Zisan (Zishan) Ugurlu is a native of Istanbul and came to New York in 1993 at the invitation of Ellen Stewart, founder of La MaMa Theater, where she is now a resident actress and director. She has worked extensively both in New York and abroad.
She has performed in numerous productions with the company, including The Trojan Woman, directed by Andrei Serban, composed by Elizabeth Swados, in which she toured internationally as Helen of Troy. Under the direction of Ellen Stewart she performed in Draupadi, Oedipus Rex and Yunus. She played Carmen in Robert Wooduff’s award winning Godard-Distant and Right. Other roles include the world premier of Dario Fo’s one-woman Peasants’ Bible, Dante in Dante, a one-woman Antigone, Desdomona in Othello, Monique in Koltes’ West Pier, and Medea in Heiner Mueller’s The Medea. She is featured in the films: The Letter, which was part of the Cannes Film Festival and Dog Race received many awards at International Film Festivals
She is currently directing Music Room by John Runowicz about the prison system in America and working with formerly incarcerated individuals. She was recently invited to direct Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare at Istanbul Municipality Theater for its 100-year anniversary and for the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Her directing credits include the solo performances Harlem Blooms In Spring by Jersten Seraile, at Off –Broadway, Theater Row (United Solo Festival), Race Free by Maria Mukuka, at Off –Broadway, Theater Row (United Solo Festival), In the Storm of Pleasure by Daniel Benhamu at Off –Broadway, Theater Row (United Solo Festival Best Debut Award), The Surrender by Toni Bentley at Off-Broadway, The Clurman Theater, Oysters, Orgasms, Obituaries by Raina von Waldenburg (Nominated for New York Innovative Theater Award for Outstanding Solo Performance) and Request Program by F. X. Kroetz. Her recent directing credits include Agamemnon (in Greek) by Aeschylus, Not About Nightingales by Tennessee Williams, She Talks to Beethoven by Adrienne Kennedy, Elegant Degradation based on Charles Mee’s Orestes 2.0, Marathon Dancing: Letters to Wall Street in the Era of Wonderful Nonsense based on They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by Horace McCoy, The Judith of Shimoda by Bertolt Brecht, π-ROJECT (in Greek) based on The Persians by Aeschylus, Child is a Father to Man by Philip Kan Gotanda, The Law of Remains by Reza Abdoh, Purge by Sofi Oksanen, Kebap - Mady Baby.edu (in Turkish) by Gianina Carbunariu, The Realm of Darkness by Leo Tolstoy, Baghdadi Bath (In Arabic) by Jawad Al Assadi, The Father by August Strindberg, Temptation by Vaclav Havel, Blood on the Cat’s Neck by Rainer W. Fassbinder, The Bat in Iraq-Insurgency -Counterinsurgency by Alexandra Beech, The Last Supper by Lars Norèn, Operetta by Witold Gombrowicz, Until the Next Whirl by Rumi, Watershed and Serious At All by Tom Soper, Blood Wedding by Federico G. Lorca, Big Love by Charles Mee and The Court of Fehim Pasha by Turgut Ozakman. She has also worked on devised theater pieces such as “Black Market”, “Water Therapy” and untitled piece with inmates at a maximum-security prison and with formerly incarcerated individuals in New York based on reentry issues. She is the founding artistic director of “Actors without Borders- ITONY.” It is an ensemble-based theater company with a commitment to introduce well known and highly regarded but rarely produced international playwrights to American audiences. The company also strives to work with daring American playwrights. She graduated from Columbia University with a MFA degree and holds a Ph.D. She is currently teaching at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts as an Associate Professor. She is the recipient of the prestigious Fox Foundation Fellowship granted by Theater Communications Group.
Zishan believes that art creates pathways for subversion, for political understanding while challenging structures of power in the attempts to make the invisible visible and she uses Andrei Tarkovsky’s description of artistic discovery as a mantra. “An artistic discovery occurs each time as a new and unique image of the world, a hieroglyphic of absolute truth. It appears as revelation, as a momentary, passionate wish to grasp intuitively and at a stroke all the laws of this world-its beauty and ugliness, its compassion and cruelty, its infinity and its limitations.”
PROFESSIONAL ACADEMIC POSITIONS
2004-Present Associate Professor of Theater Program in Arts - Tenured
Eugene Lang College The New School University for Liberal Arts - NY
Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, NY – Medium Security
Sing Sing Correctional Facility, NY – Maximum Security
2014 Lecturer and Workshop Leader for the formerly incarcerated
Rehabilitation Through The Arts - Sing Sing
2005-2008 Lecturer in Continuing Education (Part Time) Columbia University Summer School (Summer 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
2003-2004 Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance Department (Tenure Track) Trinity College, Hartford, CT
2002-2003 Assistant Professor of Theater Department Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
1987-1989 Guest Lecturer in Theater Department Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul, Turkey
Columbia University School of the Arts, New York. Completed the Master of Fine Arts Program under the supervision of Andrei Serban (Acting), Nikolaus and Ursula Wolcz (Acting and Movement), Anne Bogart (Suzuki, View Point), Kristin Linklater (Voice, Linklater Technique), Robert Woodruff, Bartlett Sher (Directing),
Arnold Aronson (Theater History), Eduardo Machado (Playwriting) (Graduated Spring 2000).
Theater Department of Ankara University, Turkey. Dissertation: "The Importance of the Play as a Cultural Concept" Supervised by Prof. Dr. Sevda Sener and Prof. Dr. Metin And.
Theater Department of Istanbul Mimar Sinan University. Thesis on "Staging Concepts of Raymond Queneau's Excersises De Style" Supervised by Prof. Dr. Cevat Capan.
Theater Department of Ankara University, Turkey. Thesis on "Aziz Nesin's Plays and Structuralism" Supervised by
Prof. Dr. Aysegul Yuksel