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NMSU professor among National Directors Fellowship recipients

New Mexico State University Professor Larissa Lury is one of a handful of early-career stage directors selected from 350 applicants nationwide to receive the first-ever National Directors Fellowship this year.

Larissa Lury, NMSU theater arts assistant professor (Courtesy photo)

Lury, who is a theater arts assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and a director within the department, was nominated for the fellowship by Naomi Iizuka, playwright and Lury?s former professor.

The Eugene O?Neill Theater Center, the National New Play Network, the Kennedy Center and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation created the fellowship. The five-year program is a way to advance the careers of new artists and promote new plays in the United States.

Over the course of 18 months, Lury will get hands-on training and mentorship as a lead director connecting with a wide array of playwrights. Next year, she will have the opportunity to direct a new play at one of the NNPA theaters.

?New work is something I feel very passionately about,? she said. ?The fellowship will be an amazing way to be put in touch with playwrights, and I?ll get to meet with artistic directors of NNPN theaters scattered throughout the country.?

Lury graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor?s degree in theater. She received her Master of Fine Arts in directing from the University of California, San Diego, where she also taught acting and public speaking. Before beginning her job at NMSU, she lived in New York City, where she focused on directing and adapting new plays.

Lury?s latest production at NMSU is William Shakespeare?s ?Twelfth Night.?

?It?s remarkable how much has not changed in 400 years,? she said of directing such a well-known play. ?During the first week of rehearsal, I asked the actors to name a moment when they felt like an adult, or some aspect of adulthood for which they still felt unprepared. We talked about doctor appointments, filling out insurance forms, losing family members and the lighter side of eating whatever we wanted for dinner.

?We began from who we are and all of the insecurities and hopes we share with these characters whom Shakespeare created more than 400 years ago. The production is hilarious at times, and playful, but emotionally packed, too.?

Lury described the difference between working on classical plays versus new works by up-and-coming playwrights.

Classics, such as ?Twelfth Night,? encourage her to find commonalities between past and present, and allow her a bit more creative freedom.

On the plus side, she said, working on a brand new project allows her the chance to have a back-and-forth exchange of ideas with the playwright.

?I love collaborating with people, and it?s really exciting to be at the beginning of something that?s never been performed before,? she added. ?I like everything that makes me think about something in a new way. When I see a play, I want to come away from it asking all kinds of questions.?

Lury is one of only five directors from across the country selected to receive the first-ever fellowship. The program will choose five new directors to participate in the program each year for the next five years.

?The makeup of this group is impressive, incredibly diverse and representative of those working in the industry today,? said Wendy C. Goldberg, National Playwrights Conference artistic director, in a release announcing the recipients. ?This type of program has been a dream of mine, and we?re truly excited to help nurture and support the next generation of new play directors.?

Lury?s production of ?Twelfth Night? premiered Friday at NMSU and will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through May 3 at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts. For more information visit http://www.nmsutheatre.com/twelfth_night.php.

?I?m really honored and thrilled to have the chance to meet the other people involved,? Lury said. ?I can?t wait to be a part of growing and changing the process for new play development.?