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Sad News About Professor Maureen Shea

Dear members of the Emerson community,

It is with a heavy heart that we write to inform you that Professor Maureen Shea, a gifted stage director, beloved faculty member, and dear friend, passed away Tuesday, September 20, after a brief illness. Our deepest condolences go out to Maureen’s family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, and her entire theatre community.

Having joined Emerson in 1988, Maureen taught courses in directing and dramatic literature to generations of Performing Arts majors. She took on leadership roles within the department throughout her tenure, serving as department chair from 1999-2007, and again as co-chair from Spring 2021 until going on leave last summer. From 2012-2016, Maureen headed up the Theatre Studies program, and she led the BFA program since 2016. She served as Director of Special Projects for the School of the Arts for three years, bringing in guest artists such as actor Olympia Dukakis, director Woodie King, Jr., and playwright Jeffrey Sweet. 

Shortly after arriving at Emerson, Maureen became producing artistic director of Emerson Stage, a role she held for 10 years. Over the past three decades, she directed more than two dozen Emerson Stage productions, the most recent being a mid-pandemic online staging of Jaclyn Backhaus’ Men on Boats in September 2021. She also was instrumental in helping to design the Comedic Arts BFA, launched in 2015.

Over the course of her career, Maureen directed stage productions across the country, including the Huntington Theater Company, Coyote Theatre Company, Nora Theatre Company, and The Theatre Offensive in Boston; Circle Repertory Company and Music-Theatre Group in New York, Philadelphia Drama Guild, and Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company, where her production of Richard III won four 1996 Drama-Logue Awards.

In the 1990s, Maureen served as an Associate Director of The Company of Women, an all-female Shakespeare company led by renowned voice teacher Kristin Linklater, then an Emerson faculty member, and feminist psychologist Carol Gilligan. 

Prior to joining Emerson, Maureen taught in the Department of Theatre Arts at Virginia Tech, where her production of How I Got That Story was presented at the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts as a national finalist in the American College Theatre Festival.

Over the years, she had held guest artist residencies around the world, including the Toneelacademie in Maastricht, The Netherlands, the Iowa Playwrights Lab, and Centre Penitenciari de Dones de Barcelona in Spain. She lent her expertise on selection panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. 

A member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Maureen earned a BA in English, cum laude, from Clark University; an MA in Theatre from the University of Connecticut; and a PhD in Theatre from The Ohio State University. She also studied Theatre at the Free University in Berlin. 

Maureen will be long remembered for her artistic vision, her sense of community, and her dedication to the department and its students. Maureen was a true original, full of passion and humor. We will miss her greatly.

She leaves her dear partner, Mirta Tocci, her brother Michael Shea, her sister Kathleen Bergeron, and many friends, colleagues, students and collaborators whose lives she enriched. The College plans to hold a celebration of Maureen’s life at a future date, and will share more information with you as soon as we are able.

Please note, the Center for Spiritual Life’s chaplain team is available to any community member who might need support through one on one conversations. The team can be contacted via

William Gilligan, President 
Jan Roberts-Breslin, Provost

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