Iowa New Play Festival 2023

This year’s Iowa New Play Festival is dedicated to David Schaal, Emeritus Professor of Theatre Arts.
Written by Art Borreca, Co-director of the Playwrights Workshop and the MFA Dramaturgy Program, and Artistic Director of New Play Festival. (Currently on leave until fall 2023)

David was an all-around person-of-the-theatre of a kind that is now rare to find. He received his PhD from the University of Illinois in 1956, completing his doctoral dissertation on the history of rehearsal practices and actor-director relationships in the American theatre. He joined the faculty at the University of Iowa when the department was known as the Department of Speech and Dramatic Art. He taught courses in theatre history, dramatic theory, play analysis, and directing. He directed plays by modern playwrights such as Alfred Jarry, Bertolt Brecht, Friedrich Durenmatt, Edward Albee, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams, as well as classical authors such as Sheridan and Moliere. He served as the department’s principal advisor to doctoral students, supervising twenty-one doctoral dissertations in theatre and film.

Professionally, David was active in the American Theatre Association, chairing the Rare Books Project (1962-1969) and serving as editor of Theatre Journal (1969-71). In 1975, he was a guest director at the Istanbul Municipal Theatre, Turkey. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii, the University of Missouri, and Indiana University. As an Emeritus Professor in the late 1980s and 1990s, David remained highly active in the department, participating in faculty meetings and serving on department committees. He and his wife, Jean, regularly attended department productions. He was passionate about the department and brought the wisdom of his experience to advising faculty on departmental matters. Current senior members of the faculty recall fondly the enthusiasm with which he supported their work as junior faculty. David was also a great advocate of student directors and playwrights. He and Jean gave generously to the department in support of their work and that of the department in general. They endowed two funds, which provide scholarships for MFA directing and playwriting students, and they supported the work of design students. They made a third major endowed gift to the department, granting it discretion over use of the funds. David donated all of his books to the department and every one - some 250 of them - were taken by a faculty member or student. His death marks the passing of a generation of scholar/artists who made the Department of Theatre Arts what it is today. David Schaal passed away on July 12, 2016. He is greatly missed.

David Schaal gifted the University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts in a multitude of ways. We honor his work and legacy by dedicating New Play Festival 2023 to him.