Mary Zimmerman

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For the American golfer, see Mary Beth Zimmerman.
Mary Zimmerman
Mary Zimmerman.jpg
Zimmerman in 2013
Born (1960-08-23) August 23, 1960 (age 56)
Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.
Nationality American
  • Northwestern University
  • • PhD, Performance Studies (1994)
  • • MA, Performance Studies (1985)
  • • BS, Theatre (1982)
Occupation Professor, Northwestern University
Jaharis Family Foundation Chair in Performance Studies
Known for Theatre director, playwright

Mary Zimmerman (born August 23, 1960) is an American theatre director and playwright from Nebraska. She is an ensemble member of the Lookingglass Theatre Company, the Manilow Resident Director at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, and also serves as the Jaharis Family Foundation Professor of Performance Studies at Northwestern University.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Although Zimmerman was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, she spent much of her childhood in Europe, splitting time between her parents' home outside London in Hampstead Garden, England, and in Paris. Both of her parents were academics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, her father a physics professor and her mother a professor of comparative literature who studied the author Georges Sand.[2]

Zimmerman studied theatre and performance studies at Northwestern University, where she received a BS in theatre (1982) in addition to an MA (1985) and PhD (1994) in performance studies. She is currently a faculty member in the Performance Studies department at Northwestern. She has earned national and international recognition in the form of numerous awards, including the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship (1998). She has received more than 20 Joseph Jefferson Awards for her creative work in the Chicago Area and won a 2002 Tony Award for Best Direction for her adaptation of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Other notable productions include Eleven Rooms of Proust and The Secret In The Wings.

In 2004 she directed a production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. Her production was re-staged in 2006 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company Free For All. The following year, Zimmerman directed another Shakespeare play, Cymbeline, at Northwestern University.[3]

Zimmerman has directed several theatrical adaptations of literary works in addition to Metamorphoses, including Journey to the West, The Odyssey, Silk, The Arabian Nights (1994), and The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (2003). In 2006 she directed a version of the Greek story of Jason and the Argonauts' search for the Golden Fleece, Argonautika, at the Lookinglass, and then toured it at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2007 and at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. in 2008.[4][5]

She has also worked in the opera world. She is the director and co-librettist of the 2002 opera Galileo Galilei, music by Philip Glass, commissioned by the Goodman Theatre. In 2007, Zimmerman directed the first of a series of new productions for the Metropolitan Opera. She was engaged to stage a new production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor starring Natalie Dessay, which opened the company's 2007–2008 season. The production received mixed reviews, but was a success at the box office.[6] Zimmerman's Lucia was revived in 2008–2009 with Diana Damrau and Anna Netrebko as Lucia. It was broadcast worldwide in the Met's Live in HD series with Netrebko and tenor Piotr Beczała.

In March 2009 the Met premiered Zimmerman's production of Vincenzo Bellini's La Sonnambula (starring Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez). The production, which moved the opera's setting to a contemporary rehearsal hall, received mixed-to-negative reviews in the press.[7] It was also presented in the Live in HD series. For the company's 2009–2010 season Zimmerman directed a new production of Gioachino Rossini's opera seria Armida starring Renée Fleming.[8]

In 2013, Zimmerman adapted and directed a musical version of Disney's The Jungle Book, premiering at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and the Huntington Theatre in Boston. The production featured Kevin Carolan as Baloo the Bear and Andre DeShields as King Louie.

In 2015 Mary Zimmerman directed the musical Guys and Dolls at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR.


  1. ^ "Biography: Mary Zimmerman". American Theatre Wing. 2002. Retrieved May 28, 2008. 
  2. ^ Moore, Anne (December 19, 2011). "Making Each Entrance Dramatic; Director Zimmerman Finds Source Material in the Unlikeliest Places". Crain's Chicago Business. Gale Biography In Context. 
  3. ^ "Cymbeline". Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  4. ^ Hernandez, Ernio.Zimmerman's Argonautika Makes West Coast Debut at Berkeley Rep Nov. 2, November 2, 2007
  5. ^ "Zimmerman on 'Argonautika'" shakespearetheatrecompany, accessed February 7, 2011
  6. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (September 26, 2007). "A Grand Opening at the Opera". New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  7. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (April 3, 2009). "Lovelorn Sleepwalker, Caught Between Rehearsal and Reality". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  8. ^

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