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VMA Faculty Member Wins Accolades for Direction of Play

two men at makeshift table
Deaon Griffin-Pressley and Bryce Michael Wood in Topdog/Underdog, directed by Emerson faculty member Regge Life. Photo/Daniel Rader for Shakespeare and Company

By Erin Clossey

Most Emerson students know Visual and Media Arts Senior Distinguished Director-in-Residence Theodore “Regge” Life for his work behind the camera, but earlier this month, Life was honored for his direction on the stage.

Earlier this month, Berkshire Theatre Critics Association presented Life with an Outstanding Direction of a Play award for his work on Shakespeare and Company’s production of Topdog/Underdog by Suzan Lori Parks.

The play also took home awards for Outstanding Production and Outstanding Ensemble Performance on November 11.

“I was delighted and happy,” Life said of hearing his name called. “I had good feelings about this show, so when I was nominated, I thought, ‘Thank you for the recognition.’ Being nominated, for me, is kind of, in many respects, the award.”

Topdog/Underdog, about the relationship and rivalries between two African American brothers, won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The Shakespeare and Company production ran from mid-August to mid-September of this year.

regge life head shot
Senior Distinguished Director-in-Residence Regge Life.

Life said the show, which was incredibly well received and was kind of a must-see in Western Massachusetts, reminded him of the first show he directed that “put me on the map” in New York City. 

“Three times in my career I’ve had that kind of ‘wow factor’ where, if you haven’t seen it, [people ask] what’s wrong with you?” he said.

Life trained and started his career in theatre before switching to film and television. He said the main difference between directing for the stage vs. the camera is that in film and TV, “you got gear.”

“You’re actually directing the audience’s eye in film and TV, and you don’t really think about that as much in directing theatre,” he said. “[In theatre], an audience does that on their own, and also through their imagination. In many respects, it still boils down to performance.”

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