Meet the team

Debra Wise*

Debra Wise (she/her) launched Underground Railway Theater in Oberlin, Ohio with founding Artistic Director Wes Sanders. From 1978-2008, they toured original works nationally and abroad to venues ranging from Lincoln Center to public schools. Their work was inspired by the collaborative, activist spirit of the Underground Railroad, with titles including Sanctuary – The Spirit of Harriet Tubman, Home is Where, InTOXICating and The Christopher Columbus Follies; they also collaborated with Boston Symphony and other orchestras (Firebird, Creation of the World, Tempest). Wise assisted Sanders in creating a digital book about URT’s history:  After Wise became URT’s Artistic Director, she continued to create performances for non-traditional venues, including Boston’s Museum of Science (Aging Puzzle); New Center for Arts and Culture (Jewish Women and Their Salons); the Mary Baker Eddy Library; the MFA (Art InterACTions); and the streets of Cambridge (Public Art ACTS). After opening Central Square Theater with The Nora Theatre Company in 2008, Wise worked with playwrights Alan Brody and Jon Lipsky, and physicist/author Alan Lightman, to found Catalyst Collaborative@MIT (CC@MIT), CST’s science theater partnership. She led partnerships with Mount Auburn Cemetery (Our Town) and the National Park Service (Roots of Liberty – The Haitian Revolution and the American Civil War, featuring actors, dancers, musicians, and guests Danny Glover, Henry Louis Gates and Edwidge Danticat). URT@CST won Elliot Norton awards under Wise’s leadership: Vanity Fair (Outstanding Design); black odyssey boston (Outstanding Ensemble); The Convert and Constellations (Outstanding Production) and Bedlam’s St. Joan (Best Visiting Production). Acting appearances at CST have included The Half-Life of Marie Curie, Vanity Fair, Homebody, Copenhagen, Brundibar & But the Giraffe!, The Other Place, Distracted, The How and the Why, Einstein’s Dreams, From Orchids to Octopi: An Evolutionary Love Story, Yesterday Happened: Remembering H.M., Breaking the Code, Arabian Nights and A Christmas Memory. Appearances on other Boston stages: Much Ado About Nothing (Commonwealth Shakespeare); Doll’s House 2 and Escaped Alone (The Gamm);  Mistero Buffo (Poets’ Theatre); A Boston Marriage and Orson’s Shadow (New Rep); People, Places & Things (Speakeasy); and Chosen Child (Boston Playwrights’); in NYC, The Haggadah (The Public, with Julie Taymor). Work as a playwright includes her adaptation of A Christmas Carol; States of Grace (inspired by Grace Paley’s stories); and Alice’s Adventures Underground (adapted from Lewis Carroll). She developed the curriculum Art Works for Schools with DeCordova Museum, public schools and Harvard’s Project Zero, and collaborated with Harvard’s Graduate School of Education for 20 years, training educators on using theater to help students think deeply across the curriculum. Wise left her CST Artistic Director position in 2022, to help invite increasingly diverse leadership; she now serves on the CC@MIT Advisory Committee. Her new position is Associate Artistic Director for The Revels (, and she consults for the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Theater Project ( Her third audiobook in Gregory Maguire’s return to his Wicked epic, The Witch of Maracoor, will be released this fall.