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Highlighting Playwright Moisés Kaufman

Moisés Kaufman

Moisés Kaufman is an award-winning Venezuelan playwright, theatre director, filmmaker, and teacher. He was born in Caracas to Orthodox Jewish parents and is of Ukrainian and Romanian descent. Kaufman’s work is heavily influenced by his identity as a gay, Jewish man.  

In 1985, he got his BA in Business Administration at the Metropolitan University in Caracas where he joined a touring experimental theatre group. He then relocated to New York to study theatre directing at the Tisch School of the Arts. 

In 1991 he founded the Tectonic Theater Project, a theatre group based in New York City that develops productions focused on political and social issues. Their ideas stem from the collaboration of diverse individuals as well as extensive research on a multitude of topics.  

Kaufman is an activist at heart and his company has created a plethora of plays and musicals that take on social and political issues that are relevant to modern audiences. His work includes Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, 33 Variations, and The Laramie Project, among others.  

His Broadway work includes directing plays such as the Pulitzer Prize finalist Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo by Rajiv Joseph (starring Robin Williams), Doug Wright’s Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play I Am My Own Wife (starring Jefferson Mays and earning Kaufman a Tony Award nomination for Best Direction of a Play), Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song, The Heiress by Ruth and Augustus Goetz (starring Jessica Chastain), and even his own play 33 Variations (starring Jane Fonda). 

The Laramie Project is among the most performed plays in the country. The collaboratively written piece is a response to the brutal and senseless killing of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student. The murder took place in Laramie, Wyoming. Kaufman and his team at the Tectonic Theater Project interviewed family, friends, neighbors, and more within the small town of Laramie and their words are front and center in this documentary-style theatre production. This high-profile hate crime was one of many turning points in the LGBTQ+ community and inspired not only plays, but songs, films, novels, and other forms of media.  

In September of 2016, Kaufman was awarded the National Medal of Arts and Humanities by President Barack Obama. He is the first Venezuelan to receive this award. To learn more about Kaufman and his work, visit his page on the Tectonic Theater Project website, which features links to articles about Kaufman, a timeline of his career, and an in depth look at his life and achievements. 

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