full bio

Steve Umberger has directed, produced, and developed plays and film/video projects for many companies including People’s Light & Theatre (Philadelphia), Florida Studio Theatre, Barter Theatre, Appalachian Summer Festival, Flat Rock Playhouse, Cape Fear Regional, Blowing Rock Stage, Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Riverside Theatre (FL), N.C. Shakespeare Festival, Spirit Square Arts Center, Children's Theatre of Charlotte (Artistic Director), Festival Stage (Creative Director), and Charlotte Rep (LORT; Founder and Artistic Director). His work includes many 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 (published by Playscripts), Signature by Beth Henley and The Deer and the Antelope Play by Mark Dunn (both later published by Dramatists Play Service).

Playworks: 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, 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 including premieres and film/video projects. Recent credits include The Christians by Lucas Hnath. The new Playworks series, You Are Here (2018-2020), creates documentaries for both stage and film with groups of people whose lives trace the history and culture of their time. 2019 productions include Call Me By My Name (about and with the homeless community) and Acting Our Age (with seven elders who have seen 100 years of American life)..

Festival Stage and freelance: In the past decade, Umberger has been Creative Director for Festival Stage, a 5-year 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 its Visiting Playwright Festival, which hosted all the season playwrights in residence from New York. He produced the collaborations with Wake Forest University and the Wake Forest ALS Center, staging and coordinating the two-year project on Moises Kaufman's 33 Variations. Many freelance credits include Edward Albee's The Goat or Who is Sylvia? to open Florida Studio Theatre's third theatre and performance series. King Lear was a three year project at two theatres, and in Philadelphia it received an NEA Shakespeare in American Communities grant. A Midsummer Night's Dream has had four development productions at three theatres, with Cirque du Soleil veteran performer Karl Baumann.

Charlotte Repertory Theatre: As Founder and Artistic Director of Charlotte Rep, Umberger formed the company with a group of actors to establish a professional contemporary theatre and a home for artists and audiences. When he left after 25 years, the Rep had grown from small ensemble to one of the 70+ national members of the League of Resident Theatres, and, with a $2m budget, was in residence at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. The Rep's 15-year new play program featured 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. After establishing the Rep and moving on to other projects, he returned at the Board's request to again help guide the company.

In two terms as the Rep's 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 and Beth Henley, Emmy Award nominated actor Bonnie Franklin, 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 three-year collaboration with The Charlotte Symphony on three of Shakespeare's plays. These were produced in the 2,000 seat Belk Theatre at the Blumenthal, used complete play texts and musical scores, and combined the work of 100 performers from multiple disciplines on stage together. One of two LORT theatres in N.C., the Rep was the metro area's first full-time professional theatre and first Actors' Equity company, and remains its only LORT/AEA affiliated theatre.

Arts education: An advocate for arts education, Umberger has contributed arts features to many publications, and has been a frequent guest lecturer/director. As Artistic Director of Charlotte's Children's Theatre for eight years, with Executive Director Mary Montague and the team he introduced professional production and new work commissions, and developed programming for middle and high school actors and audiences. He and Kevin Campbell created The Ensemble Company for young actors and pre-professional experience. Among EC's first group are many now working in the arts including Marshall Curry (three time Academy Award nominee) and composer / performer Kristin Anderson-Lopez (two time Academy Award co-winner for the songs Let It Go and Remember Me.) Directing/writing credits at CT include an adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, and Like Ashes, commissioned to address substance abuse (both developed with Wendy Hammond); adaptations of Beauty and the Beast (book, lyrics), Alan Parker's Bugsy Malone; and Decorations (co-author), a trilogy about Appalachia developed with a company of actors / musicians over three years, also produced for NCETV and Piccolo Spoleto Festival. During these years the theatre's staff and budget tripled, and CT soon after moved into its new home at ImaginOn.

Education/Awards: Film and television credits include producing and directing short films adapted from the plays Husbandry and Boca (ASC Emerging Artist Grant), acting in network and HBO films/series, and an appearance in the Emmy Award nominated documentary Dear Jesse. He received 37 citations from the Metrolina Theatre Association, The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing and area publications for his producing and directing work with Charlotte Rep and Children's Theatre. Umberger studied in the professional program at Manhattan’s Circle in the Square (the only U.S. conservatory affiliated with a Broadway theatre); at the Univ. of NC/Charlotte (BCA); and with Alan Langdon and Larry Moss in New York. He is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and Actors' Equity. His lifetime partnership with the deceptively diminutive Rebecca Koon has produced many favorite collaborations including their best co-production: their yogi ninja daughter Maggie Valentine.