By Dominique Wald
MOSCOW — As a professor of theater arts and head of dramatic writing at the University of Idaho, Robert Caisley’s list of accomplishments go far beyond Moscow’s borders.
Another recent play, “Happy,” was nominated for a Bay Area Critics Circle Award for Best Original Script and won the 2014 SOTA Award for Best Play.
He has several years of experience at the Idaho Repertory Theatre, where he directed numerous plays from 2001-05. Caisley has also been a guest speaker at various theater academies across the nation.
Given his resume, it’s no surprise Caisley is this year’s recipient of the Idaho Commission of the Arts Fellowship, which recognizes his excellence in research and creativity.
Through it all, Caisley remains humble.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled that the state of Idaho recognized my work,” Caisley said. “It’s such an honor and an amazing opportunity. I’m extremely grateful.”
The fellowship will allow Caisley to debut his upcoming play, “The Open Hand,” which was commissioned by the Clarence Brown Theatre in Tennessee and will premiere in 2016.
“ICA has supported me in several small grants which has been critical in my development,” Caisley said.
ICA Executive Director Michael Faison said he sees an average of 20-30 fellowship applicants annually, and the award rotates through three categories each year — performing media arts, literature and craft design.
The panel of judges, Faison said, primarily looks at artistic excellence and achievements.
“The beauty of this entire process is that we choose people who are extraordinarily excellent at what they do,” Faison said. “And Robert is a perfect example of that.”
Caisley was lured into the world of performing arts at a young age while growing up in England. His father was an actor, and Caisley would watch him go to auditions and rehearsals.
When he was 16, Caisley showed up to his father’s audition to ask to borrow the car. His father then sprung the audition on him, and before Caisley knew it, he was participating in his first production.
Eventually he found his way to what he refers to as the “darkness of Hollywood” to work on feature films.
“I found the feature film industry rather heartless,” Caisley said. “I saw there was a job opening out here in theater arts, applied, and I’ve been in Moscow for 15 years.”
Caisley said he devotes every aspect of his life to theater, whether it’s by writing or talking to his students. In the upcoming years, he plans to use the momentum his fellowship grants him to further his professional career.
From dozens of productions on dozens of stages across the nation, Caisley finds a similarity he believes resonates with audiences big and small.
“Live theater gives you a moment you can’t recreate,” he said. “There’s nothing quite like it.”