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The Statesman

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    Nick Mangano, Stony Brook’s New Theater Arts Chair

    This fall semester brought a notable change in the arts department at Stony Brook University as Nick Mangano became’ the new Chair and Artistic Director of the Department of Theater Arts.

    ‘Right now I’m obviously focused on the department 24/7. I’m in a profession that I love,’ he said.

    A native of’ Long Island, Mangano’s career has taken him to numerous cities in the United States and several countries in Europe. It began after his first year of undergraduate school. He decided to pursue his acting career in Manhattan and successfully auditioned for off and on Broadway productions.

    ‘It was a wonderful training ground. I was very lucky,’ he said.

    Even with his’ success as an actor,’ Mangano still hoped to fulfill his life-long dream of becoming a director. In order to do so, he returned to school. ‘Even when I was in high school, I felt directing was my path,” Mangano continued.

    Mangano received a Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University, which he said was a wonderful training ground.

    He also studied history and architecture, with an emphasis on European history, at Oxford University. ‘My time at Oxford was life changing,’ Mangano said. ‘It put so much of my education into context.’

    Mangano is a firm believer in the traditional Bachelor of Arts as opposed to a Bachelor in Fine Arts. He said many schools are developing an interest in specializing as a method of training young professionals.

    ‘I find the problem with that is the restriction. They specialize at such a young age before I think they really know what they want to do and therefore not exposed to a wide range of subjects,’ he said.

    Mangano said exposure can help students find their interests and passions, and if in fact they are committed to a career in theater arts, having a broad background will make them better equipped. ‘We are losing that in education today, completely losing that,’ he said, ‘to pre-professional trade schools.’

    After finishing his education,’ Mangano had a professional opportunity in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    ‘I’m really fond of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I had the pleasure of living for two years,’ he said.

    It was this connection he felt when formed the Garson Theatre Company’ there three years ago, the Garson Theatre Company. The Company’ was housed and sponsored by the College of Santa Fe.

    ‘The company is based on a belief that universities are great resources for theater and are under used in a country where the government’s support for theater arts has always been negligent,’ he said.

    Mangano said if more professional companies were associated with academic universities then theater would be thriving. In regards to the Garson Theatre Company, he takes ‘great pride in the fact that it’s still up and running and is still dedicated to new work.’

    As a strong advocate for new work, Mangano said one of the best organizations dedicated to this was the Humana Festival, which is part of the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky.

    ‘Who would have thought that Louisville would be the seed for new work? It just goes to show audiences are hungry for live theater,’ he said.

    Of the many examples of Mangano’s work with live theater would be his experience directing two theater pieces, the international tour of ‘The Cave’ and the world premiere of ‘Three Tales,’ composed by long-term associate Steve Reich.

    This November marks the third time that they will be working together while in Paris. ‘I have traveled literally around the world since 1993 with his theater productions,’ said Mangano. ‘Working with an artist of his stature has been one of the greatest gifts in my entire life. He’s brilliant.’

    Another example of Mangano’s work evolved from a horrific tale. He had left New Mexico for professional reasons only and moved to Cincinnati where he remained for eight years.

    ‘In 2001, what I witnessed there were riots as a result of the shooting and death of an African American boy, 19 years old, by a white police officer,’ he said.

    At the time, he was teaching a class called Alternative Form. His students spent three years interviewing various people about this devastating experience. From this, Mangano created ‘When the End of the World Comes’hellip; A Collaborative Piece about Race Relations in Cincinnati.’

    ‘I’m drawn to work that really reflects the world we live in,’ said Mangano. In this piece, he had blacks play whites and whites play blacks specifically for the purpose of gaining experience outside of their own. It is indeed a work that reflected the world we live in, ‘and I’d really like to foster that type of work here,’ he said.

    ‘I think it’s time for the arts to flourish and clearly there is a commitment from the president of the university for the arts to develop,’ Mangano said.

    When asked what his goal was for SBU, he said it was simple: ‘To make theater arts at Stony Brook one of the top programs in the university,’ he said.

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