ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES
“What we do, changes the world.” – Joseph Haj, on directing theatre workshops in Palestine
Joseph Haj is a highly-sought after artistic director who has established a successful theatrical career in the United States. Born in 1964, he is the son of Palestinian immigrants who relocated to New Jersey in 1950following the Nakba.
Haj’s late father, Fareed, was blind from a young age. Haj’s father earned a doctorate in education and worked with special-needs children in Miami, where the family moved from New Jersey. He imparted his work ethic and passion to his children, which have all grown to be tremendously successful in their respective fields.
Joseph Haj is one of the only Palestinian-American, and few Arab-American artistic directors overall in the country. He boasts an esteemed reputation for his exceptional leadership, involvement with leading artists in the field, and participation in award-winning productions of classic and contemporary plays, such as Surviving Twin by Grammy Award-winning singer Loudon Wainwright, III; Mike Daisey’s The Story of the Gun; UNIVERSES’ play Spring Training; and of The Parchman Hour by award-winning director Mike Wiley.
Upon receiving his M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina, Haj launched his career as an actor, performing with the theater’s foremost directors including Garland Wright, JoAnne Akalaitis, Anne Bogart, Peter Sellars, Sir Peter Hall, Robert Woodruff and others.
Haj was part of a trip to Gaza and the West Bank that included theater workshops as well as shows. The trip, organized by director JoAnne Akalaitis with a party of theater luminaries, took place during the First Intifada.“We did not represent any political point of view, we just went to do theater in a different place and atmosphere,” saidAkalaitis. “We all believe, Joseph more eloquently than some others, that what we do changes the world.”
Though most recently named artistic director of the Guthrie theatre in Minneapolis, Haj spent many years as the artistic director of PlayMakers Repertory Company at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Haj has directed at theaters 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, an honor presented by the stage directors and choreographers union, which recognizes an outstanding director or choreographer deemed transformative to the regional theater through innovative, brave work and a commitment to community. Additionally, he was named by American Theatre magazine as one of the 25 theater artists who will have a significant impact on the field over the next quarter century, and was recipient of the respected NEA/White House Council Millennium Grant awarded to 50 of America’s finest artists.