventing what theatre can be and say. Their work brings a younger audience to the theatre, and they’re exactly the right artists for talking about our current culture, race relations, generational questions, and what it means to be human today.”

Sanchez is one more recent addition to the department roster that is making the playwriting program there an all-star team. Along with the prolific and renowned Steven Dietz (Yankee Tavern, Becky's New Car, Bloomsday, et al.), Rude Mechs co-founder Kirk Lynn (Fixing Troilus and Cressida, Your Mother's Copy of the Kama Sutra, Lipstick Traces), and Liz Engelman (founder and director of Tofte Lake Center), Sanchez, Baker, and Jacob-Jenkins elevate UT to the top ranks of training grounds for playwrights.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More UT Department of Theatre & Dance
Trust the Process in Gesel Mason's <i>burst!</i>
Trust the Process in Gesel Mason's burst!
In this Texas Theatre & Dance project, students learn to undo

Robert Faires, Feb. 25, 2021

More by Robert Faires
Tony Hinchcliffe's Stand-up Racism
Tony Hinchcliffe's Stand-up Racism
Kill Tony host spews slurs at fellow comic Peng Dang

May 13, 2021

Austin Opera Races Back Into Live Performance With <i>Tosca</i> at Circuit of the Americas
Austin Opera Races Back Into Live Performance With Tosca at Circuit of the Americas
The company brings grand opera to the Grand Prix with an outdoor staging of Puccini's powerhouse

April 30, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

UT Department of Theatre & Dance, Michener Center for Writers, Annie Baker, Branden Jacob-Jenkins, KJ Sanchez, Ken Webster, Steven Dietz, Kirk Lynn, Liz Engelman

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle