PlayMakers Repertory Company, the professional theater in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has appointed Vivienne Benesch as its next Producing Artistic Director. After an extensive national search, she will take up the position Jan. 1, 2016 succeeding Joseph Haj as the company’s eighth artistic leader.

Haj, now Artistic Director of the Guthrie Theater, said “PlayMakers, the search committee and UNC have made an inspired choice. Vivienne is a spectacular artist, thinker and leader. She has a powerful commitment to community, relationships with many of the nation’s finest artists, and a demonstrated ability to nurture and develop early-career artists. I am so excited for PlayMakers’ future; it couldn’t be in better hands.”

UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Dramatic Art Chair Adam Versényi said “Vivienne has the skills, experience, creative capacity, and the heart, to inspire us in taking PlayMakers’ work to the next level.”

Benesch remarked, “I am honored, humbled and thrilled to be joining the PlayMakers family and to serve as an artistic leader within this extraordinarily rich and vital community. After the galvanizing tenure of Joseph Haj, I feel a profound sense of both possibility and responsibility to build upon – and deepen – the excellence and breadth of artistic achievement, education, community engagement and commitment to inclusion that have become the hallmark of PlayMakers. I also can’t think of a more passionate and devoted community of staff, artists, artisans and audience with whom to do just that.”

Since 2005, Benesch has served as Artistic Director of Chautauqua Theatre Company at the renowned Chautauqua Institution in Western New York. She has also worked extensively as a director and as an award-winning actor on and off-Broadway, in the West End, in film and television and at many of the country’s most celebrated theaters. As an educator, she has directed for and served on the faculty of several of the foremost U.S. actor training programs– most significantly, for eight years with The Juilliard School’s Drama Division and at her alma mater, NYU’s Graduate Acting Program.

During her tenure at Chautauqua, Benesch has presided over the company’s transformation into one of the best summer theaters and most competitive training programs in the nation. Equally dedicated to classical, contemporary and new plays, Benesch also has a strong interest in interdisciplinary programming and has directed several works for orchestra, theater, dance and voice. Known for her collaborative leadership, Vivienne has fostered relationships with both a wide range of leading veterans in the field and an impressive roster of the country’s brightest emerging talents.

“Over the last twelve years, I have had the great privilege of serving as Artistic Director of the Chautauqua Theater Company and creating theater within an institution that truly values the

role the arts and arts education play in the investigation of what it means to be human and a citizen of the globe. Chautauqua and UNC-Chapel Hill have those values in common. I look forward to being an agent of engaged exploration and excellence at PlayMakers and significantly impacting the university, regional, national and international communities with whom we are—or soon will be—in conversation.”

Benesch’s appointment has received enthusiastic response from theater colleagues.

James Houghton, founding Artistic Director of New York’s Signature Theatre and Director of the Drama Division of The Juilliard School, said “Vivienne Benesch is a passionate, visionary leader and could not be a better choice to helm and inspire this next chapter for the dynamic PlayMakers Repertory Company. Viv will build upon the impressive work of PlayMakers and energize a new momentum toward a very bright future for the company.”

Playwright Molly Smith Metzler, who has collaborated with Benesch on three productions and is currently at work on Steve McQueen’s new HBO drama, said “Vivienne Benesch is a shining star of the American Theatre. Every theatre, every stage, every rehearsal room she steps foot in becomes one of enthusiasm, generosity, and absolute excellence. She is an electric director and electrifying leader, and I am extremely happy for Chapel Hill: they are in for a huge treat.”

Emmy Award-winning and Broadway actress Debra Messing (“Will & Grace,” “Smash,” “The Mysteries of Laura”) enthused “I first met Vivienne Benesch in 1993 as a classmate at NYU’s Graduate Acting Program. She was a luminous actress, ferociously intelligent and uniquely sensitive. Since then she has become an extraordinary director, artistic director and leader. PlayMakers is beyond lucky to have her as their new producing artistic director. She inspires wherever she goes.”

Davis McCallum, Artistic Director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, added “PlayMakers has made a brilliant choice in selecting Vivienne Benesch to follow Joe Haj as their Producing Artistic Director. Vivienne is an inspired artist, a visionary leader, a gifted teacher, and among the most graceful and gracious collaborators in the American Theater. PlayMakers is a theater on the rise, and the firmament over Chapel Hill is most definitely bright with Vivienne at the helm.”

PlayMakers contact: For press information, interviews and photos, contact Connie Mahan, (919) 962-5359, cmahan@email.unc.edu.