John Dillon has been appointed director of the theatre program at Sarah Lawrence College. Dillon served as artistic director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre for 16 years from 1976 to 1993. Since then he founded the service organization Theatre Puget Sound in Seattle as well as serving as associate director of Tokyo's Institute of Dramatic Arts, where his productions of Death of A Salesman and The Grapes of Wrath both won Japan's highest theatre award.
Dillon is a member of the executive committee of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and serves on the editorial board of the Kennedy Center's Opening Stages, an online magazine for actors with disabilities. For the last eight years he has been artist-in-residence at the North Carolina School of the Arts where he directed productions and taught classes every spring. It was there that he discovered a passion for working with students, deciding to pursue a career in higher education.
During his tenure at the Milwaukee Rep, Dillon created innovative exchanges with theatre companies in Mexico, Russia, Ireland, Chile, Japan, and England. Dillon also served as a board member of the Theatre Communications Group, a panelist for the NEA and the U.S.-Mexico Fund for Culture. He was a senior contributor to American Theatre magazine. At Sarah Lawrence, Dillon plans to incorporate an international component into the daily life of theatre program. One of the first productions he is presenting at the College is Ariel Dorfman’s Speak Truth to Power: Voices from Beyond the Dark, a play that deals with human rights to be directed by Ernest Abuba.
“I want students to understand that theatre is a creative instrument to be used in various ways including political and social concerns,” he says, having presented Useful Propaganda, based on student and faculty interviews about voting as the first production of the year. It was directed by James Shearwood and Alex Edelman.
Dillon has staged productions at leading theatres in England, Russia, Japan, and Egypt and has directed new works by such noted playwrights as David Mamet, Romulus Linney, Larry Shue, Y York, Anthony Clarvoe, Joanna Glass, Ariel Dorfman, David Rambo, and Amlin Gray. Dillon has also staged productions in over two dozen of the country's leading regional theatres, including Atlanta's Alliance Theatre, D.C.'s Arena Stage, Chicago's Goodman Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, New Haven's Long Wharf, the Missouri Rep, Seattle's ACT Theatre, Chapel Hill's PlayMakers Rep, Syracuse Stage, the Georgia Shakespeare Festival, the Seattle Children's Theatre, the Berkeley Rep, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where his staging of WIT won him a Backstage West Garland Award. He holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Northwestern University, an M.F.A. from Columbia University. Dillon lives in Mt. Vernon with his wife, Joanna Melamed.
Dillon takes over the directorship of the theatre program from Shirley Kaplan who stepped down after 15 years as director to devote full time to teaching, theatre outreach and work in the theatre.