In spring of 2020, when the play “Birthday Candles” by Noah Haidle opens on Broadway, its director, Vivienne Benesch, will join a tiny but august group of women who have both acted and directed on Broadway. The artistic director of PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, NC, since 2016, Vivienne is currently steering the renowned regional theater through its “Legacy/NOW” season celebrating the centenary of its founding. She is a staunch advocate for gender equity in the field, and in its 2018-19 season, PlayMakers reached a milestone few other theaters have achieved: All of the plays in the season were directed by women.
In this conversation with Corey Madden, Vivienne discusses how the mentors who helped shape her successful start as an actor also taught her invaluable lessons about how to lead and mentor others in her directing and producing career. She is also candid about how she has negotiated and learned from moments when she as a leader in pursuit of a vision has demanded more of her staff than they might have been prepared to give.