Few playwrights are busier than Eduardo Machado, whose most recent play, The Modern Ladies Of Guanabacoa was read at NH's American Stage Festival in August. He also recently wrote and directed his first feature film (Racing Blind), and has spent the last two years writing plays on commission for NY's Public and Roundabout Theatres.
As if these projects weren't keeping him busy enough, Machado has been tapped to head the Playwriting Program at Columbia University's School Of The Arts Theatre Arts Division. He'll teach first, second and third year graduate students, as well as an undergraduate dramatic writing class. He started in the beginning of September, taking over for previous head, Romulus Linney. Also teaching playwriting at Columbia are Keith Reddin and Beth Henley.
Said Dean Robert Fitzpatrick, "[Machado] takes a genuine interest in his student. [He'll] bring a fresh and engaging voice to an already stellar program."
Plays by the Cuban-born Machado include Once Removed, Steve Wants To Play The Blues, Rosario And The Gypsies, and the four play cycle, Floating Islands, of which Guanabacoa is the first. In 1995 he served as playwright-in-residence at CA's Mark Taper Forum. He's taught at NYU, Sarah Lawrence and the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis.
Machado told Playbill On-Line (Sept. 30) he has a very specific theatre theory which he hopes to implement at Columbia. "For a lot of years Stanislavski has become a dirty word in this country," said Machado. "But I really believe in his idea of the Method. And playwrights should write plays that are motivated from action, dramatic action, rather than from symbolism and word pyrotechnics. The theatre right now is divided into avant-garde wordplay and boulevard comedies passing for drama. Most directors and dramaturgs really don't know how to break down plays through the dramatic action." Asked if there's any real way an educator can change the shape of a playwright's work, Machado answered, "I think you can influence people by giving them this knowledge. Of course, you want everyone to find their own play in their own voice. A teacher shouldn't want his students to sound like himself. But I've taught for the past six years, concentrating on creating exercises for the playwright equivalent to Stanislavski's exercises for the actor."
And where does Machado find the time to be teacher and writer? "I'm a workaholic. The film I directed is being edited now, and I'm even acting in one of my students' plays: Partial Complex Syndrome, which is about Cuba now. It's by Rogelio Martinez and opens at the Playwrights' Collective, Oct. 23. Also, my latest play was written for Wingdancer Productions; it's called The Day I Left You. Oh, and in February, Playwrights Collective is producing Once Removed, which has never been done in New York."
Machado does admit to one career stumbling block: "Oddly enough, my plays are never produced in Latin-America. I thought that would change when they started getting done in New York, in Spanish, but it didn't happen, which is incredible to me. Ah well, but the truth is, I love working."
--By David Lefkowitz