Five-Time Emmy Winner and ‘Dick Van Dyke’ Writer Presents Talk Nov. 15
Five-Time Emmy Winner and ‘Dick Van Dyke’ Writer Presents Talk Nov. 15

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor

The theater department will host a talk on Friday, Nov. 15, with Bill Persky, a five-time Emmy Award-winning writer who co-created That Girl and wrote many episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show. The talk will begin at 8 p.m. in University Theater in Dodds Hall.

Persky will discuss his lengthy career and his craft and will likely tell a few tales about the writers’ rooms he worked in. His extensive credits include writing 22 television pilots and five films and directing 100 episodes of Kate and Allie. He has lectured at Yale University and the NYU Film School and contributes to Time magazine and USA Today.

Bill Persky is sharing his decades of experience with UNH students as a guest lecturer this semester.

Jonathan Yukich, a lecturer in the theater department, said the evening promises to be fascinating and laugh-out-loud fun.

He describes Persky as “...extremely funny....not only an artist but a highly successful artist.”  Persky is a monthly guest lecturer in a “Devising for the Stage” course Yukich is teaching, where students find innovative ways to improvise and adapt texts for the stage. Persky works with students on developing characters and the many kinds of complications and ensuing hijinks that make audiences laugh.

“Bringing someone from television to the course shows that there are fundamentals that all dramatic narratives share,” said Yukich. In one of the course projects, students may choose to adapt part of Persky’s memoir, My Life is a Situation Comedy, for the stage.

In a recent class, each student had the chance to pitch a sitcom idea to Persky, and he then worked with them on honing their pitches.  He said the UNH students are engaged, involved and aware. And, in the case of one student, not afraid to speak her mind, even to an Emmy winner. During one exercise when Persky tossed out an idea, the student said the idea wasn’t very good. “And she was right!” Persky said.  

Kathleen Mcgoff ’16, a criminal justice major and theater minor, said Persky has a way of making the students feel comfortable. “He wanted to hear our ideas and wanted to give his input as someone who has done this before and been through the process of pitching shows, obviously with success,” she said.

Persky said he relishes his experience at UNH. “I love the University,” he said. “It is the best kept secret in the world.”  

Rachel Anderson-Rabern, assistant professor and director of the UNH theater program, said it is quite an opportunity to connect with an artist with a huge body of knowledge and wealth of experience.

“Bill offers a window into a breadth of performance practices,” she said. “His career is intensely inspiring, moving and sometimes hilarious. His willingness to share his ongoing work with UNH is rare and special.”

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