Haj, a 1988 graduate of UNC's master of fine arts professional actor training program, has theatrical credits across the United States and abroad. He has guest-directed three times for PlayMakers, a nonprofit professional theatre company based in UNC's dramatic art department, a part of the College of Arts and Sciences.
"It is an honor to be selected to guide PlayMakers Repertory Company — the theatre where my career began and where I earned my union card 20 years ago," said Haj. "I am eager to begin working with my colleagues to build upon the proud legacy of this institution."
"The university community and PlayMakers audiences are already familiar with Joe Haj's directing talent, so we are especially excited about welcoming him back to campus now as producing artistic director," said Dr. Bernadette Gray-Little, dean of the college. "He has the vision, experience and creativity to take PlayMakers to new heights."
Haj worked with director Mark Wing-Davey on PlayMakers' production of King Lear in 2004. He returned to direct Not About Heroes, selected by The News & Observer of Raleigh as one of the area's 10 best productions of 2004. This year, he directed his own adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac for the company's 30th anniversary season.
He replaces David Hammond, who has been with PlayMakers for 21 years and artistic director for 14 seasons. Hammond will become artistic director emeritus and devote his time to teaching. He will advise PlayMakers and teach dramatic arts at UNC and in the graduate acting program of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. *
As producing artistic director, Haj will provide artistic vision and guidance, direct plays, plan programs, select guest directors and artists and raise funds for PlayMakers. For the dramatic art department, he will train masters' degree students in acting and technology through the professional theatre.
Haj has worked in Berlin, Edinburgh, Paris, Salzburg, Venice and Japan, as well as in regional theatres across the United States, including the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, the Alley Theatre in Houston, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles and the New York Shakespeare Festival.
He received a National Endowment for the Arts Millennium Grant, awarded to 50 of America's finest artists in 2000, and the 2004-2005 National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Career Development Grant for Directors.
He conducted workshops with Palestinian and Israeli actors in the West Bank and Gaza, directing Henry V with maximum-security inmates in California and created and directed Voices with members of the rural community of Batesburg-Leesville, S.C. — the latter through a National Endowment for the Arts and White House Council grant.
Haj has worked with Anne Bogart, co-founder of the Saratoga International Theatre Institute in New York, and theatre director Peter Sellars; he also has acted on television programs including "24," "Without a Trace," "Navy NCIS," "Crossing Jordan" and "Charmed."