Leigh Wilson Smiley Named Director of School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at University of Maryland

Friday, February 22, 2013

CONTACT: Missy McTamney

February 22, 2013College Park, MD - The University of Maryland (UMD) College of Arts and Humanities has appointed Leigh Wilson Smiley director of the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.  Smiley is the former associate director of TDPS and served as the School’s first head of the MFA in Performance (MFAP) program, playing an integral role in establishing the degree in 2010. She has taught at UMD since 2003.

“I am honored to lead the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies as we pursue the highest standards of excellence for our students and programs,” said Smiley of her appointment.  “TDPS has a vision of artistic diversity and global perspective as the driving ideas behind our teaching and creative works.” 

About Leigh Wilson Smiley

Prior to joining the faculty at UMD, Smiley taught “voice for the actor and Shakespeare for the performer” at Fordham University, The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania and at Emerson College in Boston.  She was awarded a Linklater Voice Teacher Designation in 1998 and has taught voice, speech and accent at Walnut Street Theatre and People’s Light and Theatre Company in Philadelphia.

Smiley’s research has made a significant impact on the actor’s world of dialect and accent information collection through her Visual Accent and Dialect Archive (VADA), the first-of-its-kind video archive of English-language accents and dialects gathered from around the globe.  VADA is a resource used by actors to acquire any accent or dialect with the specific lilt, rhythms, intonations and sound changes intrinsic to each individual region a character represents. A fellowship from the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) supported Smiley’s research.

Smiley has directed voice and dialect for Fly and A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre, Amadeus at Roundhouse Theatre, As You Like It, The Tempest and The Comedy of Errors at Folger Shakespeare Theatre, Lysistrata at Synetic Theatre, and The Lieutenant of Inishmore at Signature Theatre. She has coached NBC-TV on-air talent as a voice and speech consultant, and addressed the Voice Foundation Annual Symposium on “Care of the Professional Voice”.  Internationally, Smiley has presented and taught Archetype and Voice at the Center for Performance Research in Aberystwyth, Wales and at the International Festival of Making Theatre in Athens, Greece.

Writing extensively on voice and speech in theatre, Smiley’s essays “The Cowboy Resonance in America” and “Trojan Women: The Vocal Soundscape” have been published in refereed journals by the Voice and Speech Trainers Association.

Smiley directed TDPS students in the 2012 devised production of Sandwalk, named for Charles Darwin’s "thinking path" where he strolled every morning and afternoon.  Under Smiley’s guidance, the play was written in its entirety as a collective effort by the cast and crew, drawing on their personal experiences to shape the production about evolution and humanity, ultimately creating a cohesive and thought-provoking performance.  She also directed TDPS students in a multi-media production of The Winter’s Tale in which puppets and masks were used to represent the Bohemians and chorus.

“Leigh’s deep knowledge of the school and commitment to establishing a culture of diversity and transparency for students and faculty allows TDPS to build upon the opportunities of the newly formed school and enhance its national profile,” said Bonnie Thornton Dill, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.  “The performing arts are a vital part of UMD’s vision, and we are delighted to have her at the helm of this innovative School.”

About the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies

The School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, under the College of Arts and Humanities, was created in 2010 by partnering the Departments of Theatre and Dance, a combination that affords the inter-disciplinary prospects that enable landmark creativity and scholarship to flourish.  While the degree programs in the dance and theatre disciplines retain their individuality, dynamic interaction between faculty, staff and students encourages innovative ideas and new initiatives.

TDPS endeavors to create an educational environment that is vital, passionate and encourages risk-taking, offering two undergraduate degrees, four MFA programs and a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies.  The School offers co-curricular opportunities, multi-disciplinary experiences and creative inspiration by providing students interaction with extraordinary artists and scholars to enhance their learning experience.


The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. An agency of the Department of Business & Economic Development, the MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. Funding for the Maryland State Arts Council is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Learn more about the Clarice Smith Center's donor support.