Joseph Haj was appointed the eighth artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in 2015. Within a year of his arrival, he announced the Level Nine Initiative supported by a $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Level Nine Initiative emphasizes the creation of a theater that wrestles with urgent questions, inspires dynamic dialogue with its audiences, expands the diversity of voices, visions and styles on its stages and engages community members currently underserved by its work. Since his appointment, Haj has directed several shows at the Guthrie, including Cyrano de Bergerac, West Side Story, Romeo and Juliet, Sunday in the Park with George, King Lear, South Pacific and Pericles (also Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Folger Theatre).
Prior to his appointment at the Guthrie, Haj was the producing artistic director at PlayMakers Repertory Company where he presented the world premiere of Surviving Twin by Loudon Wainwright III, Mike Daisey’s The Story of the Gun and UNIVERSES’ Spring Training and produced the premiere of The Parchman Hour by Mike Wiley. While at PlayMakers, Haj also directed The Tempest, Metamorphoses, Cabaret, Henry IV (Parts I and II), Henry V, Nicholas Nickleby, The Illusion, Amadeus, Pericles, Big River, As You Like It, Cyrano de Bergerac (Haj’s adaptation) and Into the Woods.
Other directing projects include Hamlet (Folger Theatre, Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Production) and Henry V (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), as well as directing maximum-security inmates in a production of Henry V, creating and directing Voices with the rural community of Batesburg-Leesville, S.C., and conducting workshops in the West Bank and Gaza.
Haj received an M.F.A. from The University of North Carolina before beginning a career in acting and has worked as an actor with many internationally known directors, including Garland Wright, JoAnne Akalaitis, Anne Bogart (as an original member of SITI Company), Peter Sellars, Sir Peter Hall and Robert Woodruff. He has been named one of 25 theater artists who will have a significant impact on the field over the next quarter-century by American Theatre magazine and is the recipient of the 2014 Zelda Fichandler Award (SDCF) and 2017 Rosetta LeNoire Award (AEA). Haj currently serves on the executive board of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.