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Wes Sanders performed a variety of roles in Chicago, Boston and New York theaters (Equity from 1966) while completing his doctoral work in Drama at Northwestern University (Ph.D., 1969). He served as Associate Professor of Theater & English at Oberlin College, 1967-78, directing 17 productions from Euripides to Beckett.

Wes resigned (with tenure) from Oberlin, to start Underground Railway Theater (URT) with partner Debra Wise (1978). He served as Founding Artistic Director of the troupe for 20 years–acting, directing, singing, making and performing puppets, playwriting and teaching art-residencies. The company built its own theater in 2008 (Cambridge, Mass.) and will celebrate 40 years of continuous production in 2018.

Wes resigned from the staff of URT in 1998 to work on climate-change full-time. Wes resigned from URT in 2001, following the opening of The Tempest.  He began work on the URT ebook in 2013, and continues to write on theater and puppetry for professional journals from Denver.


Debra Wise co-founded Underground Railway Theater in 1978 with Wes Sanders. After she became Underground Railway Theater’s second Artistic Director (1998), she focused on sinking deeper roots in the Boston area.


She created residencies for Underground Railway Theater in Boston area schools and in the Boston Museum for Fine Arts and the Museum of Science, and led the creation of an ongoing science theater partnership, Catalyst Collaborative@MIT. By 2008, she had partnered Underground Railway Theater with a sister company, The Nora, to build Central Square Theater. Debra continues to perform and direct at CST and in other theaters, and her work as an actor and artistic director has garnered multiple nominations and awards from theater critics. In 2021, she was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award by Oberlin College, where URT was founded. She is currently Artistic Producing Director for a new play being developed to animate abolitionist history - the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Theater Project.

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