The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday December 8th

Playwright professor finds his creative home in Chapel Hill

Mark Perry is not a native North Carolinian. After years in the state, he has fallen in love with the cast of characters surrounding him in the college town of Chapel Hill. The Dramatic Arts lecturer has been teaching at UNC since 2005 where he started with a single class. After a couple of years, he started teaching playwriting. 

“That class interests me a lot because my graduate degree is in playwriting, but I’m particularly interested in how plays are fashioned how they’re made, how they reflect life and all of that,” he said. 

He got his masters in playwriting at the University of Iowa. During his last year, he got married in Australia to his wife, who he met while in Israel. 

“It was this wonderful international affair and she came back to live with me in Iowa,” he said. “We planned to go back to Australia, but that kind of fell apart.”

Perry said he and his wife wanted to look for a good place and he had heard a lot about the Chapel Hill area. He said there was a friend who he knew from Iowa that moved to the area and who was teaching at the ophthalmology department at UNC. 

“He offered my wife a job,” he said. “That was like confirmation that this was the place.”

Perry did some work for a publishing company and started to establish himself in theater when he moved to the area. Perry said the arts was an area that he was naturally drawn to. 

“I think we look for an area that is both engaging for us and an area where we feel a kinship,” Perry said. “That’s especially true for drama people. There’s this transformation, there’s this feeling, when you’re watching a play that sometimes the roof lifts away and you’re there and it’s an experience we can’t find in other circumstances.”

He said it is the experience of the theater, the camaraderie and the storytelling that he is drawn to. 

“I was interested in telling different kinds of stories,” Perry said. “Stories that focus on spirituality.”

Senior Samuel Silverstein said he participated in two plays Perry directed and took a first year seminar with Perry. He is currently in a playwriting class taught by him. 

“Playwriting class is mostly open discussion and it’s sort of a free-form style,” he said. “We are all encouraged to share our work as we’re writing it and Mark asks really good questions about our work.”

Silverstein said Perry is leading his students to understand what makes an interesting scene and leads his students to focus on scenes that are based on real experiences. 

“He is a great professor,” he said. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for him.”

Senior lecturer and PlayMakers company member Kathryn Williams said she has worked with Perry for the last ten years at UNC Dramatic Arts. She also co-directed a play with Perry that he wrote, called “The Will of Bernard Boynton.” 

“He’s helped me with scripts and he’s really one of my favorite people,” Williams said. “He’s also really one of the kindest, most generous people I know. He has a beautiful way of looking at this chaotic world.”

Perry said he would like to keep on writing for people at UNC, especially for the available cast that UNC has.  He wants to make cast members shine and write stories that will combine his interest with their passions.

“So learning to write for, not just what’s in my heart or not just a story that I want to tell, but what is the story that’s developing around me,” he said.

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