John Simpkins directed the three-time Drama Desk nominated Off-Broadway production of Bloodsong of Love: The Rock and Roll Spaghetti Western (by Tony nominee Joe Iconis) at Ars Nova. He also directed Iconis’ The Black Suits at Center Theatre Group (Kirk Douglas Theatre – starring Annie Golden, Will Roland, Veronica Dunne). Upcoming projects with Mr. Iconis include the world premiere of Love in Hate Nation at Two River Theater.
New York credits also include the Off-Broadway productions of The Bus (59E59 Theatre); ReWrite (Urban Stages); The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks (Theatreworks, USA- Lucille Lortel Theatre); Things to Ruin (which he co-conceived and directed productions of at Second Stage, Le Poisson Rouge, Zipper Factory, Joe’s Pub, Ars Nova, NYMF) and The Black Suits (SPF at the Public Theatre – starring Annie Golden, Jason Tam, and Krysta Rodriguez).
International productions include the World Premiere of Legendale (music by Andrea Daly, words by Jeff Bienstock) at Fredericia Teater in Denmark. Upcoming International projects include the World Premiere of A Hero’s Tale (music by Arthur Bacon, Book and Lyrics by Mads Nielsen) at Fredericia Teater in Denmark.
Regional productions include Raging Skillet (World Premiere – Theaterworks Hartford – starring Dana Smith-Croll, Marilyn Sokol, George Salazar); Legendale (American Premiere – Human Race Theatre Company – starring Max Crumm); Hairspray (North Carolina Theatre – starring Dale Hensley, Dirk Lumbard); The Black Suits (Barrington Stage – starring Ben Platt, Annie Golden); Damn Yankees (Engeman Theatre – starring Andre De Shields, Felicia Finley, Austin Miller); A Wonderful Life (Engeman Theatre – starring Will Reynolds); Annie (Sacramento Music Circus- starring Mark Zimmerman, Jim Walton, Adinah Alexander); Cabaret (Sacramento Music Circus- starring Teri Ralston, Jacquelyn Piro, Max von Essen); Evita (Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma- starring Kate Chapman, Eric Michael Gillet, Dan Cooney).
John was Artistic Director at Sharon Playhouse from 2011-2016– where he directed Quartet (starring Tony Winner Elizabeth Franz), Judge Jackie: Disorder in the Court (Kooman/ Dimond – starring Klea Blackhurst), Nine Wives, True Love, Georgie (written by and starring Ed Dixon), Merrily We Roll Along (starring Jason Tam, A.J. Shively), Big River, Falsettos, Les Miserables, They’re Playing Our Song, Damn Yankees, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Altar Boyz, Rent, A Funny Thing…Forum and The Wedding Singer.
A strong supporter of the development of new work, he has commissioned and directed Love in Hate Nation (Joe Iconis), The Last Day (Mike Reid/ Sarah Schlesinger), and The Lucky Boy (Kirsten Childs) through an initiative he created at Penn State Musical Theatre. He has also directed NYC and Regional workshops/ readings/ productions of For Better, For Worse (Reed Arnold); Adam Lives (Goodspeed Opera House); ReWrite (Goodspeed Opera House); Hellraisers (Barrington Stage); Fantasy Football, the Musical; All the Kids Are Doing It; When the World Ends (Blaemire- Ars Nova); Ripper (NAMT); Party Come Here (David Kirshenbaum/ Daniel Goldfarb); Go-Go Beach (NYMF – 37 Arts); Pool Boy (Tsakalakos/ Allard); Next Thing You Know (Berkshire Theatre Festival); Queen Esther (Merkin Hall); Half Married (Cunningham/ Antin); Plastic! (Maddock/ Iconis/ Jacobs - York Theatre), You Don’t Know Jack (York Theatre), Bad Kid School (Barrington Stage), 29 (Alter/ Newman), Lyrical Langston Hughes (New Triad- Lincoln Center), Blood Drive (Rachel Sheinkin), Beasts and Saints (Mindi Dickstein) and Like You Like It (Buck/ Acquisto).
In addition to his directing life, John is Head of Musical Theatre at Penn State University. Prior to joining Penn State, he was a member of the faculty at NYU - where he directed Sweet Smell of Success, Floyd Collins, A Man of No Importance, The Fix, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Violet, Urinetown, Merrily We Roll Along, Parade, Fiorello! and A New Brain. His production of Parade was preserved and is on reserve at Lincoln Center’s Theatre on Film and Tape Archive. He holds a Bachelor of Music from Miami University and a Master of Arts from NYU. He is active in NAMT (National Alliance of Musical Theatre), where he is frequently a member of the Festival Reading and Selection Committee.