Press Release

PlayMakers’ Haj Receives Prestigious Fichandler Award

Oct. 6, 2014

PlayMakers’ Haj Receives Prestigious Fichandler Award Joseph Haj, Producing Artistic Director of PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, NC, 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 theatre. 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” to be performed in repertory with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Nov. 1-Dec. 7.

He has a long history working in regional theater, from the Guthrie Theater to Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where he is mounting a new production of “Pericles” in 2015.

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. In his time at PlayMakers, Haj has dedicated himself to communicating with his community, providing tools to engage with the diverse programming of the theater and expanding educational opportunities through community partnerships and outreach initiatives.  Haj says he defines the community of PlayMakers as a series of concentric circles from the theater’s artists and staff, widening to the larger university community, then the Chapel Hill region, and then the nation. Upon notification of receiving the honor he said, “This award really belongs to our artists and staff and our community of theater-goers, all of whom have contributed so meaningfully to PlayMakers’ success.”

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 US. Selection Committee Chairperson Sharon Ott states, “This year the selection committee reviewed a record 63 nominations, and I think it is a statement to the growing understanding in the field about how significant it is for artists to have deep, meaningful relationships with their communities. 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. Ms. Fichandler is Chair Emeritus of New York University’s acclaimed graduate acting program. In 1999, she became the first artistic leader outside of New York to be inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

Founded in 1965, Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation exists to foster, promote and develop the craft and creativity of stage directors and choreographers. SDCF’s goals are to provide opportunities to practice the crafts of directing and choreography; to gather and disseminate craft and career information; to promote the profession to emerging talent; to provide opportunities for exchange of knowledge among directors and choreographers; and to increase the awareness of the value of directors’ and choreographers’ work.

PlayMakers is the professional theater company based in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Drama League of New York has named PlayMakers one of the best regional theaters in America.

For information on PlayMakers’ 2014-2015 season and tickets to upcoming productions, visit or call (919) 962-PLAY (7529).

PlayMakers contact: Connie Mahan, (919) 962-5359,