Chapel Hill: Community

PlayMakers’ Haj receives prestigious Fichandler award

Joseph Haj.
Joseph Haj.

Joseph Haj, producing artistic director of PlayMakers Repertory Company, has been named recipient of the 2014 Zelda Fichandler Award.

This prestigious theater award recognizes an outstanding director or choreographer who is transforming the regional arts landscape through imaginative, brave work in theater. The $5,000 award, given by Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, heralds both accomplishment to date and promise for the future, and lauds deep commitment to a community.

Haj has been producing artistic director of PlayMakers since 2006, where he has directed “The Tempest,” “Metamorphoses,” “Cabaret,” “Henry IV & V,” “Amadeus,” “Pericles,” and “Big River,” among others. He is currently in rehearsal for Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” being performed in repertory with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” through Dec. 7.

As one of the few Arab-American artistic directors in the country, Haj has worked to transform the stage at PlayMakers into a place of diversity and inclusion. In addition to his tremendous output in professional theater environments, he has made plays with non-professionals in maximum security prisons, in the West Bank in Gaza, and in rural South Carolina.

A review committee selected Haj from nominees living and working in the Eastern region of the United States (from Maine to Florida). It moves annually from the Eastern to Central to Western regions of the U.S. Selection Committee Chairperson Sharon Ott said: “This year the selection committee reviewed a record 63 nominations. ... We were impressed and deeply moved by the strong commitments these artists have made to their regions. In this stellar group, Joseph Haj’s exemplary artistry, diverse and exciting programming choices, and deep commitment to the arts in North Carolina made him the unanimous choice for this prestigious award.”

Zelda Fichandler dedicated her early career to the establishment of America’s regional theater movement. In 1950 she founded Washington, DC’s Arena Stage, and in 1968 she produced “The Great White Hope,” the first production to transfer from a regional theater to Broadway, where it received both the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize, and launched the careers of James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander.