Nigel Maister

Nigel Maister

  • Senior Lecturer
  • Russell and Ruth Peck Artistic Director, the International Theatre Program

MFA, Carnegie Mellon University

Office Location
210 Todd Union
(585) 273-5159

Research Overview

Nigel Maister is the Russell and Ruth Peck Artistic Director of the UR International Theatre Program (a position he has held since 2002; before that he was the Program's Associate Director). Born in South Africa, he has trained both as an actor and as a director. Recent notable productions include The Conduct of Life (Fornes), Madame de Sade (Mishima), In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Kipphardt), The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other (Handke), King Lear, The Winter’s Tale, and Hamlet, the New York premiere of Manfred Karge's Conquest of the South Pole; the American premiere of his own translation (from the French) of Bernard Marie Koltè's Roberto Zucco (also Infernal Bridegroom Productions); the world premieres of Andy Bragen’s The Hairy Dutchman, Spencer Christiano’s The Rochester Plays, Matt Marks’s pop-rock version of Mother Courage and her Children, W. David Hancock's The Puzzle Locker, Howard Marc Solomon's The Wildman, Ernesto Brosa's Towards Canaan, and his own Punch! (at the American Living Room Festival at Here, NYC). He has directed The Taming of the Shrew and A Lie of the Mind (both in Bulgarian) in Bulgaria, and Tony Kushner's A Bright Room Called Day in South Africa.

He has acted in Europe, South Africa, and the U.S., and studied clowning in the Czech Republic, Noh theatre with Noh master Akira Matsui, and puppetry at the National Puppetry Conference at the O'Neill (where he has also twice taught as a guest artist). He has worked with and/or assisted Peter Sellars, Giorgio Strehler, Richard Foreman, Christopher Alden, Tazewell Thompson, Theodora Skipitares and was the assistant director on the original NYTW production of Rent. For two seasons he was a staff director at Glimmerglass Opera, working on productions of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites and Offenbach's Bluebeard. He is the recipient of a Drama League Directing Fellowship, the "Fleur du Cap" Theatre Award, the Steven Bochco Award, and the Van Staveren and WQED-Buhl Foundation fellowships. In addition, he has designed numerous productions and composed music for The Conference of the Birds, Hamlet, Strindberg's The Ghost Sonata, and Eliot's The Family Reunion, as well as for a ballet, The Swimming Hole.

As a founding member and the resident staging director of the acclaimed new music ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, he has staged, developed and/or designed concerts at Columbia’s Miller Theatre, The Kitchen, Zankel/Carnegie Hall, Cal Performances, in Korea, and elsewhere. He co-developed/directed 1969, and co-developed/directed/designed John Cage’s Song Books (River-to-River and Holland festivals). He wrote the libretto for and directed I Was Here I Was I, a site-specific work (music by Kate Soper) for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and performed his text, Paper Trails (music by Stefan Freund) in John Adams’s In Your Ear Festival (Zankel Hall). His work, Paper Pianos (with composer Mary Kouyoumdjian and visual artist, Kevork Mourad) will debut in 2020.

He is the author of four plays, numerous theatrical adaptations, five librettos, and two song cycles. His adaptation of Robert Fagles's The Iliad received its world premiere at the University of Rochester in April 2000. His short fiction has been published by (amongst others) Penguin in Lynx—Contemporary South African Writing, and New Contrast: New South African WritingPrism International, and Tongues: Contemporary World Literature.

He is an accomplished visual artist/photographer, a collector of 19th century and vernacular photography, a New York Theatre Workshop "Usual Suspect," and was a 2018 MacDowell Colony Fellow.

Research Interests

  • New music
  • multimedia performance

Selected Publications

Recent productions

  • Adding Machine: A Musical, by Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith
  • The Winter's Tale, by William Shakespeare
  • The Hairy Dutchman, by Andy Bragen
  • Hello Again, by Michael John LaChiusa
  • King Lear, by William Shakespeare
  • The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, by Peter Handke
  • The Lower Depths, by Maxim Gorki
  • Accidental Death of an Anarchist, by Dario Fo
  • The Puzzle Locker, by W. David Hancock
  • Various staged concerts by Alarm Will Sound, including at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center Festival, Holland Festival, River to River Festival, Duke University, St. Louis, and Cal Performances (Berkeley)

Recent writing

  • The Lower Depths, original adaptation
  • Accidental Death of an Anarchist, original adaptation
  • Paper Trails, original libretto


  • Staging Director: Alarm Will Sound
  • New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect