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Davi Napoleon, aka Davida Skurnick (born 1946) is an Americanmarker theater historian and critic. She is the theater columnist for The Faster Times, an online newspaper, and a regular contributor to Live Design, a monthly magazine about entertainment design and designers. She is an expert on the not-for-profit theater in America and author of Chelsea on the Edge: The Adventures of an American Theater.

Napoleon was educated at the University of Michiganmarker in Ann Arbormarker, where she earned a BA and an MA in psychology while studying playwriting with Kenneth Thorpe Rowe. She went on to New York Universitymarker, where she earned an MA in drama and a Ph.D. in performance studies.

She was a columnist for TheaterWeek magazine and has been a contributing editor for Theater Crafts, which became Theatre Crafts International, then Entertainment Design, then Live Design. She has also written for American Theatre, American Film, InTheatre, Playbill, ScriptWriter News, Stages and assorted general interest magazines. She was a stringer for the Detroit Free Press and for the Ann Arbor News in the 1980s. She was also theater review for the Ann Arbor News for a year.

Napoleon honed her critical skills at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Critics Institute in Waterford, CT, in the summer of 1977, which she attended on a National Endowment for the Arts grant. She became a controversial figure there when she nursed her newborn, Randy Napoleon, during conference sessions. Swoosie Kurtz felt uncomfortable when Napoleon nursed at a rehearsal and asked that the critic leave, while Jeffrey DeMunn, who believed in the benefits of nursing on demand, was among the strong supporters of her activities.

Napoleon has written extensively about the history and issues surrounding the not-for-profit theater in America. Her book about Robert Kalfin and the Chelsea Theater Center is an in-depth history of the life of a theater in the 1960s and 70s. Chelsea on the Edge: The Adventures of an American Theater (1991) describes on and off stage dramas, detailing internal conflicts when a theater that was the darling of critics and audiences was forced to downsize because of changes in funding to the arts. Hal Prince wrote the foreword to the book that found a readership among working artists both because it is one of the first complex studies of regional theater and because of its dramatic structure and narrative.

She has also written many articles about producer/critic Robert Brustein and interviewed critic John Simon for The Paris Review.

Napoleon has written several plays, including Four's Company, produced at the Greenwich Mews Theatre in New York City in 1974. She was awarded two University of Michigan Hopwood Awards in 1965 and 1966 for plays she wrote when a student. These cash awards paid most of her college tuition. She later served as a judge for this creative writing contest.

External links


  1. | Theater Talk, Napoleon column at The Faster Times
  2. | Articles about entertainment design by Napoleon in Live Design
  • Burns Mantle Theater Yearbook: The Best Plays of 1973-1974, edited by Otis L. Guernsey Jr. (Dodd, Mead). Some details on Napoleon's play, Four's Company, produced at the Greenwich Mews Theater.


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