Gish Prize Nominee: Seth Panitch

Actors on the set of "Service to Man"
Seth Panitch, center, on the set of Service to Man, a feature film he wrote, produced, and directed which has won numerous awards at film festivals across the country this year, including Best Feature at the International Black Film Festival.

Seth Panitch is a professor of theatre at The University of Alabama, where he directs the Master of Fine Arts and undergraduate acting programs and performs extensively on major national and international stages as an actor, director, filmmaker, and playwright. He has been awarded membership in both the Society of Directors and Choreographers and the Dramatists Guild of America. He has received the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival Meritorious Achievement Award in Faculty Direction for multiple university productions. He has won UA’s most prestigious awards for faculty, including the SEC Faculty Achievement Award, the Burnum Distinguished Faculty Award, the Blackmon-Moody Outstanding Professor Award and the National Alumni Association’s Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award, and was named Educator of the Year in 2011 by the Arts and Humanities Council of Tuscaloosa.

Recent Film Success

Most recently, Panitch wrote, directed, produced, and performed in Service to Man (2016), a feature film about race relations in Meharry Medical School in 1968. The film has since been distinguished as an Official Selection at eleven national and international film festivals, and has garnered Grand Jury Best Picture Prizes at the American Black Film Festival (the nation’s preeminent cultural film festival), the International Black Film Festival, the Heartland Film Festival, the D.C. International Film Festival, the North Carolina Film Festival, the Tallgrass Film Festival, the Sidewalk International Film Festival, and the North Alabama Film Festival. He has partnered with Meharry, Stillman College, and other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in organizing showings that shine a spotlight on the tremendous but unrecognized work done by these historic institutions. He has organized about a dozen of these over the last year, free of charge, for the institutions to use as a means to spread the word of their good works.

Panitch also wrote and produced the documentary A Night in the Theatre, published by Insight Media (2007), and Company Havanabama: Directing Across the Gulf, about his work in Cuba, which screened at the Sidewalk Film Festival (2013).

Cuban Connections

In 2008, Panitch became the first U.S. director to helm a professional production in Cuba in nearly 50 years when he was invited by the Cuban Ministry of Culture to direct Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice at the Adolfo Llaurado Theatre with a professional company of Cuban artists. Since then, Panitch has directed four other productions to great acclaim in Havana—A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2010), Mas Que Terapia, Dammit Shakespeare, (2012); and Alcestis Ascending, (2013), casting his own students alongside professional Cuban artists, creating the first joint Cuban/American Theatre Company in the process: Company HavanaBama. In the summer of 2013, Panitch directed his play Alcestis Ascending with HavanaBama at the historic Harold Clurman Theatre in New York City, marking the first ever Off-Broadway production of a bi-national company, according to the Associated Press. As a consequence of this work, Panitch was invited to teach at El Instituto Superior de Arte, Cuba’s preeminent performing arts training institution. The Cuban National Office of Scenic Arts has also recognized Panitch with an Official Commendation of Excellence for his work in Cuban theatre.

Other Productions

Panitch has produced, directed, and starred in three other highly successful Off-Broadway productions in New York: Hell: Paradise Found at the Drama Desk Award Winning 59E59 Theatres, Here I Sit, Broken Hearted at the Samuel Beckett Theatre, and Dammit, Shakespeare! at the Urban Stages Theatre. Regionally, Panitch has directed and performed leading roles at the Colorado, Utah, and Texas Shakespeare Festivals, creating lasting partnerships that have provided direct opportunities for numerous UA students with those nationally recognized festivals.

Recent News

Bridging the Gap
UA alumni magazine feature, November 2016
To help students and young alumni succeed after graduation, Seth Panitch created in 2006 the Bridge Project, which gives students the opportunity to be in a professional theatre production with professional actors in a big city. In the 10 years that the program existed, scores of participating students have gone on to perform on big stages, including Broadway and off-Broadway hits like Hamilton, Kinky Boots, Something Rotten, Rock of Ages, and Wicked, and in leading roles in major Hollywood films and on television including in The Walking Dead, Star Trek Discovery, Once, 30 Rock, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Honeydrippers, God’s Pocket, and The Comedian.

UA Professor’s Work Wins ‘Best Film’ at Black Film Festival
UA news release, June 20, 2016
University of Alabama theatre professor Seth Panitch’s first full, feature-length film, Service to Man, has won seven awards to date at festivals around the country. Awards include:

  • The Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature at the American Black Film Festival
  • Best Feature Film at the North Carolina Black Film Festival
  • Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Sidewalk Film Festival
  • Best Feature at the International Black Film Festival
  • Vimeo Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Tallgrass Film Festival
  • Best Picture Audience Choice at the D.C. International Film Festival
  • The Sweet Home Alabama Best Picture at the North Alabama Film Festival

The film depicts white and black medical students communicating and working together during a time of great duress in the country, including the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and its aftermath.

UA Theatre Professor Selected as SEC Faculty Achievement Award Winner
UA news release, March 30, 2016
Seth Panitch, professor of theatre, was chosen as the 2016 SEC Faculty Achievement Award winner for The University of Alabama. This is the top honor bestowed by the Southeastern Conference on professors with outstanding achievements in research and scholarship. Only one professor from each SEC institution is selected for this honor each year.

Additional Information