Professor of Theatre, Skidmore College
Producing Artistic Director of The Saratoga Shakespeare Company
It is with great pride that Lary Opitz calls himself a "total theatre artist". Since his first professional Off-Broadway credit in 1967 (For Love and Money at the 42nd Street Maidman Theater), he has worked as actor, director, playwright, scenic designer, lighting designer, costume designer, sound designer, producer, artistic director, stage manager, technician, and consultant on countless productions in hundreds of theatres throughout the world, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional, stock, touring and academic theatre, dance and opera productions.
A graduate of Queens College (CUNY) and Lester Polakov's renowned Studio and Forum of Stage Design in New York, in 1980 he was one of only five lighting designers inducted into Local #829 of United Scenic Artists (IATSE). At that time there were only one hundred lighting designers in this professional union governing design practices on Broadway. Resident lighting designer for the world-famous José Limón Dance Company for nine years, his designs have been seen in over thirty countries and throughout the United States, and include many New York and world premières for such choreographers as Alwin Nikolais, Meridith Monk, Sophie Maslow, Carla Maxwell, Lucas Hoving, Heinz Poll, Carlos Orta, Sarah Stackhouse, Jean Cebron, Susanne Linke, and Anna Sokolow. Capital District audiences have enjoyed his many theatre and dance designs at Skidmore Theatre, Capital Repertory Company, Proctor´s Theatre, The Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Shakespeare, and the Egg (Empire State Performing Arts Center). His first professional scenic design was for the Off-Broadway production of Woyzeck at LaMama ETC in NYC.
As a theatre consultant, Mr. Opitz has designed and consulted on many major performance facilities including Capital Rep´s Market Theatre, the Empire State Performing Arts Center, Queens Playhouse in the Park in NYC, and the Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Theatre on the Skidmore campus and he has been affiliated with Robert Lorelli Associates, Inc. In 2001 he and David Yergan created a new fully-equipped modular theatre space for the Saratoga County BOCES New Visions Theatre Arts Program. In 2002 they developed plans for a similar facility for the Warren County BOCES New Visions Theatre Arts Program. Mr. Opitz served as the technical editor and feature writer for Theatre Crafts Magazine (also known as TCI and Entertainment Design), the foremost periodical dealing with theatre design and technology. He has served as an external consultant reviewing theatre programs and personnel at a number of colleges and universities.
An actor since 1965 and a member of Actors Equity Association (The only member of United Scenic Artists to also be an active Equity actor), he has returned to the boards in recent years performing the roles of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Polonius in Hamlet, Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Aegeon in The Comedy of Errors, Ferapont in The Three Sisters, George in Machinal, Marcus Andronicus in Titus Andronicus, Gremio in The Taming of the Shrew, David in Blood Relative, Duncan, Porter and Scottish Doctor in Macbeth, Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet, Gonzalo in The Tempest, and Duke Senior and Duke Frederick in As You Like It. He is a founding member of The Saratoga Shakespeare Company and has performed with New York's Instant Shakespeare Co. He had a featured role in the independent film Disoriented, and can be seen in Seabiscuit, The Skeptic and a documentary of What I Heard About Iraq. He performed in What I Heard About Iraq Off-Broadway and on tour. He appeared in numerous roles in a production of a new play in development entitled Diaghilev. The production was directed by Sheryl Kaller, choreographed by Robert La Fosse, and starred Broadway actor Thom Sesma. Mr. Opitz has performed as narrator with the Skidmore Orchestra in The Carnival of Animals and Tubby the Tuba. With Ryan Emmons, he developed a one-person production called Shakespeare of A Certain Age. During the summer of 2014 his credits included a lead role in a short film entitled The Damned McMarters and the role of Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor with the Saratoga Shakespeare Company.
Lary Opitz began teaching in the graduate program at Columbia University's Teachers College. in 1974 he joined the faculty of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York where he has developed and taught many courses in the Theatre Department (acting, design, management, seminars, etc.) and in the college´s Liberal Studies program (Arts and Politics in Weimar Germany) and has been very active in shaping the respected theatre training program. Former Design Director for the Theatre Department, he advised student designers and has designed scenery, lighting, properties, sound and costumes for well over one hundred Skidmore Theatre productions. Over the fourteen years he served as chair he produced all of the department productions. He regularly offers internship, career planning and audition workshops to Skidmore students. He has been active on most of the major college committees, worked in developing an all-college curriculum, and served as chairman of CAPT (Committee on Appointments, Promotions and Tenure). He created and maintained two iterations of the Skidmore College Theater web site and served as the college parliamentarian for many years. As a member of the Association of Arts Administration Educators, he worked on the development of Skidmore's Arts Administration program. He organized a New York City showcase for senior class actors and, with the generous support of successful TV producer David Miner (Class of '91) created a new program in which comedy improvisation is taught by The Second City of Chicago. Prior to the fall of 2016, Opitz served for many years as the Chairman of the Skidmore Theater Department.
In 1988 Mr. Opitz began writing and directing theatre productions. He has developed and directed six major adaptations: Woyzeck in Auschwitz, The Threepenny Opera, Bloomsday: 16 June 1904 (based on Ulysses by James Joyce), The Trial, The Merchant of Venice, and Kafka's Metamorphosis : A Slapstick Tragedy. He has also directed Arcadia, The Comedy of Errors, Macbeth, Blood Relative and RAB, a one-man show dealing with the life and works of Robert Burns. His most recent directing projects include an Argentinian tango production of Romeo and Juliet, Ajax in Iraq, Almost, Maine, and If All the Sky Were Paper. In the summer of 2015 he directed a production of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. Intrigued with the idea of training the "total theatre artist," he continues to explore projects for which he serves as writer, director, designer and, occasionally, actor. His study guide for Arcadia (named as a Best Website for Students by Schoop) continues to have an international life. It has been used for a number of professional productions of the play and many academics have continue to use it since 1998. His script for Bloomsday: 16 June 1904 continues to be used in a number pf places for Bloomsday celebrations.
In 1995 Mr. Opitz and Barbara Opitz developed The Shakespeare Programme, a respected study-abroad program based in London and associated with The British American Dramatic Academy and The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. This program ran successfully from 1996-2015. At Skidmore College he offers a Scribner Seminar at Skidmore entitled: Shakespeare Was Jewish? His current theater courses include Introduction to Theater, Acting Shakespeare, Career Development for the Theater, Production Seminar, Director Workshops, and Audition Workshop.
Since 2003 Mr. Opitz has been a Scholar-in-Residence at New York University for three semesters, including Spring 2010. While in New York and England, he developed a new course on Shakespeare's verse and had opportunities to work with Louis Scheeder of The Classic Studio; Sir Peter Hall and John Barton, founders of the Royal Shakespeare Company; and Patsy Rodenburg, vocal coach of the Royal National Theatre. He was lighting designer for the world and New York premiere of Marathon, by Edoardo Erba, translated by Israel Horovitz and recently designed lights for Skidmore's Sweeney Todd. Recent scenic designs for Saratoga Shakespeare include productions of The Merry Wives of Windsor, Macbeth, Love's Labour's Lost , Cyrano, and Romeo and Juliet. Since 2010 he has been developing a new website designed to train students in Shakespearean acting. Designed as a living document that will continue to grow, the site will contain extensive material on how to approach Shakespeare's language, a primer of acting basics, and over one hundred monologue texts — including over fifty that are fully annotated.
A founding member of the Saratoga Shakespeare Company in 2000, Mr. Opitz is currently the Artistic Director of the professional company. The only professional company offering classical theatre Saratoga County, Saratoga Shakespeare's summer productions draw audiences of over 6,500 during a three-week period frm July to August. In addition to two professional productions, the Young Theater Professional Company of college students from all over the country train extensively and produce an intern production. With Executive Director Barbara Opitz, he has continued to expand the summer offerings, Equity contracts, professional staff, budget and educational training program of the Equity company since 2012. Opitz is a member of The Shakespeare Theatre Association.
Opitz has been a loyal and rabid New York Mets fan since 1962 and is listed in Who's Who in America.
Lary Opitz with Eddie Jones in Seabiscuit
Lary Opitz as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice 2011
Yvonne Perry (Mistress Page), a very pregnant horse named Godiva, Lary Opitz (Falstaff) and Brenny Rabine (Mistress Ford) in The Merry Wives of Windsor
The Skidmore College Shakespeare Programme
Arcadia Study Guide In 1998 Lary Opitz directed Tom Stoppard´s Arcadia at Skidmore College. All incoming Skidmore students read the play and it was central to the Liberal Studies I course that fall. This web page was developed for that project. In 2009 it was named Best of the Web in Literature by Shmoop (winner of a 2009 Webbies Award for Best Website for Students). This is an example of the dramaturgical web pages created for Skidmore's Seminar Productions.
Jane Lapotaire In 1998 our commencement speaker was renowned Royal Shakespeare Company actress Jane Lapotaire.
Skidmore College Department of Theatre (previous version)
An Introduction to Parliamentary Procedure
TH127 Theater Production (3 sem hr) Precursor to current 2 credit course, this covered stagecraft and stage management.
LSIII Arts and Politics in Weimar Germany (3 sem hrs) An examination of the artist, focusing on the arts in the Weimar Republic during the rise of Nazism. Movements (such as DaDa and Expressionism) and artists (such as Brecht, Mann, and Grosz) responded to a period of perpetual crisis due to war, revolution, and counterrevolution; economic and governmental failure; massive unemployment; and political strife abroad. Students will study the works and lives of selected artists in music, dance, painting, literature, theatre, film, and architecture in relationship to the political, economic, and social history of this period.
Opitz has often been a guest lecturer in a variety of class and gave presentations to the Liberal Studies I classes.