jakub | April 30, 2024

AMERICAN THEATRE | John Langs to Leave Seattle’s ACT to Become Drama Dean at UNCSA


John Langs. (Photo from UNCSA)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., and SEATTLE: The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) has named John Langs the next dean of its School of Drama, of which he himself is an alumnus. As of July 1, he will succeed Scott Zigler, who has served as dean since 2017 and will retire at the end of the 2023-24 academic year. Langs has lived in Seattle for the past two decades and devoted 10 years to serving ACT Contemporary Theatre, where he has been the artistic director since 2016. He will continue support the organization in their leadership planning and through the upcoming 2024-25 season.

“After 10 extraordinary years at ACT, I have been offered perhaps the single opportunity that would take me away from this beautiful theatre company,” said Langs in a statement. “I’m so proud of what we achieved in my time at ACT Contemporary Theatre, and am confident I am leaving it in a place of strength and growth. This current season was successful in so many ways—sellout houses, critically acclaimed productions, and the launch of our heavily lauded New Works Northwest festival. The recently announced 2024-25 season, touting more productions, longer show runs, and a continued commitment to new work, is already highly anticipated by our community. My final curated season at ACT includes two world premieres from local playwrights alongside three more plays that have that inspired, reckless, culture-shifting spirit we love and cherish.”

John Langs graduated with a BFA from the School of Drama’s directing program in 1996, and returned to campus each spring between 2005 and 2012 as a guest faculty member to teach, direct, and guide the graduating class through their professional showcase for industry representatives. He served as associate artistic director at ACT from 2012-15 before being promoted to leadership. As artistic director, Langs has overseen eight successful mainstage seasons. His first initiative was to collaborate with the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts to establish a directing fellowship for UNCSA alumni to study the art of directing and artistic direction. Langs has collaborated with the Seagull Project, New Century Theater Company, Seattle Shakespeare, Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony, and the Hansberry Project, as well as directed more than 100 professional productions at theatres across the country.

“I am thrilled to welcome John as the next leader of our School of Drama,” said UNCSA chancellor Brian Cole in a statement. “With 30 years of leadership in the industry, he is eminently equipped with the vision, expertise, and determination to lead the School of Drama into its next era of excellence, and to serve as a passionate advocate for the school and its students, faculty and staff. John possesses an enduring respect for the legacy of the school and great excitement about the work it has done over the past decade, as well as the drive and enthusiasm to see it continue to move forward. Throughout his career he has demonstrated an unshakable belief in the power of the arts to change lives.”

In his new role at UNCSA, Langs will lead the conservatory’s drama program with a focus on interdisciplinary work, new technologies, inclusion, and student well-being, while preparing scholars for careers in an evolving industry.

“I believe there is an incredible opportunity for the School of Drama to play a leadership role in the much-needed evolution of our industry,” said Langs in a statement. “This is a moment to define a more human-centered training paradigm, to prepare for the new technologies that will act as a force multiplier for artists everywhere, and to explore a deeper definition of inclusion in the arts. Most importantly, this is a moment for the school to calibrate the balance between the intense rigor required to learn a craft and the grace required to nurture the individual spirit so that artists and educators can thrive.”

Founded in 1963 as America’s first public arts conservatory, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a creative and performing arts institution training students at the high school, undergraduate, and master’s levels. UNCSA seeks to provide gifted emerging artists with the experience, knowledge, and skills needed to excel in their disciplines and in their lives.

ACT Contemporary Theatre is a regional nonprofit theatre organization in the Pacific Northwest. ACT strives to unite artistic ambition and civic engagement. As of 2022, ACT had an approximate budget of $5 million.

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