University mourns passing of Professor Emerita Bryna Wortman

Jan. 19, 2023

The University mourns the passing of Professor Emerita Bryna Wortman, who taught in the Theatre Department for nearly 20 years. Bryna, 85, died on Jan. 12.

A proud New Yorker, Bryna graduated from Barnard College with an A.B. degree in English. After a stint in publishing as a print editor and audio/visual producer/director, she changed gears and earned her master of fine arts degree in theater directing from Brooklyn College, City University of New York. Her thesis production was “Othello,” starring Jimmy Smits, an undergraduate at the time.

Bryna’s directing career in New York included work with artists such as Linda Hunt and Colleen Dewhurst in productions at The Actor’s Studio and Circle Repertory Company.

Bryna joined the URI Theatre faculty in 1999 after stints teaching at Brooklyn College Prep, Marymount Manhattan College, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and the universities of Iowa and Wisconsin.

At URI, she managed the acting and directing subplans, directed productions on the mainstage, mentored multiple student directing projects, and coached Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Irene Ryan candidates. She directed 31 productions during her tenure at URI, including “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “The Merchant of Venice,” “An Ideal Husband,” “The Laramie Project,” “The Great Gatsby,” and her last production at URI, “Lady Windermere’s Fan.”

She also directed at 2nd Story Theatre, formerly in Warren, Rhode Island, and The Women’s Project Theatre in New York City.

Bryna retired from URI in 2018 as professor emerita. She was a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She is survived by her husband, Bill, and their beloved cat, Hudson. A memorial service is planned for the spring.