Press Release

PlayMakers’ Summer Youth Conservatory to perform ‘Hairspray’



A cast of young student actors will perform the Tony Award-winning musical “Hairspray” July 16-20 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

High school actors and technicians will begin work on the production June 16.

PlayMakers Repertory Company, the professional theater in residence in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, will present the Broadway musical as the culmination of its popular Summer Youth Conservatory.

The book for “Hairspray” is by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The musical is based on the New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters,

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. July 16-10 and 2 p.m. July 20 in the Paul Green Theatre inside the Center for Dramatic Art located on Country Club Road. Tickets, $15 for adults and $10 for students and children under 18, may be purchased by calling (919) 962-PLAY (7529), online at or at the PlayMakers box office.

“Hairspray” is set in 1962 Baltimore. Plus-size teen Tracy Turnblad has one desire   to dance on “The Corny Collins Show.” After getting her big break, she quickly sees behind the TV dance party’s glossy veneer. Can Tracy tackle the show’s racial inequality, dethrone the reigning Teen Queen, and win the affections of heartthrob Link Larkin – all without denting her ‘do?


Variety called “Hairspray” a “sweet, infinitely spirited, bubblegum-flavored confection.” The New York Times described the show as packed with “deliriously tuneful songs” and went on to say “Hairspray” is “as sweet as a show can be without promoting tooth decay.”


“Hairspray” will be directed by Seattle/San Francisco-based director Desdemona Chiang. Chiang has directed for Azeotrope, Crowded Fire Theatre Company, Impact Theatre, FringeNYC, Playwrights Foundation, Golden Thread Productions and Washington Ensemble Theatre, among others. She is an SDC Sir John Gielgud Directing Fellow, Drama League Directing Fellow and alumna of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and Directors Lab West. She worked with producing artistic director Joseph Haj on PlayMakers’ production of “The Making of a King: Henry IV & V” and will direct Amy Herzog’s “4000 Miles” in PlayMakers’ 2014-2015 season.


New York City-based performer/choreographer Matthew Steffens will choreograph and serve as associate director. Steffens appeared on Broadway in “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” with Patti Lupone and opposite Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenowith in “Promises, Promises.” Most recently he served as associate choreographer for immersive theater hit “Queen of the Night.” Television and film credits include “Across the Universe,” “The Black Box,” “Smash” and the upcoming film “The Last Five Years,” for which he was also assistant choreographer. 


The Summer Youth Conservatory is a unique, award-winning educational and performance opportunity for young people, which includes working with professional directors, choreographers and musical directors at PlayMakers.


Recognized as “a model program for youth theatre in North Carolina” by the North Carolina Theatre Conference, the Conservatory features three programs: Theatre Intensive and TheatreTech for high school students and Theatre Quest tailored for middle schoolers.


Beginning June 16, high school actors in the Theatre Intensive program will have the opportunity to train, rehearse and perform “Hairspray” in PlayMakers’ professional theater space.


At the same time, participants in TheatreTech begin a program in scenic, costume and lighting production. TheatreTech includes an in-depth series of technical coursework followed by a month-long apprenticeship with PlayMakers’ professional staff.


During Theatre Quest, middle school students participate in a series of week-long classes from June 16 to July 18. This program gives students the opportunity to train with professional artists in a variety of subjects including Principles of Acting, Shakespeare and Stage Combat, Musical Theatre I: Solo Showcase, Musical Theatre II: ShowStoppers and Acting for the Camera. Students can attend one week or more, based on availability.


A limited number of spots are still available for Theatre Quest. Contact PlayMakers education manager Jennifer Wales at (919) 962-2491 or to enroll. Tuition is $300 per week, except Musical Theatre I: Solo Showcase which is $250.


Teachers for Theatre Quest are John Dreher (“Cabaret,” “Big River”); Julie Fishell (“Private Lives,” “The Tempest”); David McClutchey (“Nicholas Nickleby,” “Romeo and Juliet”); Caroline Strange (“The Tempest,” “Metamorphoses”) and Estes Tarver (“Cyrano de Bergerac,” “Tuesdays With Morrie”).


For more information, visit


For information about PlayMakers’ 2014/2015 season, which begins in September, visit Subscription packages are currently available.


Coverage note: Reporters, photographers or videographers wishing to cover Conservatory sessions and rehearsals may also contact Tim Scales at (919) 636-9809,

Images: Summer Youth Conservatory photos and “Hairspray” poster art are available on request.


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

News Services contact: Robbi Pickeral, (919) 962-8589,