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Playwright shares work with NU

Rajiv Joseph discusses new play with students

Sarah Emmerling

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – On Jan. 27, Rajiv Joseph, a playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist, visited Niagara University to share some of his early experiences with writing and to promote his latest project, Archduke.

Joseph spoke to a crowd of eager theatre students and faculty members at the Leary Theatre. He began by discussing his experiences studying creative writing in college. Joseph knew for years that he wanted to pursue writing as a career, but he had no idea that he would turn to playwriting. After earning a Bachelor of Arts at Miami University, he went on to Tisch School of the Arts at New York University to get a Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing. Joseph expressed how his career has included many failures, but through the failures has he learned to adjust and rise to success. He also discussed how unpredictable his work has been, but that through hard work and a genuine love for his craft he has been able to create meaningful pieces of drama.

Joseph talked about his discovery that writing is an infinitely perfectible craft. He regularly gets together with a group of writers to share ideas and drafts. He consults with novelists, poets, and journalists. He told students that having a support group helps motivate him to keep up with his work, which usually takes years to conceive, edit, and publish.

Joseph also spoke of his work with Robin Williams, who starred on Broadway in Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Broadway Zoo. The show tells the story of a tiger who is shot by a soldier during war and comes back as a ghost to haunt the man who shot him.

Among Joseph’s other dramatic works are Guards at the Taj, Animals Out of Paper, and The Leopard and the Fox.

Joseph’s newest play, Archduke, is about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the start of World War I. It is a both a historical drama and a dark comedy. Joseph traveled to Buffalo to develop the play while working with Road Less Traveled Productions and the theatre department of Buffalo State. After an intense rehearsal and revision process, Joseph conducted a public stage reading, which he invited Niagara students to see during his visit.

The reading took place on Jan. 28 at Buffalo State College’s Flexible Theater. It was directed by Scott Behrend and featured David Hayes, Anthony Alcocer, and Niagara faculty member Doug Zschiegner.

David Wysocki, a junior at Niagara, attended the public reading.

“I think one of the great things about a play read-through is that even though it’s presented on script, it still presents challenges,” he stated after the event. “You’re not just reading the lines out of the book but you’re also trying to act in a way that is your own interpretation. It still requires a lot work.”

Wysocki explained how even though the actors came up to a stand every time they spoke a line, it was still engaging and entertaining.

“It was a regular read-through with two separate acts and a fifteen minute intermission. The actors changed their movement to benefit the scene changes. They all did a marvelous job making it seem realistic and engaging the audience in the story,” he explained.
Archduke will have its world premiere at the Mark Tapor Forum in Los Angeles in April.

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