Alumnus Returns to UNC in New Role at PlayMakers

Joseph Haj ’88 (MFA), a noted member of the nation’s theater community, has returned to Chapel Hill to become PlayMakers Repertory Company‘s new producing artistic director, effective July 1.

Haj’s theatrical credits cover the United States and abroad, and he has guest-directed three times for PlayMakers, the nonprofit professional theater company based in UNC’s dramatic art department.

As producing artistic director, which is a newly created position at PlayMakers, Haj will provide artistic vision and guidance, direct plays, plan programs, select guest directors and artists and raise funds for PlayMakers. For the dramatic art department, he will train masters’ degree students in acting and technology through the professional theater.

Haj worked with director Mark Wing-Davey on PlayMakers’ production of King Lear in 2004. He returned to direct Not About Heroes, selected by The News & Observer of Raleigh as one of the area’s 10 best productions of 2004. This year, he directed his own adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac for the company’s 30th anniversary season.

Haj has worked in Berlin, Edinburgh, Paris, Salzburg, Venice and Japan as well as in regional theaters across the United States. The latter include the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, the Alley Theatre in Houston, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles and the New York Shakespeare Festival.

He received a National Endowment for the Arts Millennium Grant, awarded to 50 of America’s finest artists in 2000, and the 2004-05 National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Career Development Grant for Directors.

Other accomplishments include conducting workshops with Palestinian and Israeli actors in the West Bank and Gaza, directing Henry V with maximum-security inmates in California and creating and directing Voices with members of the rural community of Batesburg-Leesville, S.C. – the latter, through a National Endowment for the Arts and White House Council grant.

Haj has worked with notables including Anne Bogart, co-founder of the Saratoga International Theatre Institute in New York, and theater director Peter Sellars; he also has acted on television programs including 24, Without a Trace, Navy NCIS, Crossing Jordan and Charmed.

“It is an honor to be selected to guide PlayMakers Repertory Company – the theater where my career began and where I earned my union card 20 years ago,” Haj said. “I am eager to begin working with my colleagues to build upon the proud legacy of this institution.

“I look forward to programming and creating powerful, dynamic work on stage, expanding the connection between PlayMakers and the University and connecting the theater ever deeper to this exceptional community,” he said.

McKay Coble, chair of the dramatic art department, said, “Joe has the talent to recognize material that will foster genuine interest in our endeavors. He has the skill to lead a team to excellence and prosperity and a heart that is dedicated to the success of the theater and department in which he began the journey that has brought him back to us.”

Related coverage is available online; these articles appeared in the Carolina Alumni Review, available online to GAA members:

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