University of Pittsburgh
April 10, 2013

Pitt’s Attilio “Buck” Favorini Bids Farewell to Campus Community April 12 With Free Public Lecture, “The Last Class”

Founder of Pitt’s Department of Theatre Arts to retire this summer after a distinguished 44-year career at the University

Sharon Blake


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PITTSBURGH—University of Pittsburgh Professor Attilio “Buck” Favorini—scholar, award-winning playwright, founder of the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival and Pitt’s Shakespeare-in-the-Schools program, and founder and longtime chair of Pitt’s Department of Theatre Arts—will share his thoughts during a free public lecture, “The Last Class,” at 4 p.m. April 12, in advance of his official retirement this summer after a distinguished 44-year career at the University.Pitt Professor Attilio “Buck” Favorini

Favorini will host the afternoon event at the Charity Randall Theater in the Stephen Foster Memorial, Forbes Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard, Oakland. Light refreshments will be served beforehand, at 3:30 p.m.

Pitt students, faculty, alumni, community members, and local actors are expected to be on hand for the hourlong talk, in which Favorini will discuss how playwrights and “memographers” (his own term for people who write and think about memory) come to terms with the way memory and storytelling interact in our brains. He will share some personal memories about tricks memory can play on the brain as he reflects on his journey to becoming both a teacher and a student of memory.

“Playwright, scholar, and leader of vision, Buck will be honored especially as the founding chair of our department and missed as the leading light in our doctoral program in theatre, where he chaired 22 dissertations,” said N. John Cooper, Bettye J. and Ralph E. Bailey Dean in Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. “Buck could always connect friends of the department with opportunities in a way that transformed the resources available to our department and that meant that the play would always go on,” added Cooper.

Favorini joined the Pitt faculty in 1969, immediately after graduating as the Richard Lanpher Fellow with a PhD in the history of the theater from Yale University. In his third year at Pitt, he was named head of the Division of Theatre Arts, which he guided to independence in 1982 as the Department of Theatre Arts. He would go on to serve as department chair from 1982 to 1992 and from 1999 to 2006 and has served as director of graduate studies in Theatre Arts since 2006.

A former New Yorker, Favorini was managing editor and eventually executive editor of Theatre Survey, published twice a year by the American Society of Theatre Research.

He is the author of Memory in Play: From Aeschylus to Sam Shepard (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), and the editor of Voicings: Ten Plays From the Documentary Theater (Ecco Press, 1995) as well the author of many book chapters and numerous academic articles.

Favorini moved productively between academia and the stages of professional theatre. He founded the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival in 1980 and directed it for 13 seasons, creating a new generation of Shakespeare buffs in Pittsburgh. The event was named one of the leading Shakespeare festivals by the Cambridge Guide to World Theatre. The Shakespeare-in-the-Schools program he created at Pitt has provided more than 100,000 area students with in-school performances for more than two decades.

Many of Favorini’s nine plays address the city’s history:

  • Steel/City (1976) explores the ambition-driven titans who founded the steel industry, as well as the anonymous workers who manufactured the industry’s products;
  • Hearts and Diamonds (1980) looks at the lives of Lillian Russell and Willa Cather;
  • In the Garden of Live Flowers (2001), written with Lynne Connor, celebrates Springdale native and environmental pioneer Rachel Carson; and
  • The Gammage Project (2012) revisits the death of a Black motorist at the hands of five White police officers in a Pittsburgh suburb.

In the Garden of Live Flowers won the Kennedy Center David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award. Steel/City made the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s “Ten Best” list and was named best production of the year by the Pittsburgh City Paper. For The Gammage Project, Favorini received the 2012 Artistic Achievement Award from the Pittsburgh Black Political Empowerment Project.

Favorini’s plays have been performed in whole or in part at the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife, the Conference of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, the Three Rivers Arts Festival, the August Wilson Center, and in theaters in Houston and Los Angeles, among other venues.

At Pitt, Favorini devised a successful strategy in the late 1990s for supporting the retention of Pittsburgh artists. His Teaching-Artist-in-Residence program now offers visiting faculty members three-to-four-year appointments, during which they teach beginning and advanced classes and perform with Pitt Repertory Theatre and Shakespeare-in-the-Schools, as well as with community theater companies.

In addition, it was Favorini who oversaw the construction of the University’s Henry Heymann Theatre, renovation of the Stephen Foster Memorial’s mainstage theater, now the Charity Randall Theatre, and the renovation of the Studio Theatre, and he was instrumental in securing the Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre as Pitt’s professional theater in residence.



Pitt Professor Attilio “Buck” Favorini