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JoAnne Akalaitis (born June 29, 1937, Chicago) is an avant-garde Lithuanian American theatre director and writer. She won five Obie Awards for direction (and sustained achievement) and founder of the critically acclaimed Mabou Mines in New York City, from which she resigned after twenty years in June 1990.
Akalaitis was a pre-med student at the University of Chicago, and transferred to Stanford University to study philosophy, before leaving for San Francisco at age 22 without a degree. After choosing acting as a career, she studied with the Actor's Workshop in San Francisco, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, The Open Theater Workshop in New York, and acting theorist Jerzy Grotowski in France. Additionally, as a Mabou Mines founder, she conducted workshops in Mabou's acting technique.
In addition to the American Repertory Theater – where she has directed Endgame, The Balcony (by Jean Genet) and The Birthday Party (by Harold Pinter) – she has staged works by Euripides, Shakespeare, Strindberg, Schiller, Tennessee Williams, Philip Glass, Janáček, and her own work at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City Opera, Goodman Theatre, Hartford Stage, Mark Taper Forum, Court Theatre, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and the Guthrie Theater. She is the former artistic director of the New York Shakespeare Festival and of the Public Theater, and was artist-in-residence at the Court Theatre in Chicago.
Ms. Akalaitis was the Andrew Mellon co-chair of the Directing Program at Juilliard School, and was the Wallace Benjamin Flint and L. May Hawver Flint Professor of Theater at Bard College until 2012. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants, Edwin Booth Award, Rosamund Gilder Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre, and Pew Charitable Trusts National Theatre Artist Residency Program grant.
- Ian Herbert, ed. (1981). "AKALAITIS, JoAnne". Who's Who in the Theatre. 1. Gale Research Company. pp. 5–6. ISSN 0083-9833.
- Don Shewey, "Rocking the House That Papp Built", The Village Voice September 25, 1990, accessed August 21, 2007.
- Gholson, Craig. "JoAnne Akalaitis", BOMB Magazine, Spring 1983, accessed July 20, 2011.
- "AKALAITIS, Joanne" in World Who's Who (Routledge – Taylor and Francis Group). Accessed September 1, 2006. (Subscription required.)