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Department of Theatre and Dance

UW Couple's Book Used by Colleges Across the Country

April 14, 2009 -- Most married couples argue over finances and who is going to do the dishes. Professors Lou Anne Wright and William Missouri Downs, University of Wyoming Department of Theatre and Dance, (married for 28 years) argue over where to put the comma.

Wright and Downs recently finished the second edition of their book "The Art of Theatre," published by Wadsworth. Researching and writing the first edition took nearly six years, and it was finally published in 2006. Within 18 months, more than 100 universities adopted the book, and nearly 10,000 college students around the United States now use it in theatre classes.

With the book's growing success, Wadsworth asked them to start the second edition, which they wrote in only 15 months.

The couple has co-written four plays and the book "Playwriting: from Formula to Form" (published by Harcourt), but "The Art of Theatre" was by far their most strenuous endeavor. They say they never found it difficult to collaborate as long as they are never in their home office at the same time. Downs is an early bird, Wright is a night owl.

"The key to a successful marriage and co-writing," Wright jokes, "is never to bump into each other."

Two versions of the book are in print: "The Art of Theatre: Concise" and "The Art of Theatre: Then and Now", a 17-chapter, 500-page book that covers every aspect of theatre including acting, playwriting, directing, and design. It also has chapters on theatre history, non-western theatre, and musicals. The book covers art, entertainment, censorship, creativity and play analysis.

The concise edition contains shorter theatre history chapters. Both books are a celebration of UW theatre and include dozens of photos of UW students, plus the creative work of many UW professors, including Lee Hodgson, Michael Earl, Larry Hazlett, Rebecca Hilliker, Adam Mendelson and Don Turner.

The book's third writer, Erik Ramsey, is a UW graduate who now is co-head of playwriting at Ohio University. The new edition features 30 photos taken by Downs and Wright during their UW-sponsored trips to England, Italy, Greece, Egypt, and China.

Wright is a graduate of the National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. She has served as a voice/dialect coach at many theatre companies including Denver Center, Playmakers Repertory, and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Also an actress, some of her recent credits include Amanda in "The Glass Menagerie" at the Boulder Repertory and Judy Shepard in the HBO film "The Laramie Project."

Downs earned his graduate degrees in acting from the University of Illinois and in screenwriting from UCLA. He has written 20 plays, 20 episodes of NBC sitcoms, and four books including "Naked Playwriting" (Silman/James), and "Screenplay: Writing the Picture" (Silman/James). In his 14 years at UW, Downs has won 14 teaching/research awards and the Governor's Arts Award. He teaches screenwriting, playwriting and introduction to theatre.

Posted on Tuesday, April 14, 2009

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