Skold said in a statement, “We are thrilled beyond measure to declare Joseph Haj the Guthrie’s next artistic director. We know his inspired vision, collaborative spirit, and standard of excellence are the precise combination of abilities required to lead the Guthrie into its next momentous stage.”
“I am delighted and enthused to welcome Joe Haj to the Guthrie,” added Dowling. “He is an artist of the highest caliber and an esteemed leader in our field. I look forward to collaborating with him in these next months and am gratified that our board has selected an individual who will both embrace and invigorate our theater and community.”
Haj stated, “To follow in a line of extraordinary artistic directors dating back to the founding of the regional theater movement, and to follow directly upon Joe Dowling’s exceptional tenure, is humbling, a profound honor, and a great charge. …I look forward to working with the Twin Cities community and with the remarkable board members, artists, artisans and administrators of the Guthrie in leading a great organization on the next leg of its journey.”
One of the few Arab-American artistic directors in the country, Haj comes to the Guthrie from PlayMakers Repertory Company, the LORT theater company in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As its producing artistic director since 2006, Haj programmed approximately 10 productions per season, transformed the theatre into a place of diversity and inclusion, and maintained a dynamic relationship with the university. At PlayMakers, Haj presented the world premiere of Surviving Twin by Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright, III; commissioned and premiered Mike Daisey’s The Story of the Gun; commissioned and premiered UNIVERSES’ play Spring Training; and produced the premiere of The Parchman Hour by award-winning film and theatre director Mike Wiley.
Haj has directed at theatres throughout the United States including Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C., where his 2010 production of Hamlet was nominated for six Helen Hayes Awards, winning for Outstanding Production. Haj was the 2014 recipient of The Zelda Fichandler Award and was recipient of the NEA/White House Council Millennium Grant awarded to 50 of America’s finest artists.
Haj will visit the theatre periodically as he prepares for the Guthrie’s 2015-16 season, and will officially assume his post on July 1. Dowling, who after 20 years is the longest tenured artistic director in Guthrie history, remains the theater’s head through June 30 and will direct Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock in the upcoming months.