Joseph Haj named Guthrie’s new artistic director

Joseph Haj has been named the Guthrie's new artistic director. Credit: Photo courtesy of the Guthrie Theater

Joseph Haj — the producing artistic director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s theater company in residence — has been named the Guthrie Theater’s new artistic director.

Haj, one of a few Arab-American artistic directors in the country, will succeed Joe Dowling in the position and start the job in July. Guthrie Board Chair Lee Skold and search committee chair Patricia Simmons announced the news Tuesday after a year-long search.

“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,” Haj said. “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.”

Haj was honored with The Zelda Fichandler Award in 2014 for having a transformational impact on a regional theater. He has also received a NEA/White House Council Millennium Grant, which was awarded to 50 of the country’s top fine artists.

Besides his work at the PlayMakers Repertory Company at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Haj has directed theaters across the United States, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C. He has also directed plays in a maximum-security prison in Los Angeles, the West Bank and Gaza, and rural South Carolina.

Dowling, who is retiring after two decades as the Guthrie’s artistic director, said he’s “delighted and enthused to welcome Joe Haj to the Guthrie.”

“He is an artist of the highest caliber and an esteemed leader in our field,” Dowling said. “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.”

The Guthrie Theater was founded by Sir Tyrone Guthrie in 1963 and has an annual attendance of nearly 500,000 people.