Excellence Award 2015 | Robert Caisley
Excellence in Research or Creative Activity Award 2015
Robert Caisley is a professor of theater and the head of the Department of Theatre Arts’ Dramatic Writing Program at the University of Idaho. He is a nationally acclaimed playwright and director whose plays have been produced here in the U.S., in Canada and the United Kingdom, and one of his plays was recently translated into an Italian work.
Caisley earned his master of fine arts degree from Illinois State University and his bachelor’s degree from Eastern Illinois University. He came to UI in 2001, where he served as artistic director for the Idaho Repertory Theatre until 2005, directing plays such as “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Biloxi Blues.” The Dramatic Writing emphasis did not exist in the theatre department until Caisley created it, in 2004. Since then, he has been the head of the program, through which he teaches advanced writing, directing and play analysis courses. In 2013 he became head of the Dramatic Writing Program, through which he teaches advanced writing, directing and play analysis courses.
Caisley’s colleagues praise him for his national reputation, his record of playwriting and directing success and his role in shaping other writers’ new works, as well as his dedication to teaching and promoting the arts.
Caisley’s most recent play, “Lucky Me,” has been running successfully since July of 2014, playing to rave reviews at theaters in New Jersey, Colorado, Iowa, California, Oregon and Washington, and was included in the National New Play Network’s Rolling World Premiere program for the 2014-2015 season. The network also included his last play, “Happy,” in its 2012-2013 Rolling World Premiere season and its 2011 Annual Showcase of New Plays at InterACT Theatre in Philadelphia. “Happy” — which tells the story of a man whose contentment with life is uprooted by a skeptical art student — won numerous national awards and was a finalist for both the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s New Play Conference and the Woodward/Newman Award for Drama at Bloomington Playwrights Project. In addition, “Happy” was named by Chicago magazine as "one of the best comedies of the 2014 theatre season."
Caisley’s other plays have received numerous honors, premiered around the nation and been accepted to prestigious festivals of new plays. Caisley is currently under commission for Clarence Brown Theatre, which will produce his next play, “The Open Hand,” in spring 2016.
Caisley is also active in the dramatic arts community. He has worked as a creative consultant for the entertainment industry and has been a guest speaker at universities across the nation. He is on the National Reading Panel for Native Voices at the Autry Museum of the American West, and he was lead teaching artist and dramaturg for the three-year initiative, 2010-2012 Alaska Native Playwrights Project. Caisley’s directorial credits include the Los Angeles world premieres of “The Frybread Queen,” by Carolyn Dunn, and “The Birdhouse,” by Diane Glancy, for Native Voices at the Autry National Center.
Caisley’s dramatic works have made a significant and lasting impact far beyond the reach of the University of Idaho.