theater

David Esbjornson

Chair, Department of Theater

David Esbjornson’s work as a director includes the Broadway debut and London West End production of Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry with Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones, and Boyd Gaines, and a five-city tour in Australia with Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones, and Boyd Gaines.

He recently directed Edward Albee’s Lady From Dubuque--the inaugural production of the new Signature Theater Space, Measure for Measure for Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theatre, the world premiere of Appomatox by Christopher Hampton at the Guthrie Theater, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller with Harris Yulin for the Gate Theatre in Dublin, the premiere of Molly Ivins: Red Hot Patriot by Allison and Margaret Engels, starring Kathleen Turner at Philadelphia Theatre Company, the Geffen Playhouse and Arena Stage, Abigail 1702 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacaso at NY Stage and Film, the American premieres of Moira Buffini’s Dinner at Bay Street Theatre and Gabriel with Lisa Emery and Zach Grenier for the Atlantic Theater Company, where he also directed the world premiere of Peter Parnell’s Trumpery with Michael Christopher.

Esbjornson directed the highly acclaimed production of Hamlet at Theatre for a New Audience with Christian Camargo. Other recent productions are Bill Cain’s Equivocation at the Geffen Playhouse, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at Boston’s Huntington Theatre and The Great Gatsby, which inaugurated the new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

Esbjornson has helmed four “Fund for New American Plays” world premieres including Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and the first staged presentation of Perestroika by Tony Kushner at the Eureka Theatre, Another Part of the House (after Lorca) by Migdalia Cruz at CSC, the trilogy New Music by novelist Reynolds Price at Cleveland Play House, and José Rivera’s Street of the Sun at Mark Taper Forum.

Esbjornson has a long-standing relationship with Edward Albee, directing his Tony Award-winning play The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? on Broadway in 2002, The Play About the Baby at the Century Theatre, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with Patrick Stewart and Mercedes Ruehl at the Guthrie Theater and the first major American revivals of Lady From Dubuque at Seattle Repertory Theatre featuring Myra Carter, and again in New York as the 2012 inaugural production for the new Signature Theater featuring Jane Alexander, Laila Robins, Michael Haydan and Peter Francis James.

Esbjornson worked with Arthur Miller on two of his last plays: The Ride Down Mt. Morgan starring Patrick Stewart and Frances Conroy at The Public Theater and on Broadway and the world premiere of Resurrection Blues at the Guthrie Theater.

Other world premieres directed by Esbjornson include the first incarnation of Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul with Kika Markham at the Chelsea Centre in London, Neil Simon’s Rose and Walsh with Jane Alexander and Len Cariou at the Geffen Playhouse, Kathleen Tolan’s Memory House with Dianne Weist at Playwrights Horizons, Tuesdays With Morrie by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom with Alvin Epstein and Jon Tenny at NY Stage & Film, Minetta Lane Theatre and Seattle Repertory Theatre, In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks with Charlayne Woodard at the Public Theater, My Old Lady by Israel Horowitz with Peter Friedman, Jan Maxwell and Sian Philips at the Mark Taper Forum and PromenadeTheatre, John Belluso’s A Nervous Smile at the Humana Festival, Exposed by Beth Henley at NY Stage & Film, Tony, The Promise by Jose Rivera at Ensemble Studio Theater, Eliot Ness in Cleveland at Cleveland Playhouse and the American premiere of Patrick Marber's Dealer’s Choice at The Long Wharf Theatre.

Other revivals include London’s West End premiere of A Few Good Men by Aaron Sorkin starring Rob Lowe, Much Ado About Nothing at New York Shakespeare in the Park with Jimmy Smitts, Kristen Johnston, Sam and Elizabeth Waterston, the critically acclaimed revival of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart with Raul Esparza and Joanna Gleason at the Public Theater and Mud/Drowning by Irene Fornes at the Signature Theatre.

Esbjornson served as artistic director of Seattle Repertory Theatre from 2005-08 where he directed and/or produced over 40 productions. His directing credits at Seattle Rep include the world premieres of Ariel Dorfman's Purgatorio, Kevin Kling's How? How? Why? Why? Why? and The Breach (by Katherine Filloux, Tarrell Alvin McCraney and Joe Sutton.)

Esbjornson was also the artistic director with the Classic Stage Company from 1992-1997, where he directed many award-winning productions including Thérèse Raquin with Elizabeth Marvel, The Entertainer with Brian Murray and Jean Stapleton, Iphigenia and Other Daughters, Endgame, The Maids and Entertaining Mr. Sloane.

He has been a resident director at the O’Neill Festival, New York Stage and Film, The Humana Festival, Portland Center Stage “Just Add Water Festival”, Iowa Playwrights Festival and New Harmony and has developed and directed plays by many other writers including Romulus Linney, Ann-Marie McDonald, John Belusso, Paula Vogel, John Henry Redwood, Peter Ullian, Magdalia Cruz and David Ives.


Esbjornson received the London What’s On Stage Award for Best Revival-“Driving Miss Daisy”, “OBIE Awards for “Hamlet” and “Therese Raquin”, Lucille Lortel Awards for “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” and for “Body of Work” at Classic Stage Company, a Los Angeles Ovation Award for “Equivocation”, Seven Bay Area Critics' Awards for “Angels in America”, Seven Ct. Critics Circle Awards for “Dealer’s Choice”, Friends of NY- Best Directing Award for “Ride Down Mt. Morgan”, Drama Desk nominations for ”Lady From Dubuque”, “Endgame” and “Iphigenia and Other Daughters”, Cab Callaway nomination for “Normal Heart” The Minneapolis Star Tribune Production of the Year for “Summer and Smoke” the 1989 TCG/NEA Directing Fellowship, the NYTW New Director’s Project/production--Farmyard, the Quinn Martin Honorary Chair at University of California San Diego, and a Distinguished Alumni citation from Gustavus Adolphus College.

Esbjornson holds an M.F.A. from New York University (Seidman Award for Excellence in Directing).