By age 28, the '97 UNC graduate already had served a two-year term as the resident directorial assistant at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. Before that, he directed several productions in New York in the Lincoln Center's Director's Lab program, founded the Vesuche Ensemble and received the Drama League's Fall Production Program fellowship.
Shaffner didn't furnish his New York apartment for six months; without time to think about couches, chintz and tables, he discovered his bathroom tiles were more comfortable than his bedroom floor and made due.
And Shaffner still lets go of the small details in the process of furthering his career. "I always thought that when your attitude about what you're doing is right, things start to happen for you," he said. "I always knew what I wanted to do, and when you jump in without worrying whether you have an apartment in New York, you find an apartment."
At UNC as the PlayMakers Repertory Company's resident director for the next three years, as well director of some student studio work, Shaffner settled back into Chapel Hill as a professional, working under the man who was his mentor during his undergraduate years. Shaffner studied under the company's Artistic Director David Hammond, who recommended Shaffner for two fellowships he later received.
Hammond characterized Shaffner's undergraduate demeanor as eager. "He could respond, and he could assimilate," Hammond said. "He didn't have a style or an attitude, he just took off. He had the professional orientation even when he was a student."
Shaffner spent half of his time in classes with Hammond, the other half directing shows for Lab! Theatre. He cites both experiences --