Rob Urbinati is a freelance playwright, screenwriter, book author and theater director based in New York City. He is also director of new play development at Queens Theatre.
Background and education
Rob was born in Framingham, Massachusetts and currently resides in New York City. He received a BA from the University of Massachusetts, an MA from the University of Nebraska Omaha and in 1994 was awarded a PhD in theatre arts from the University of Oregon College of Arts and Sciences.
Plays written by Rob Urbinati include an adaptation of August Strindberg's 1888 play Miss Julie, Miss Julie in Hollywood (1993), produced in Seattle at Northwest Actors Studio in 1994, starring Heidi Schreck; Hazelwood Jr. High (1996), about the Murder of Shanda Sharer, which premiered at The New Group and starred Chloë Sevigny; Cruel and Barbarous Treatment (1999) based on the 1939 Mary McCarthy short story, at Gloucester Stage Company; Karaoke Night at the Suicide Shack (2002) and The Queen Bees (formerly named Shangri-La) (2006) at Queens Theatre; Rebel Voices (2006), an adaptation of Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's Voices of a People's History of the United States at Culture Project with a rotating cast including Staceyann Chin, Steve Earle, Danny Glover, Lenelle Moïse, Rich Robinson, Lili Taylor, and Wallace Shawn; Murder on West Moon Street (2006) which was based on Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, an Oscar Wilde short story and Cole Porter’s Nymph Errant (2001) produced by the Prospect Theatre Company; UMW: University of Mostly Whites (2012) commissioned and produced by Linfield College; Death By Design (2010) written in a mash-up of styles of Noël Coward and Agatha Christie, commissioned and produced by Houston Family Arts Center; Mama's Boy (2013), based on the lives of Marguerite Oswald and Lee Harvey Oswald, which premiered at Good Theater in Maine (2015) and Our Boy (2017) which premiered at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in 2017. Hazelwood Jr. High, Murder on West Moon Street, Mama's Boy and Death By Design (as well as an alternate version with songs by Peter Mills) are published by Samuel French. Cole Porter’s Nymph Errant, UMW: University of Mostly Whites and The Queen Bees are published by Steele Spring Stage Rights. His plays have received over two hundred productions worldwide. His book, Play Readings: A Complete Guide for Theatre Practitioners (2015) is published by Focal Press/Routledge.
In New York, Rob Urbinati directed the world premieres Staceyann Chin’s Border/Clash for the Culture Project; Eric Bogosian’s Griller for the Lincoln Center Director's Lab; James Armstrong's Foggy Bottom, Jan Buttram's The President and Her Mistress and Al Letson’s Summer in Sanctuary at the Abingdon; Kirk Bromley's Syndrome at the Greenwich Street Theatre, Bromley and Jessica Grace Wing's Lost at the Connelly Theatre; and Anne DeSalvo's Mamma Roma at Cherry Lane Theatre.
Also in New York, Rob directed Villa Diodati for the New York Musical Theatre Festival, (and at York Theatre Company), Angel Street at Pearl Theatre Company; 365 Days/365 Plays at The Public Theatre; Springtime at HERE Arts Center, The Man with the Flower in His Mouth at Classic Stage Company, and Minstrel Show, or the Lynching of William Brown at Connelly Theatre, and then in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Colorado.
Rob has directed at universities and colleges across the country including Concordia College in Minnesota, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Doane College in Nebraska, LaGuardia Community College in New York City, Clark University in Massachusetts, University of Oregon, University of Nebraska–Lincoln and New York University, where he directed Jeff Whitty’s Suicide Weather
In Nebraska, he directed for Lied Center for Performing Arts, The Rose Theatre, Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, Nebraska Repertory Theatre, and Blue Barn Theatre, where his adaptation of Toxic Avenger: the Musical premiered.
Rob is Director of New Play Development at Queens Theatre, where he curates New American Voices (formerly Immigrant Voices Project), a new play program which develops plays by writers who represent the diverse demographic of New York City. IVP/NAV has presented readings, workshops, full productions and co-productions of new work by over eighty writers including , Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, Kristoffer Diaz, Rajiv Joseph, Qui Nguyen, Heather Raffo, Saviana Stănescu, Caridad Svich, Cori Thomas and Lauren Yee. At Queens Theatre, Rob has directed many plays including Marry Me A Little, Angel Street, Master Class, and To Kill A Mockingbird.
Since receiving a Directing Fellowship from The Drama League, he has served on their Nominating Committee and various Selection Committees. For The Drama League, he directed William Inge's The Boy in the Basement, the world premieres of Tom Grady's Global Village and Max Sparber's The Older Gentleman and Cruelties. He wrote the Drama League Benefits honoring James Earl Jones, Bernadette Peters, and David Hyde Pierce.
Recently, Rob directed Al Letson’s The Centre Cannot Hold at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto and the Five and Dime Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida.
Three productions he directed, Lost, Syndrome, and Border/Clash, and one that he wrote, Hazelwood Jr. High, were videotaped for the Billy Rose Theatre on Film and Tape Archive at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Rob Urbinati is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.
He is a participating member of the Drama Desk Awards as well as a critic covering New York area theater for EDGE Media Network.
Rob has conducted numerous playwriting and directing workshops at various Regions of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.
In 2007 the Prospect Theater Company production of Urbinati's Murder on West Moon Street was nominated for 8 New York Innovative Theatre Awards for Outstanding Full Length Play, Outstanding Production of a Play, Outstanding Director, Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role, 2 for Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role, Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role and Outstanding Costume Design. In the same year, the Queens Theatre production of his musical Shangri La was also nominated for 4 New York Innovative Theatre Awards for Outstanding Production of a Musical, Outstanding Choreography/Movement, Outstanding Sound Design and Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role.
Courtney Kochuba, "I Interview Playwrights Part 786: Rob Urbinati", Breaking Character Magazine, September 18, 2015
"In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Department of Theatre Arts – and in anticipation of their alumni reunion this fall – we share some notable successes of former theater students.", CAScade, Spring 2009
Fintan O'Toole, "Jr. High: Growing Up is Murder", Daily News|location=New York, March 6, 1998
Anne Marie-Donahue, "Deft staging keeps bite in 3 stories", Boston Globe, June 9, 2000
Michael Bracken, "Killing Them Softly, Newsday, April 25, 2003
BWW News Desk, 'qt to premiere New musical THE QUEEN BEES" BroadwayWorld, April 16, 2015
Marilyn Stasio, "Rebel Voices",Variety November 18, 2007
Ginia Bellafante, "Lord Arthur Learns About Love and Death and the Importance of Being Insouciant", The New York Times, May 1, 2007
Michael Sommers, "Cole Porter's rarely-done 1933 musical arrives in a trim package", New Jersey Newsroom, July 14, 2012
Olivia Jane Smith, "Olivia Jane Smith on "Nymph Errant" as presented by Prospect Theater Company" New York Theatre Review, July 20, 2012
"UMW makes world premiere on Linfield stage", Linfield News, March 5, 2013
Jim Tommaney, "Delightful By Design: Rob Urbinati's Vivid Murder Mystery Death By Design at HFAC", Houston Press, September 22, 2011
April Boyle, "Theater Review: Mama's Boy an intriguing play about Oswald family" Portland Press Herald, November 3, 2015
Hee Han, "Our Boy the struggle on sex crimes", High Plains Reader, August 2, 2017
Ernio Hernandez, "Jamaican Journeys to New Life in New York in Border/Clash Opens Off Broadway June 16", Playbill, June 16, 2005
Neil Genzlinger, "THEATER REVIEW; Inside View of Tourette's as a Lifelong Companion"The New York Times, January 25, 2002
Jesse McKinley, "Premiere Draws A Crowd, And Tears, For Absent Composer", The New York Times, August 11, 2003
BWW News Desk, "Villa Diodati To Be Presented at 45th Street Theatre as Part of NYMF", BroadwayWorld, September 3, 2008
D. J. R. Bruckner, "THEATER REVIEW; Sending Up Gaslight of '44 (With Emphasis on 'Gas')", The New York Times,April 30, 1999
Elyse Sommer, "A CurtainUp Review: Angel Street", CurtainUp. Retrieved August 4, 2019
Naomi Siegel, "Transfixed With a Horror, a Play Doesn't Flinch", The New York Times, October 14, 2007
Jane Palmer, "Hilarious adult fare Avenger makes debut", Omaha World-Herald, July 10, 2004
Jeff Korbelik, "Blue Barn giving a stage life to Toxic Avenger", Lincoln Journal Star, July 22, 2004
Dick Kerkes & Leisla Sansom, "‘'The Centre Cannot Hold’' Another Outstanding Performance by Playwright, Poet, Journalist, Actor and Nationally Known Personality Al Letson", EU Jacksonville, July 18, 2019
Performing Arts Research Collections video recordings, "Rob Urbinati, Director" New York Public Library
Performing Arts Research Collections video recordings, "Rob Urbinati, Playwright" New York Public Library
Theatre EDGE Media Network
Doug Strassler, what's on off-off, off off online, August 1, 2007
"2007 IT Awards Nominees & Recipients", September 24, 2007