Courtney M. Holbrook
It’s not unusual for young aspiring writers and actors to attend renowned MFA programs in theater and creative writing.
After years of ebbs and flows in the economy and, and it’s own ever-evolving saga, Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus is now poised to offer those young writers and actors a place to train. The faculty of the Masters in Fine Arts in Writing and Literature degree gathered last Thursday, June 16, for a press conference in which they discussed the future of an expanded MFA Program and their new summer workshop opportunities.
“This will hopefully be the first of many announcements of our growth and prosperity as we expand the arts on this campus,” said Robert Reeves, director of the MFA program. “We’re adding to our own unique strength as one of the most distinguished creative programs in the country.”
Those additions come in the areas of creative writing and theater. Stony Brook Southampton runs an annual Southampton Writers Conference (this year from July 6 to 24), a summer workshop program designed to nurture and teach aspiring and current writers in a variety of fields, including screenwriting, playwriting, children’s literature and creative writing.
Now, Stony Brook Southampton will add the first Southampton Theatre Directing Conference to their summer lineup. The faculty views this expansion as a major development of their program’s purpose in aiding artists in multiple fields. According to Reeves, the Southampton program is now one of the largest arts masters programs in the country.
The directing workshop is an idea that has been in the works since Nick Mangano, artistic director and department chair of the Stony Brook University Department of Theatre Arts, came to Southampton four years ago. A budget crisis at the university, however, combined with a general down turn in the economy made it difficult to build such a program. But after some of the economic dust settled, the idea of expanding the program to include a directing component was resurrected by the faculty.
“The gem of this plan we have now came out of our discussions about the expansion of theatre and film,” Mangano explained. “The multi-disciplinary collaboration of artists is at the heart of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Exactly what they’re trying to accomplish is simple — Stony Brook Southampton wants to be the “center of the arts on the East End,” according to Mangano. By expanding the program, the hope is the campus will become an “incubator” of new artists whose work will be nurtured and developed in a supportive university and conference structure.
The expansion does not stop at theatre directing, however; in sync with the idea of a multi-disciplinary collaboration is the addition this summer of Southampton’s first Digital Filmmaking Conference. Mitchell Kriegman, the workshop’s director and Emmy Award-winning director and producer, noted that the film industry is seeing a huge growth in indie filmmaking thanks to technological advances.
“The development of the digital camera opened directing to everyone,” Kriegman said. “Now, we have Final Cut, Panasonic and more — the world is open to people who want to tell a story in a purely visual way … and we want to help them.”
Last Thursday, the faculty also discussed the MFA in Creative Writing and Literature program, the only creative writing MFA program in the SUNY system, according to Reeves. In January, the campus received approval for an MFA in theater and a creative writing minor for undergraduates. Also discussed was the program’s Young American Writer’s Project (YAWP), which Emma Walton Hamilton, the program’s executive director, noted was another step in Southampton’s goal to engage gifted young writers of all ages.
And as the summer conferences and MFA program continue to grow, the faculty hopes to see even more developments in the coming years.
“We have a belief that creativity is the most important thing — it allows us to engage with the world,” Reeves said. “With this enormous collaboration of the arts [at Southampton], we’re on the next step in graduate arts education.”