Press Release

PlayMakers’ Vivienne Benesch Receives Prestigious Zelda Fichandler Award

(Chapel Hill, NC, September 21, 2017) Vivienne Benesch, Producing Artistic Director of PlayMakers Repertory Company, is the recipient of the 2017 Zelda Fichandler Award, given by the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation. This prestigious award recognizes outstanding creativity and artistry by directors and choreographers for their accomplishments to date, and their promise for the future. Named for a champion and pioneer of regional theatre, the Zelda Fichandler Award is given to artists whose work is transforming the regional arts landscape.

Benesch is in her second season as Producing Artistic Director of PlayMakers, where she has directed acclaimed productions of Molly Smith Metzler’s “The May Queen,” Deborah Salem Smith’s “Love Alone,” John Logan’s “RED,” Sarah Ruhl’s “In The Next Room,” and Libby Appel’s adaptation of “Three Sisters”. From 2005 to 2016 she was the Artistic Director of the renowned Chautauqua Theater Company and Conservatory, presiding over the company’s transformation into one of the best summer theatres and most competitive summer training programs in the country.

At Chautauqua, Benesch directed more than twenty productions including the world premiere of Molly Smith Metzler’s “The May Queen” and workshop productions of Zayd Dohrn’s “The Profane and Sick,” Noah Haidle’s “Birthday Candles,” Michael Golamco’s “Build,” Kate Fodor’s “Rx,” Anna Ziegler’s “An Incident” and Jonathan Walker’s “New Burlington”. In 2014, she proudly conceived and directed The Romeo and Juliet Project, featuring 100+ performers from the Chautauqua dance, opera, theatre and music programs, alongside the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. Benesch has also directed at Trinity Rep, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and extensively for the Juilliard School Drama Division, where she also served on the faculty.

“I am so deeply honored by this recognition from my peers and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation,” said Benesch. “Zelda was a titan in our industry and I was also lucky enough to call her my teacher and a mentor. Receiving this award in her name is that much more meaningful and a call to continue working in the spirit of her global curiosity, commitment to regional excellence, and belief in personal transformation through the arts—all of which have been career-long inspirations to me. As a director, producer, actor and educator, I have been so blessed with the great fortune to collaborate with exceptional theatre artists of many generations, and I am excited to be drawing an even wider circle with artists and audiences throughout North Carolina and this fertile, vibrant region of the country.”

PlayMakers is the first regional theatre with two consecutive Producing Artistic Directors receiving the Zelda Fichandler Award. Joseph Haj also received the award in 2014.

A committee selected Benesch from nominees living and working in the Eastern region of the United States. This year’s Fichandler selection Committee was chaired by Warner Shook, and included Linda Hartzell and Lisa Peterson.

“Vivienne Benesch epitomizes the ideal choice for The Zelda Fichandler Award,” said Shook. “She is a mid-career artist working at the peak of her powers, as she has so readily demonstrated in both upstate New York and now in North Carolina with her insightful, thrilling work. I think Zelda would be beaming.”

About PlayMakers Repertory Company:
PlayMakers is the professional theater in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina’s premier resident theatre company for more than 40 years. PlayMakers has been named one of the “best regional theatres in America.”

PlayMakers Contacts: 
For information and interviews, contact Diana Pineda, Director of Sales and Marketing, at or 919.962.7114