College of Visual and Performing Arts
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Rick Davis

Professor, School of Theater

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  • 703-993-8624 (office)
  • College Hall, C200B
    4400 University Drive, MS 4C1
    Fairfax, VA 22030

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Rick joined Mason in 1991 as Artistic Director of Theater of the First Amendment (TFA) and a member of the theater faculty. The company, which presented its final programs in 2012, was nominated for 38 Helen Hayes Awards, winning 12, and originated numerous works that went on to other regional theaters, television, radio, and publication.

Prior to coming to Mason, Rick was Resident Dramaturg and Associate Artistic Director of Baltimore's Center Stage (1986-91), Associate Director and co-founder of the American Ibsen Theater in Pittsburgh (1983-85), and taught drama at Washington College.

Rick has directed a broad range of professional theater and opera productions (more than 40 to date) in venues such as Center Stage, TFA, the Kennedy Center, American Ibsen Theater and Unseam'd Shakespeare Company in Pittsburgh, Players Theatre Columbus, Delaware Theatre Company, Lake George Opera (NY), Opera Idaho, Washington, D.C.'s IN Series, and other companies. He also has worked as dramaturg on more than 30 professional productions, and has directed dozens of plays, musicals, and operas for college and university programs, including the Mason Players.

From 2007 to 2011, Rick served as Mason's Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, working primarily on issues of general and liberal education, international programs, and student academic life.

As Executive Director of the Hylton Performing Arts Center since August 2011, Rick Davis oversees a state-of-the-art venue presenting national and international touring artists annually and serving as home to several resident arts organizations, as well as providing a major resource for Mason students and faculty, community, educational, business, and social events. 
In May 2015, Rick was appointed Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.  In this capacity he oversees the college’s seven academic programs, its creative, research, and community arts education arms, and its several performance and exhibition venues.  He continues to teach in the School of Theater and work on various directing projects both on and off campus. 

Rick's four books include Calderón de la Barca: Four Great Plays of the Golden Age; his co-translations of Ibsen with Brian Johnston (Ibsen: Four Major Plays, vol. I), which have been performed at leading regional theaters across the country; Ibsen in an Hour (with Brian Johnston); and Writing About Theatre (with Christopher Thaiss). With composer Kim D. Sherman, he is the librettist for the opera Love's Comedy and the oratorio The Songbird and the Eagle, commissioned and premiered by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. Rick is won the George Mason Teaching Excellence Award (1997) and was named an Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year (2006). He was educated at Lawrence University (BA) and the Yale School of Drama (MFA, DFA). He teaches courses in directing, dramatic literature, theater history, and arts management. 


Academic administration:

Dean, College of Visual and Performing Arts, George Mason University, 2015–

Academic, artistic, and executive leader of arts college serving 1,700+ majors across seven disciplines, offering bachelor’s to doctoral degrees, and operating a large community arts school and two major performing arts venues.  Annual budget c. $32 million. 

Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, George Mason University.  2007–2011

Served as steward of general education program and chair of general education committee.  Represented Provost’s Office in university-wide undergraduate matters including curricular and student services issues, international initiatives, and interdisciplinary programs.  Guest blogger for AAC&U ( Featured speaker, Inside Higher Ed teleconference, “Selling the liberal arts to students and their parents,” 2011. 

Associate Dean, College of Visual and Performing Arts, GMU. 2001–2007; 2012–15.

Collaborated with Dean and faculty of College housing Schools of Art, Dance, Music, and Theater, programs in Film and Video Studies and Game Design, and the Master of Arts Management program.  Focused on academic and artistic programs, facilities, and strategic planning.

Interim Director, Institute of the Arts: George Mason University, 2000–01.

Chief academic and operating officer (Dean equivalent) of unit housing divisions of Art and Visual Technology, Dance, and Theater; artistic director of Center for the Arts.

Led preparation for creation of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Director, Division of Theater, George Mason University: 1992–97.

Led a comprehensive restructuring of the theater program, focused on a distinctive combination of liberal arts breadth with professional rigor in collaboration with resident

Equity theater company. Increased majors from 35 to 80.

Artistic administration:

Executive Director, Hylton Performing Arts Center, 2011–

CEO of new, multi-venue facility operated by George Mason University in partnership with Prince William County and City of Manassas. Annual budget c. $6.5 million.  Focus on strategic planning, fundraising, capital and program development, and volunteer and political liaison. 

Artistic Director, Theater of the First Amendment, 1991–2012

Artistic leader of Actor’s Equity company in residence at George Mason University that ceased operations in 2012. TFA was honored with twelve Helen Hayes Awards and nearly forty nominations. TFA’s work has gone on to regional, national, and international productions, nationwide NPR broadcast, commercially available recordings, publication, and local PBS telecast.

Artistic Director, Center for the Arts: George Mason University, 2000–2007

Planned and implemented Great Performances at Mason, the 40+ event performing arts series of the Center for the Arts, and corollary activities. Focused on audience development, program enhancement, and educational coordination.  Administered auxiliary enterprise budget of c. $5 million. 

Associate Artistic Director, Center Stage, 1990-91; Resident Dramaturg, 1986–90.

Assisted in artistic planning, casting, fundraising, Board development and relations, production supervision, publications and marketing activities for major regional theater (LORT-B) with annual budget of c. $4 million. Created dramaturgy department that is now a national model. Dramaturg for 20+ productions. Originated Cabaret series. Participated in major capital/endowment campaign and theater construction/renovation project.

Co-founder and Associate Director, American Ibsen Theater, 1983–85.

Helped create innovative, nationally recognized professional company in Pittsburgh devoted to experimental stagings of Ibsen, new works, and other rarities. Directed, performed, worked in marketing, development, and dramaturgical capacities. 

Faculty appointments:

Professor of Theater, George Mason University. Promoted to full Professor and granted tenure, January 2002. Teach a wide range of courses in theater.

Term Associate Professor of Theater, George Mason University: 1992–2002

Taught a wide range of courses in theater, concentrating on directing, dramaturgy, literature, history, theory, and criticism.  Taught in cross- and interdisciplinary modes with Honors Program, Department of English, and New Century College. 

Assistant Professor of Drama, Washington College, 1983–88.

Taught wide range of courses including directing, theater history, performance, and design.  Achieved tenure and promotion to Associate Professor in spring 1988 followed by a one-year leave to work in professional theater.  Gave up tenure to continue professional work, returning to the College for two semesters (1990–91) as adjunct.

Lecturer, The Johns Hopkins University School of Continuing Studies, 1989–90.

Taught seminars on Shakespeare and Václav Havel.

Professional production work:

Director of theater and opera, 1983–present.

Member, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.  Directed almost 50 professional productions of plays, operas, and workshops for TFA, The Kennedy Center, Center Stage, Players Theatre Columbus, American Ibsen Theater, CMU Showcase of New Plays, Delaware Theatre Company, Opera Idaho, Capital City Opera, Virginia Consort, the IN Series, Unseam’d Shakespeare Company, and others.

Dramaturg, 1983–present.

Production dramaturgy for more than 30 professional productions including works at Yale Repertory Theater, American Ibsen Theater, Center Stage, and TFA.  Directors include Stan Wojewodski, Jr, Harold Prince, Irene Lewis, David Jones.

For a complete list of achievements, please download Rick's CV.


DFA, Dramaturgy, Dramatic Literature, and Criticism, Yale School of Drama (2003)

MFA, Dramaturgy, Dramatic Literature, and Criticism, Yale School of Drama (1983)

BA, summa cum laude, Theatre and Drama, Lawrence University (1980)

More Information

Appointment: Tenured

Faculty Rank: Professor

Personal Websites:


Classes taught:

HNRS 122: Reading the Arts.

CVPA 399/NCLC 350/GOVT 322: History, Politics, & the Arts (with Gortner and Friedlander).

THR 101: The Theatrical Medium (Fairfax, London)

THR 150, 151: Drama, Stage and Society I & II.

THR 203: Literary Management.

THR 329: Directing I.

THR 340: Directing II.

THR 351: Dramatic Theory and Criticism.

THR 352: Dramatic Literature Seminar (various topics)

THR 440: Advanced Studies in Directing and Dramaturgy (with Kristin Johnsen-Neshati)

THR 484: Translation and Adaptation for Stage and Screen.

THR 490: Special Topics in Drama; Advanced Studies in Theater History, Ibsen                                       Seminar, The Faustus Story, Professional Theater Production, Musical                          Theater Workshop.

THR 497: Independent Studies in Drama; Acting, Directing, Opera Literature and                                                 Performance, Dramatic Criticism, Adaptation. (Fairfax, London)

THR 599: Advanced Studies in Directing

ENGH 202: Texts and Contexts (London)

ENGH 309: Special Topics: Modern British Theatre (London)

ENG 750: Adapting Classical Myths (with C. K. Williams)

ENG 751: Adapting Classical Drama (with C.K. Williams)

MAM 603: The Arts in Society

AMGT 640: Programming and Project Management

Lifelong Learning courses in Dramatic Literature, Opera, American Drama, Criticism


Current research foci include the drama of the Spanish Golden Age, directing pedagogy, and intermodal approaches to creation and production.

Selected Grants

co-PI, Multidisciplinary Research Initiative, Tier 2: The 100th Meridian Project

Associated Faculty:

Honors & Awards

George Mason Teaching Excellence Award , George Mason University

April 11, 1997

Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year ,

March 28, 2006

Kenneth Tynan Award in Dramaturgy, Yale University, 1983

F. Theodore Cloak Award in Theatre, Lawrence University, 1980

Association of General and Liberal Studies “Exemplary Program Award,” 2011, Mason’s new general education assessment protocol (with Karen Gentemann and Ying Zhou).

Franklin Smith Comedia Translation Prize, 2019. , Awarded by the Association for Hispanic Classical Theater.

Professional Affiliations

Phi Beta Kappa

Phi Kappa Phi

Phi Beta Delta

Eta Sigma Phi

Panelist, National Endowment for the Arts, 1988-90; 1995, 2002, 2007, 2008

Served on Playwright Fellowships panel for three years, Professional Theater Companies Panel and Shakespeare in American Communities panel for two years each. 

Panelist, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, 2004-2005

Served on Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour selection panel and Artists in Communities grants panel.

Panelist, Maryland State Arts Council, 1989-91; 1999-2000

Served on theater companies panel for three years; served on “Large Organizations” panel, an interdisciplinary panel that makes grant recommendations on all arts organizations with budgets of more than $1 million. 

Panelist, Virginia Commission on the Arts, 1989, 1992, 2011-14

Served on interdisciplinary panel making grant recommendations on applicants in the Northern Virginia region. Served as member of Playwriting Fellowship panel

Reader, National Endowment for the Arts, 1989-92

Evaluated manuscripts for Playwriting and Opera/Music-Theater grants. 

Member, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (directors union)

Stage Directors and Choreographers (union affiliation)

Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of America: Vice President, 1987-9.

Ibsen Society of America: executive council, 1982-91; Vice President, 1989-91.

Media Appearance

Host Studio A

In the News

Mason Provost Names New Dean of College of Visual and Performing Arts

Published on March 23, 2015

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‘West Side Story + Roméo et Juliette’ at Young Artists of America and Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras at Strathmore

Published on March 11, 2015

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In Series’ season closer Love and Money, a double thrill

Published on June 19, 2013

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Rick Davis Named Executive Director of Mason’s Hylton Performing Arts Center

Published on July 27, 2011

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Presentations & Performances

The Songbird and the Eagle, oratorio libretto, with music by Kim D. Sherman

San Jose Chamber Orchestra and The Choral Project, 2006

Love’s Comedy, opera libretto based on a play by Ibsen, with music by Kim D. Sherman

Mason Festival of the Arts, June 2008.

Love and Money: The Soldier's Tale and Johnny Schicchi, director/adapter

The In Series Opera Company

Schools & Programs