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Director, screenwriter, NPR host to fill Acuff Chair

September 16, 2003

Already a theatre director, author, screenwriter, radio talk show host and a private acting coach, this years occupant of the Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence in the Creative Arts at Austin Peay now can place university professor on his list of career accomplishments in the area of theatre.

Louis C. Fantasia, education director for the Shakespeare Globe Center in Los Angeles, will share his expertise in Shakespearean art with theatre students at Austin Peay this semester.
September 16, 2003

Already a theatre director, author, screenwriter, radio talk show host and a private acting coach, this year's occupant of the Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence in the Creative Arts at Austin Peay now can place “university professor” on his list of career accomplishments in the area of theatre.

Louis C. Fantasia, education director for the Shakespeare Globe Center in Los Angeles, will share his expertise in Shakespearean art with theatre students at Austin Peay this semester.

During Fantasia's stay as the holder of the Acuff Chair, he will direct two theatre productions including his own creation, “The Little Threepenny Café,” Oct. 1-5 and Shakespeare's “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” Nov. 19-23. He also will perform “The Double Bass,” a one-man play written by Patrick Suskind on Nov. 8 at the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center for the APSU Theatre Scholarship Gala.

Fantasia will conduct monthly workshops featuring guest speakers in voice, acting, documentary filmmaking and design, as well as collaborating with Dr. Mickey Wadia, associate professor of English, on classes in Shakespeare.

Fantasia also is conducting his own class on Shakespeare and on the works of poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht. Brecht's poetry and songs, written during Hitler's rise to power and after, are the central theme and inspiration of Fantasia's “Little Threepenny Café.”

Having directed in such high-profile cities as Los Angeles, London and Paris, Fantasia admits his move to the South brings its own challenges. He is anxious to see what the area's culture can bring to his productions, even to such historical pieces as “A Midsummer Night's Dream.”

“When performing Shakespeare, there's always this question of authenticity in performance. Should we act out the play as they did in Shakespeare's time using that period's language, movement and dress?” says Fantasia.

“Sometimes when we focus on authenticity, we get lost and forget that theatre is not about museum reconstruction, but about a moment in our lives. How do we capture that moment?”

Incorporating culture and contemporary issues into the production is one way of making a historical play come to life and relative to an audience of today.

That is not to say, however, that the original interpretation of the piece should become marginal.

Fantasia is a follower of what he terms “informed performance practice,” a process one goes through when making artistic choices.

“It's important to have an informed background on the piece,” says Fantasia. “That information should be used to enlarge and support your interpretation of the piece today.”

It will be interesting to see what Southern flavor Fantasia has in store for Shakespeare.

Fantasia earned his bachelor's degree in English from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. He received his master's degree in theatre at New York University's School of the Arts and earned a diploma in directing from the American Film Institute, Center for Advanced Film Studies. His master of fine arts in directing is from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia.

Fantasia was the host of “Theatre Talk” and commentator on “The Politics of Culture,” both on National Public Radio in Los Angeles. He covered the 2000 Democratic National Convention as a commentator on the talk show “Theatre of Politics” for KCRW-FM, National Public Radio's flagship station in L.A.

From 1981-1991, he directed “Shakespeare Today,” a summer acting institute at the International Shakespeare Globe Centre in London. His professional productions as director include the 1993 English-language premiere of Felix Mitterer's play, “Siberia"; the 2002 world premiere of “Anais"; an opera by Susan Hurley on the life of Anais Nin in Los Angeles; the 2002 production of “Rumors” by Neil Simon, at the Creede Repertory Theatre, Creede, Colo.; “Alice in Wonderland” for KCRW-FM; and Shakespeare's “Much Ado About Nothing” at London's Shakespeare Globe Theatre.

Fantasia has lectured at Brasenose College in Oxford, Sophia University in Japan, Rhodes University in South Africa and at theatre conferences and workshops throughout the U.S., England and Japan.

A former American Film Institute Directing Fellow, his documentary, “Invisible Cities,” was one of the first on the issue of homelessness in Los Angeles. In addition to a number of screenplays, short stories, essays and translations, Fantasia has written a book, “Instant Shakespeare,” currently in its second edition, and is working on his second book,“Tragedy in the Age of Oprah.”

Fantasia was the founder and music director of both the Georgetown Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Bach Ensemble. He is a member of the executive committee and board of directors of Shakespeare Globe Center (USA) and is on the advisory committee of the International Shakespeare Globe Centre, Ltd., London. He was also founding president of the Goethe Institute of Southern California.

Established in 1984, The Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence in the Creative Arts brings regionally, nationally and internationally known artists to Austin Peay to share their expertise and talents with students, faculty and the community.

Composed of Austin Peay's well-established disciplines of music, art, creative writing and theatre, the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts is designed to promote the creative arts in Tennessee and to make a significant contribution to the education of undergraduate students by providing them with opportunities to explore cultural values and to be placed in learning situations with some of the most creative minds available in the arts today.
Meredith Dunn