June 15, 2021

James Richardson and R. N. Sandberg Retire from Princeton Faculty

Two long-time faculty members in the Lewis Center for the Arts retire this year: Professor of Creative Writing James Richardson and Lecturer in Theater and English R. N. Sandberg. During their time on faculty, both received a President’s Distinguished Teaching Award, an honor established in 1990 to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching by Princeton faculty members.


man in green collared shirt holding book and smiling

Photo courtesy James Richardson

James Richardson, a member of Princeton’s Class of 1971, joined the creative writing faculty nine years after his graduation. During his tenure, he taught introductory poetry workshops and advanced courses including “All the Moves: Prosody” and “Life is Short, Art is Really Short,” a workshop in tiny forms.

Richardson’s most recent poetry collection, For Now, was published last June. His other collections of poems, aphorisms, microlyrics and ten-second essays include During, which was awarded the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay Di Castagnola prize; By the Numbers, a National Book Award finalist and a Publishers Weekly “Best Book of 2010”; Interglacial: New and Selected Poems and Aphorisms, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten Second Essays; How Things Are; As If; Second Guesses; and Reservations. He is also the author of two critical studies, Thomas Hardy: The Poetry of Necessity and Vanishing Lives: Tennyson, D. G. Rossetti, Swinburne and Yeats.

His honors include the Jackson Poetry Prize, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Robert H. Winner, Cecil Hemley, and Emily Dickinson Awards of the Poetry Society of America, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Richardson’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Narrative, American Poetry Review, Great American Prose Poems: Poe to the Present, Geary’s Guide to the World’s Great Aphorists, Short Flights, Short Circuits: Aphorisms, Fragments and Literary Anomalies and several editions of The Best American Poetry and the Pushcart Prize anthology. Visit Richardson’s author website to read book reviews, watch interviews, and learn more about his work.

At commencement ceremonies this May, Richardson received a President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, an honor which is selected by a committee of faculty, academic administrators, undergraduates and graduate students from nominations by students, faculty colleagues and alumni. An alumna who worked with Richardson on her collection of poems for her senior thesis noted, “There was a magic to his mentorship, too — a balance between criticism and encouragement, rigor and license, that I can appreciate even more in retrospect than I did then.” A fellow professor nominating Richardson for the award commented that “As a scholar of poetics, he did a unique service to our students — both graduate and undergraduate — by training them in the ‘how’ of poetry: how meter, rhyme, form, genre, figuration and allusion make a poem go — or not go, as the case may be.”

He will transfer to emeritus status on July 1st.


robert sandberg

Photo by Justin Goldberg

Playwright Bob Sandberg has been teaching playwriting, acting, and dramatic literature as a lecturer in the Program in Theater and the English Department at Princeton since 1995. He was a Princeton undergraduate member of the Class of 1970, majoring in History with certificates in American and African American Studies. Before joining the faculty at Princeton, Sandberg was the Chair of the Theater Department and Director of the Professional Acting Conservatory at Cornish College of the Arts.

In 2014, he received a President’s Distinguished Teaching Award. Numerous alumni nominated Sandberg for the award and emphasized his role as an influential mentor. One former student, advised by Sandberg for his original senior thesis play, wrote that “He is the single-most important, most grounding, most inspiring, most wonderful mentor I have ever had.” Princeton alums and award-winning professional theater artists, playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins ’06 and director Lileana Blain-Cruz ’06, speak to Sandberg’s influence on their trajectories in the theater world in a video documenting the premiere of Gurls for the opening festival at the new Lewis Arts complex in fall 2017.

Sandberg’s plays have been seen in Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Panama, South Korea, Thailand, and the United Kingdom as well as throughout the US at theaters such as the Barter, Dallas Children’s Theater, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Intiman, La Mama, Orlando Repertory Theatre, Providence Black Rep, Stages Repertory Theatre and Yale Cabaret. He has been commissioned by McCarter Theatre Center and Metro Theater Company among others, and he received four commissions from Seattle Children’s Theatre. Recent work includes Zabel in Exile developed with Merrimack Repertory Theater; Roundelay at Passage Theatre; Terra Incognita and IRL: In Real Life for George Street Playhouse; Convivencia developed with Playwrights Theatre of NJ and The Growing Stage; What Can’t Be Seen, developed at the Provincetown Playhouse; and The Judgment of Bett, part of the Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices in conjunction with the American Repertory Theater. His plays are published by Playscripts and Dramatic Publishing and have been supported by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Theatre Communications Group and many state and local arts commissions. In addition to his playwriting, Sandberg has directed Greek tragedy, comic opera, Brecht, Chekhov and contemporary plays by writers as different as Lewis Black, Anna Deavere Smith and Wendy Wasserstein.

Sandberg taught classes on introductory playwriting, advanced studies in acting, modern drama, world drama, challenging drama for youth, and other special topics courses including “Theatrical Writing Studio” and “August Wilson: African American Life in the 20th Century,” among others. In addition to teaching, Sandberg directed theater productions for senior students completing their certificate requirements for the program, including recent productions of Machinal, Fun Home, and Mother Courage and Her Children.

Learn more about Sandberg’s approach to teaching theater, as he encouraged and facilitated growth in his students not just as theater artists or for arts’ sake, but most importantly as human beings living in the world.


Banner image by Tom Grimes / courtesy Princeton Alumni Weekly

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