Biography Download CV (pdf)

I grew up in Manhattan, attended the Bronx High School of Science and planned to study physics in college.  It didn’t work out that way.  It was the 1960’s, and as an undergraduate at Brandeis University I found that political action was more immediate… and theater was more fun.  Besides, both politics and theater offered intense companionship and durable containers for passion, anxiety, rage and weltschmertz.

After dropping out of graduate school at Berkeley in 1964 (thanks to the Free Speech Movement), I worked for Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival, studied directing, first at Yale and then at NYU where I happened to be when Jerzy Grotowski’s offered his first American workshop in 1967.

But while I was studying with Grotowski, my friends and I were also touring Brother, You’re Next! the anti-draft street musical I’d written with my college roommate, Chris Rohmann.  After Martin Luther King was shot, I founded the New York Free Theater where I wrote and directed several political street musicals designed to foment insurrection by entertaining and insulting New Yorkers with catchy tunes and provocative lyrics.

In 1970, after being exiled from New York by Olympia Dukakis, I taught theater games in Cuba, and then moved to Cape Cod where I joined the Earth Family Theater commune, performing in Earthsong, another play about the war in Viet Nam, and falling in love with Suzanne Baxtresser.  In 1971, Suzanne and I hitchhiked to Santa Fe where we dipped candles, dropped acid and ran out of money.  For the next two years, Suzanne and I left a trail of wax from New Mexico to Massachusetts, where by 1972, we found ourselves flat broke. 

For a year I wrote articles for The Boston Phoenix, and then, in 1973, Linda Putnam— who had also performed in Brother, You’re Next! and also studied with Grotowski—and I founded The Acting Growth Program theater school at the Boston Center for the Arts. During the next six years, our theater company, Reality Theater, produced many plays, Suzanne and I married, and we both began teaching at Emerson College. In 1979 we moved to Western Massachusetts where our son, Noah was born, and where we founded The Actor’s Space and Present Stage theater company which produced The Dragon and Calamity! (Containing many more catchy tunes and provocative lyrics.)

In 1981 I also began to teach at the Experimental Theatre Wing and NYU where, after moving into the City, I taught acting until 2004.  By then I’d written several plays with Moisés Kaufman and published An Acrobat of the Heart. In 2004 Suzanne became a hospice nurse and we moved to Boulder, Colorado, where I taught acting and pedagogy at Naropa University until 2012.

And now?  Mostly writing, lecturing and leading pedagogy workshops.  (For more details, present projects, play-scripts or provocative lyrics: sw1@nyu.edu)