ANYA SAFFIR is a theater director, writer and educator based in- and hailing from- New York City. She has spent twenty years directing and teaching the plays of Anton Chekhov, Shakespeare, Brecht and the British playwrights he influenced, as well as collaborating on the creation of new adaptations and translations for the stage. Inspired by the work of directors Harley Granville-Barker and Peter Brook, Anya’s greatest interest is uncovering the elemental power in epic ensemble theater and classical texts.
Since directing Three Sisters early in her career Anya has worked extensively on Chekhov’s plays. She co-developed a new English-language version of The Seagull with translator Moti Margolin and she has directed and taught Chekhov’s plays at numerous M.F.A, B.F.A and conservatory acting programs. In 2013 Anya traveled to Russia to direct at Chekhov’s artistic home- The Moscow Art Theater- where her work performed in repertory.
Anya brings rigorous dramaturgy, a focus on ensemble and a modern sensibility to directing Shakespeare. She believes deeply in the power of the spoken word to activate the audience’s mind’s eye and works extensively with live music and sound in performance as an interwoven component of the aural theater event. Anya directed an all-male Romeo and Juliet with Tragedians of the City which Backstage called an “arresting,” “surprisingly engrossing” “mysterious coup de théâtre” and her Hamlet was nominated for three New York Innovative Theater Awards, including Outstanding Direction. Anya has served as Artistic Associate at Classic Stage Company in NY and has been a regular contributor on Shakespeare topics for National Public Radio’s The Takeaway.
Anya has worked in close collaboration with composer Cormac Bluestone for fifteen years. Anya and Cormac co-wrote a musical adaptation of Margery Williams Bianco’s The Velveteen Rabbit – an operetta for children and adults- that debuted at The Atlantic Theater Company in the fall of 2015. It was hailed by the New York Times as “imaginative,” “beautifully played,” and full of “enchantment,” “wit” and “poignancy” and was nominated for a 2016 Off Broadway Alliance Award for Best Family Show. Anya and Cormac’s critically acclaimed production of Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle employed 12 musical instruments played live by a cast of 18 actors, enjoyed a completely sold-out run at Theater for the New City, and went on to win an ITBA Patrick Lee Theater Award for Outstanding Show as well as the New York Innovative Theater Award for Best Original Score. They have collaborated on six Shakespeare productions all featuring original music played live by the cast. Cormac’s compositions for their productions have been performed around the US and in Russia, Turkey, Australia and Korea.
Anya has directed new plays by Tom Donaghy, Mike Dowling, Kate Robin, Heather MacDonald, Jerome Hairston and Scott Organ at Atlantic Theater Company for the 10×25 Play Festival, New Works Series, and 24-Hour Plays, directing actors such as Liev Schrieber, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Ritter and Eddie Cahill.
Anya teaches acting at The Atlantic Theater Company Acting School where she is considered a master teacher of Practical Aesthetics, an acting technique based on the teachings of Stanislavsky, Joseph Campbell and Aristotle. At Atlantic she teaches scene study classes in Chekhov, Throughline Technique, Shakespeare and Postwar British Drama- a class she created inspired by her love of the dialectical political theater movement that emerged in the UK after WWII and the innovations of Brecht. She has directed numerous student productions on the Atlantic’s Stage 2, including plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov, Thornton Wilder and Caryl Churchill. Anya is currently on the faculty at Brooklyn College, teaching Classics to the B.F.A. students in the Theater Department, and she has previously served as an Adjunct Professor in the drama department at Tisch/NYU where she directed on the mainstage. In 2013 and 2015 Anya was a guest director and guest speaker at the American Repertory Theater Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University. Read her commencement address to the 2015 Harvard M.F.A. graduates here. She has taught Practical Aesthetics Masterclasses at the Penn State M.F.A. Acting program, at Brave Studios in Melbourne, Australia, and in 2018 will be teaching Practical Aesthetics in Mexico City.
Anya is currently co-directing the new fiction podcast IT MAKES A SOUND on Nightvale Presents, written by longtime collaborator Jacquelyn Landgraf, featuring the voices of Landgraf, the legendary Annie Golden, Melissa Mahoney, Nate Weida, Roberta Colindrez and Siobhan Fallon, original music by Weida, and sound designed and engineered by the brilliant Vincent Cacchione. Listen to the podcast here.