Esteemed Broadway director to head Theater Department

Award-winning theater artist David Esbjornson has been named chair of the Mason Gross School of the Arts Theater Department. He succeeds Israel Hicks, who died in 2010. Esbjornson will begin work in July 2011.

"David Esbjornson comes to Rutgers with extensive experience in the world of professional theater, both here and abroad," says George B. Stauffer, Dean of the Mason Gross School. "He is a distinguished David Esbjornsondirector with a track record of unqualified success and vision. I look forward to the ways in which that success and vision will now shape the Theater program at Mason Gross. I anticipate great things."

At the moment, Esbjornson is directing The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Measure for Measure, running through July 30 in New York City’s Central Park.

"I am very pleased to be joining Rutgers University," says Esbjornson, who has directed several Broadway productions, including the recent debut of Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy, starring Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones. "Along with Dean George Stauffer, I hope to continue the on-going task of building one of the most important training programs in the country—one that actively prepares its graduates for a wide range of career opportunities while also providing a clear and comprehensive philosophy about what it means to be an artist in today’s society."

Esbjornson, who holds an MFA in directing from New York University, enjoys a long-standing relationship with playwrights Tony Kushner and Edward Albee and has directed several of their works. He helmed the world premiere of Kushner’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches in San Francisco in 1991, as well as the 2002 Broadway production of Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, which went on to win a Tony Award that year for Best Play. In addition, 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 in Minneapolis.

He served as artistic director of the Classic Stage Company from 1992 to 1999, and was the artistic director of Seattle Repertory Theatre from 2006 to 2009. Esbjornson has been honored several times for his work, with several OBIE and Lucille Lortel Awards to his credit, among others.

"I recently asked David Esbjornson why, at the height of such an illustrious career, he would be interested in this position," says Barbara Marchant, deputy chair of the Theater Department. “He paused for a moment and said, ‘Because I am ready to give back.’

"The selection of Mr. Esbjornson as chair will bring an artist of superior sensibility and in-depth knowledge to the helm of the Mason Gross Theater Department," Marchant continues. "His vision, leadership abilities and sincere interest in the educational process will surely enhance our position in the competitive field of professional training for theater artists."

Media inquiries: Laurie Granieri, 732-932-7591, ext. 516.