PlayMakers Repertory Company appoints Obie-winning actor and director Vivienne Benesch as its new leader | Arts

PlayMakers Repertory Company appoints Obie-winning actor and director Vivienne Benesch as its new leader

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Vivienne Benesch takes up the role of artistic director at PlayMakers in 2016. - PHOTO BY ALISON SHEEHY
  • photo by Alison Sheehy
  • Vivienne Benesch takes up the role of artistic director at PlayMakers in 2016.
In a press release yesterday afternoon, PlayMakers Repertory Company announced that Vivienne Benesch will become its new producing artistic director as of Jan. 1, 2016, replacing outgoing artistic director Joseph Haj.

Benesch, who was chosen from group of five finalists after a six-month national search, has directed three shows at PlayMakers in the past five years. She takes the position shortly before her fourth, a production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, opens on Jan. 20. She was tapped to direct the show for the company’s current season in March, more than two months before the selection process for the new artistic director began.

Benesch comes to Chapel Hill after teaching at The Juilliard School since 2006 and serving as artistic director of Chautauqua Theater Company and Conservatory, a 10-week summer program in western New York, since 2005. She has previously chaired the YoungArts program for the National Endowment for the Arts and won a 2005 Obie award for her off-Broadway performance in Lee Blessing’s Going to St. Ives. Benesch has also acted on Broadway and the London stage, and has appeared in television series including The Good Wife, Six Feet Under, Sex and the City and Law & Order.

Locally, her staging of Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) at PlayMakers received a three-star INDY review in 2011. Both of Benesch’s subsequent PlayMakers productions, Red in 2012 and Love Alone in 2014, earned four and a half stars and were cited for best direction in the INDY’s year-end review of theater.

In the press release, Haj, who left PlayMakers in February to become artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, called Benesch’s selection “an inspired choice. Vivienne is a spectacular artist, thinker and leader ... I am so excited for PlayMakers’ future; it couldn’t be in better hands.”

In a letter to patrons posted on PlayMakers’ Page to Stage blog Wednesday afternoon, Benesch wrote, “I am humbled with the charge of serving this great company in a time that I believe will see great transformation in the American Theater—no longer holding up a mirror to just a narrow view of nature—but to the expansive reality of what the human race actually looks like and experiences today. And we're lucky, because PlayMakers is the perfect home for such a collision of art and change to take hold."


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