W. Stuart McDowell, Artistic Director, Professor, and Area Coordinator of the Theatre Studies Program, came to educational theatre after two decades in professional theatre in New York and California, working as a artistic director, actor, composer and translator, in addition to winning national awards as playwright, director and scholar.
McDowell has won awards from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for directing and playwrighting of 1913: The Great Dayton Flood (co-written with honors-student Timothy Nevits), which played to over 10,000 in Washington D. C. and Dayton in 1997, featuring recorded narration by Martin Sheen, the late Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. His original drama, The Brothers BOOTH! was developed at the Guthrie Theatre Lab and New York's Second Stage, with such actors as David Strathairn, David Dukes, Maryann Plunket, and Stephen Lang, and produced professionally. He has composed several hundred songs and incidental music for the theatre, and the score for 1903: The Wings of Dreams, broadcast on PBS/ThinkTV.
McDowell holds a BA degree from Macalester College and an MA and PhD from U.C. Berkeley. McDowell was a two-year Fulbright Scholar, as well as a DeWitt Wallace Fellow, both for residencies in Berlin at the acclaimed Berliner Ensemble and at the Munich Kammerspiele. There he interviewed over fifty actors and directors who worked with Brecht, Wedekind and other leaders in German theatre and Kabaret. He has lectured at the NYU School of the Arts, Columbia University, the Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Oxford, England. McDowell's scholarly writing on the work of Bertolt Brecht won the distinguished national award in the Amy and Eric Burger Theatre Essay Competition.
McDowell has translated and directed numerous dramas from German, from Goethe's Faust: Part One and Frank Wedekind's Der Kammersaenger to the cabaret sketches of Weimar-era Munich clown Karl Valentin, as well as over a dozen plays by Bertolt Brecht. These include several major premieres, including the New York premiere of The Life of Edward II, produced by Joseph Papp and the New York Shakespeare Festival, and the American premiere Off Broadway, of The Downfall of the Egotist Johann Fatzer, featuring noted Irish cabaret singer Agnes Bernelle.
McDowell was the founding Artistic Director of the Riverside Shakespeare Company of New York City, which he helmed for a decade, producing numerous dramas and Commedia dell'arte works by Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and Brecht. At Riverside, McDowell mounted dramas and benefits with Jeremy Irons, Roger Rees, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Jim Dale, Tonya Pinkins, Anna Deavere Smith, and the late Ossie Davis, Raul Julia, Nicole Williamson and Helen Hayes, as well as the first New York stage production featuring Tom Hanks, in 1979. While at Riverside, McDowell also produced the first Shakespeare Project, a residency of actors from London’s Royal Shakespeare Company at The Shakespeare Center, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Prior to coming to Wright State, McDowell was Artistic Director for Grove Shakespeare in southern California, when the company received its first Los Angeles Theatre Critics Circle Award, and in 1993, he received the Los Angeles Drama-Logue Award for Stage Directing for Noel Coward’s Private Lives. Since his appointment as chair at Wright State, he has directed numerous dramas, comedies and musicals, from the classics Show Boat, Threepenny Opera and South Pacific to Jekyll & Hyde, Titanic, Phantom of the Opera, Fences, and Les Miserables, which set departmental box office records, selling over 6,000 tickets in May of 2014. In the Fall of 2015, McDowell directed The Great Gatsby on the 75th anniversary of that acclaimed book's first publication. In the fall of 2016, McDowell directed the premiere of Restoration! - a resetting of King Lear in 1681 which was heralded in the press as "Best Collegiate Production of a Play" and "Best Direction of a Play" in the press. The production featured a score composed by McDowell and guest artist and acclaimed composer, Sandy Bashaw.
A member of the national honor society Kappa Phi Kappa, McDowell was honored in May of 2013 with the Arts Award from the Lamda Chapter of the Eta Phi Beta Sorority for "outstanding artistic and historic contributions."
During the twenty-two years that McDowell served as chair, McDowell's proudest achievement at Wright State has been in fostering more than a ten-fold increase in scholarship funding for students. McDowell played a major role in establishing numerous scholarships in the department, such as the Tom Hanks, Martin Sheen & Samantha Lavgevin, and Rising Star Scholarships, as well as individual scholarships for local students through the annual ArtsGala at Wright State. This, along with numerous out-of-state scholarships, have placed the department on a nationally competitive footing, while assisting hundreds of students to major in the arts at Wright State.
McDowell also played a decisive role in securing Tom Hanks as national co-chair of the campus-wide Rise. Shine. Campaign, the largest and most successful fund-raising campaign in the university's history, raising over $160 million, to "further elevate Wright State's prominence by expanding scholarships, attracting more top-flight faculty and supporting construction of state-of-the-art facilities." In support of the campaign, McDowell produced a series of video spots with Hanks endorsing the university, and invited Tom Hanks to give his name to the new Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures, a state-of-the-art facility which Hanks dedicated in April of 2016.
McDowell's wide range of interests have included sketching his way through Europe, from Oslo, Norway, to Athens, Greece; working on an archeological dig at Tel Gezer, Israel; training in Commedia dell' Arte with Master Teacher, Carlo Mazonne-Clementi in northern California; studying at the Laterna Magika in Prague, Czechoslovakia during the "Prague Spring" of 1968; securing a patent in computer hardware design; and reseaching and photographing the ancient theatres of Pompeii, Italy.
B.A., Macalester College; M. A. and Ph. D., University of California, Berkeley