Oliver Mayer is the author of over twenty plays, including his two newest plays: FORTUNE IS A WOMAN, about the life and work of Machiavelli, and MEMBERS ONLY, the sequel to his groundbreaking play BLADE TO THE HEAT. His play DARK MATTERS opened the LAByrinth Intensive this summer. Other plays include WALLOWA: THE VANISHING OF MAUDE LERAY and THE WIGGLE ROOM, as well as DIAS Y FLORES, LAWS OF SYMPATHY, and YOUNG VALIANT. "The Hurt Business: a Critical Portfolio of the Early Works of Oliver Mayer, Plus," is published by Hyperbole Books; "Oliver Mayer: Collected Plays" and "Dark Matters and Other Plays" are published by NoPassport Press.
Oliver is Associate Professor of Dramatic Writing at the USC School of Theatre. He is the winner of a USC Zumberge Individual Award, and a USC Mellon Mentoring Award for Excellence in Faculty Mentoring of Undergraduates.
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A Day in the Life of Professor Oliver Mayer
I am a playwright. My research includes screenwriting, journalism and scholarly writing. Born in Hollywood, CA, I am Mexican American. I attended Cornell, Oxford, and Columbia Universities. Returning to Los Angeles, I worked for eight years as literary manager at The Mark Taper Forum, the premiere regional theatre on the West Coast. We developed many important American plays, including Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Terrence McNally’s Master Class, and my own Blade to the Heat.
In 1997, I left to write full-time. Soon thereafter, I began teaching playwriting, first at UC Riverside and Art Center College of Design. In 2003, I came to the USC School of Theatre to teach both MFAs and undergraduates. I am now an Associate Professor of Dramatic Writing, with tenure.
I am also Resident Faculty Master at the Parkside International Residential College at USC. My plays have been produced nationwide at such venues as the Joseph Papp Public Theater, The Mark Taper Forum, and INTAR, and internationally at the Royal Court Theatre, London and the Teatro Lirico, Mexico City. My literary archive is available through Stanford University Libraries.
The subject of my writing is history. I use historical research as a way of seeing ourselves now – who we really are, what we really feel, what our biggest questions are – by bringing to life characters and events of the past. My method is to unearth rich, violent, even taboo, stories of marginal Americans, and to force the characters to actively reclaim their identities during moments of intense conflict. In so doing, audience members must reassess their own expectations of history, genre and stereotype. Many of these stories are about people of color; the intended audience is universal. The goal is to create a new definition of ourselves based on seeing and feeling lost parts of our history.
Playwright and Oscar nominee Jose Rivera honored me with these remarks about my work: “These courageous plays vibrate with deep emotional authenticity and subterranean political consciousness.... Oliver Mayer is one of the few American playwrights showing us today what the theatre of tomorrow can be like.” Fellow playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis writes: “A great writer with firebrand dialogue, Oliver Mayer contributes not just as a playwright, but as an educator and a Latino who has kept his roots.”
My career goal is to forge new ground as an American playwright, not simply for myself but for new generations of new American writers searching to find their reflection onstage.
WALLOWA: THE VANISHING OF MAUDE LERAY
FILO AL FUEGO (BLADE TO THE HEAT)
THE WIGGLE ROOM
DIAS y FLORES
ROCIO! IN SPITE OF IT ALL
JOY OF THE DESOLATE
JOE LOUIS BLUES
THE LAWS OF SYMPATHY
BOLD AS LOVE
THE RIGHTING MOMENT
THE CERVANTES INTERLUDES
BANANAS AND PEACHFUZZ
THE CHESS MACHINE
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University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA