full bio


Working on 33 Variations at Festival Stage
Steve Umberger has directed, produced, writtten and developed plays and film/video projects for companies including People’s Light & Theatre (Philadelphia), Florida Studio Theatre, Barter Theatre, An Appalachian Summer Festival, Flat Rock Playhouse, Cape Fear Regional, Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Riverside Theatre (FL), Spirit Square Arts Center, Children's Theatre of Charlotte (Artistic Director), Festival Stage (Creative Director), N.C. Shakespeare Festival (Resident Director) and Charlotte Rep (Founder and Artistic Director). With a $2m budget, CRT became the metro area's flagship professional theatre company and a national member of LORT.


His work includes long-term development and premieres, among them The Ghostman by Wendy Hammond, Boca by Christopher Kyle, Benedictions by Judy Simpson CookAnita Bryant Died For Your Sins by Brian Christopher Williams, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily by Katie Forgette, Signature by Beth Henley and The Deer and the Antelope Play by Mark Dunn (published by Dramatists Play Service).


Playworks Group: Umberger formed The Playworks Group LLC to develop and produce work for stage and film. The musical Lunch at the Piccadilly, based on Clyde Edgerton's best selling novel with songs by Mike Craver, was a decade long project which Umberger directed in four productions and a concert version at the York Theatre Company in N.Y. Playworks has produced and toured plays and film/video projects. Current projects include the stage and film documentaries Call Me By My Name and Acting Our Age, both developed over a three year period with groups of people whose life stories tell the history and culture of their time.


Festival Stage and freelance: In the past decade, Umberger has been Creative Director for Festival Stage, a LORT standard theatre series in residence to establish the theatre at the renovated Rhodes Center for the Arts in Winston-Salem. In addition to directing, he produced the company's Visiting Playwright Festival, which hosted all the season playwrights in residence from New York. With John E.R. Friedenberg and Brook Davis, he produced the Festival Stage collaborations with Wake Forest University and the Wake Forest ALS Center, including Moises Kaufman's 33 Variations (which received the W-S Arts Council Arts Development Award for innovation). 


Many freelance credits include Edward Albee's The Goat or Who is Sylvia? to open Florida Studio Theatre's third theatre and play series. In partnership with Managing Director Pedro Silva at N.C. Shakespeare Festival, he directed Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest and King Lear (a three year project also at People's Light in Philadelphia). His production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with Cirque du Soleil veteran Karl Baumann, has had four runs at three theatres and continues to be developed.


Charlotte Repertory Theatre: As Founder and Artistic Director of Charlotte Rep, Umberger formed the company with a small but mighty group of artists and citizens to establish a professional contemporary theatre and a home for artists and audiences. When he left the Rep 25 years later it had grown from small ensemble to one of the 70+ national members of the League of Resident Theatres, in residence at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. The Rep's new play program hosted many scripts chosen from natonal submissions, 34 of which were premiered at the Rep, published, and subsequently produced at many U.S. theatres, off-Broadway and in feature film.


In two terms as Rep Artistic Director, his work includes developing three play series for a diverse audience, and a collective of resident and visiting artists, among them Pulitzer Prize winning playwrights Tony Kushner, Beth Henley, and Academy Award winning actor Olympia Dukakis. Directing credits include many new plays, regional premieres, a noted production of Kushner's landmark work Angels in America (one of its first post-Broadway productions), and a unique three-year collaboration with The Charlotte Symphony on three of Shakespeare's plays. Produced in the 2,000 seat Belk Theatre at the Blumenthal, that project used complete play texts and musical scores, and combined the work of 100 performers from multiple disciplines on stage together. Through the work of many, the Rep became one of two LORT theatres in N.C., the 2.5m metro area's first full-time professional theatre, its first Actors' Equity company, and remains its only LORT/AEA affiliated theatre.


Arts education and Children's Theatre: An advocate for arts education, Umberger has  been a frequent guest lecturer/director including regularly at Davidson College. As Artistic Director of Charlotte's Children's Theatre for eight years, with Executive Director Mary Montague he introduced professional production and new play commissions, and developed the first programming for middle/high school actors and audiences. With Kevin Campbell and the team, he created The Ensemble Company to provide pre-professional experience and training for young artists. Among the alumni are many now working in the arts  professionally including actor Ali Hillis, writer Cheryl McKay, filmmaker Marshall Curry (2020 Academy Award, Live Action Short Film) and songwriter Kristin Anderson-Lopez (Academy Awards for the songs Let it Go and Remember Me). During these years staff and budget tripled, and CT soon moved to its innovative new home at ImaginOn (where The Ensemble Company continued for 20 years).


Through his long-term work with Charlotte Rep, Children's Theatre and the N.C. Shakespeare Festival, Umberger helped establish Spirit Square Arts Center (in its original incarnation and its many renovations) and the N.C. Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, as well as the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts in Winston-Salem. He received 37 awards and citations for his producing and directing work with those companies from Metrolina Theatre Association and area press.


Writing/directing: Working with Jon Singleton on a script he wrote, Umberger expanded the project to become the trilogy Decoration Day, about multiple generations of an Appalachian family. Produced for CT and Piccolo Spoleto Festival over three years with one company of actors and musicians, the trilogy was then adapted for ETV. Other CT writing/directing credits include adaptations of Bugsy Malone, Cat Stevens' Numbers, and, with Kas Sipe, a pre-Disney musical version of Beauty and the Beast. With long time collaborator Wendy Hammond, he developed and directed Like Ashes, to address substance abuse, and an adaptation of the classic A Wrinkle in Time. He has also contributed arts features to publications including Playbill, Charlotte Magazine, Southern Theatre, TarHeel, and American Humanist.

Film/Other: Film and television credits include producing/directing the documentaries Call Me By My Name and Acting Our Age, and the video production of the trilogy Decoration Day, as well as short films adapted from the plays Husbandry and Boca (ASC Emerging Artist Grant). Acting and appearance credits include features, network and HBO films/series, and the Emmy Award nominated documentary Dear Jesse. Umberger studied in the professional program at Manhattan’s Circle in the Square; at the Univ. of NC/Charlotte (BCA); and with Alan Langdon and Larry Moss in NY. He is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and Actors' Equity. 


His partnership with the deceptively diminutive Rebecca Koon has produced many collaborations, and their best co-production: their yogi ninja daughter Maggie Valentine.