Joel Shatzky was born in Vancouver, Washington in 1943 but moved to the Bronx when he was a baby where he grew up. He attended Music and Art High School (now LaGuardia), and Queens College, CUNY, later receiving an MA at the University of Chicago in 1965 and a Ph.D. in dramatic literature from NYU in 1970. He moved to upstate New York with his wife in 1968 and taught at SUNY, Cortland, for the next thirty-seven years, retiring in 2005 as Professor Emeritus.
His first play produced in NYC, The Day They Traded Seaver, directed by Dino Narrizano, at Soho Artists, ran in 1979. Subsequently, several one-acts of his have been produced at Thirteenth Street Rep and One Dream Theatre. However, in 2007 Shatzky returned to the New York City area and had eight plays produced there in the space of two years. Shatzky’s first professionally produced play was actually presented in 1976 in London at the ICA Theatre, “It’s a Clean, Well-lighted Place,” directed by Victoria Bird. He’s also had plays produced in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles at the Improv Theatre.
Shatzky, who lost his wife in 2004, is living in Brooklyn and is an adjunct at Kingsborough CC. In 2009 Shatzky married Ilana Abramovitch, a college instructor in speech who teaches at Borough of Manhattan Community College. She is former manager of curriculum at the Museum for Jewish Heritage in NYC. His son, Ben, is a lawyer and lives with his wife, Betty, and daughter, Sophia, in Bayside. Shatzky’s daughter, Judy, is a social worker in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and lives in Brooklyn.
Shatzky’s upcoming work includes the impending premiere of “the New Improved SUPERSPY!:The S-e-c-r-e-t Musical,” with music by Leonard Lehrman, originally performed by Helene Williams and the composer for the US Peace Committee-Paris 7/7/89 and throughout the US ljlehrman.artists-in-residence.com/Superspy.html.. Shatzky also collaborated with Lehrman on “New World: An Opera About What Columbus Did to the ‘ Indians,’” ljlehrman.artists-in-residence.com/NewWorld.html co-writing the libretto and lyrics with the composer on commission from The Puffin Foundation. It was presented in concert by The After Dinner Opera Co. at Lincoln Center, Oct. 12, 1991, and premiered Aug. 11, 1992 by The Long Island Composers Alliance at Heckscher Park in Huntington, a performance which is posted on YouTube
A prolific author, Shatzky has written fourteen published books, several of which he collaborated on, including a two-volume reference work with Michael Taub: Contemporary Jewish-American Novelists and Contemporary Jewish-American Dramatists and Poets (Greenwood Press, 1997, 1999). The first of these was judged an “Outstanding Book of 1997” by Choice. Other works include a novel, Iago’s Tale (Drybones Press, 2002) and a memoir he wrote with his late wife, Dorothy, Facing Multiple Sclerosis: Our Longest Journey. (Drybones Press, 1999).
His interest in Holocaust Studies led him to edit and self-publish a memoir by a Holocaust survivor, Susan Cernyak-Spatz, Protective Custody Prisoner 34042 which was later translated as Ich wollte leben 2nd. Edition 2009 Metropol Verlag. He also edited another Holocaust memoir, by Norbert Troller, Theresienstadt: Hitler’s “Gift” to the Jews (UNC Press, 1991).
Shatzky has also self-published a number of novels, including a young adult fantasy, Well of Evil, (2004); a fictional biography of Robert and Clara Schumann, Eternal Duet (2005) ; a Sci-fi detective story Intelligent Design: A Fable (2007) another fictional biography: this of a modern-day Mozart, WAM: A Novel about Genius, (2008); Sophia; An Epic on Art, Love, War and Revolution (2010) set during the Russian Revolution, and a recently reissued novel: Option Three (Blue Thread Press, 2012) a satire on the privatization of higher education. He’s also written a book on economics and co-wrote a critique on education.