Xerxes Mehta, Theatre, to Retire

After more than 30 years of teaching, directing and service to the UMBC community, Xerxes Mehta, professor of theatre, has announced his intention to retire at the end of the current academic year.


FR: Lynn Watson, Chair
Department of Theatre
After more than 30 years of teaching, directing and service to the UMBC community, Xerxes Mehta, professor of theatre, has announced his intention to retire at the end of the current academic year.
While still a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, Mehta was hired by UMBC to head its theatre department, which he did from 1976 to 1980. Since that time, he, in the company of many distinguished colleagues, has worked to build the department into the rigorous training ground for young theatre professionals that it is today.
Mehta has taught acting, directing and dramatic literature, in both studio and non-studio classes, at lower and upper levels, across the curriculum. He has guest-taught Shakespeare for the English department and team-taught interdisciplinary courses for the Visual and Performing Arts Program. He has also directed 51 plays with student casts, often in close collaboration with faculty or staff from other disciplines, including music, visual arts, modern languages, history, and the Library’s Special Collections. Among these have been several regional premieres, three world premieres and the only two full-scale interdepartmental collaborations on operatic production in UMBC’s history—The Marriage of Figaro (1977) and The Threepenny Opera (2007).
As part of his wide-ranging service to the department and university, Mehta has chaired numerous Promotion and Tenure committees, functioned as an outside reviewer for the Department of Visual Arts and the Graduate School, represented the Department of Theatre multiple times on the Faculty Senate and served on several campus-wide task forces, self-studies, planning committees or steering committees.
Professionally, Mehta is particularly known for his work on Samuel Beckett. One of his first productions at UMBC was a group of the short plays, which subsequently went on to perform at the American College Theatre Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, where it won three awards. He has directed nine of Beckett’s plays to date, several more than once. In 1996, he took the Maryland Stage Company’s (MSC) staging of three of the short plays to the International Beckett Festival and Symposium in Strasbourg, France, and, in 2000, the MSC was again invited to Europe to perform at the largest event of its kind since Beckett’s death, Beckett in Berlin 2000. Several of these productions have been photographically reproduced in books and journals. Mehta’s articles on Beckett’s theatre have appeared in the Journal of Beckett Studies, Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui, Theater, The Beckett Circle / Le Cercle de Beckett, and the anthology Directing Beckett (Michigan, 1994). He has also lectured and organized panels, performances and festivals at numerous national and international Beckett events. He was president of the international Samuel Beckett Society from 2000 to 2002.
In 1987, responding to the department’s need for a fully professional dimension—both as a teaching tool and as a creative outlet for the department’s professional faculty—Mehta founded the Maryland Stage Company (MSC), remaining its artistic director through its 15-year life. He directed 16 productions with the MSC, several of which received national, and even international, attention for their quality. Central departmental MSC collaborators were: Wendy Salkind, Sam McCready, Elena Zlotescu, Terry Cobb, Shelley Joyce and Gregg Schraven.
Mehta’s work has been reviewed by the New York Times, the Village Voice, TheaterWeek, Show Business, Theatre Journal, Western European Stages, the Journal of Beckett Studies, The Beckett Circle, France-Amérique, Der Tagesspiegel (Berlin), Der Morgenpost (Berlin), and print and electronic media in the Baltimore/Washington area. Nine of his productions have been named “Best of the Year” and four have been anthologized.
Educated by Jesuits in Calcutta, India, he holds degrees from Cornell University (B.A.) and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (M.F.A.).
Please join us in honoring Xerxes on Friday, May 9, at 4 p.m. in the Skylight Room (The Commons). RSVP by April 25 to Marie Sproul, msproul@umbc.edu or ext. 5-2917.

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