Chapman University’s College of Performing Arts announced Professor John B. Benitz has been appointed the new chairperson for the Department of Theatre, effective immediately. Benitz shared the department chair responsibility in the 2015-16 academic year with Professor Don Guy as the department transitioned from the leadership of Dr. Nina LeNoir who held the position from 2009 to 2015, and now serves as Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education at Chapman. Professor Guy will focus on a major revision of the Theatre Technology program, taking advantage of both faculty resources and the new Musco Center for the Arts.
“I thank Don for a wonderful job as co-chair of Theatre,” said Giulio Ongaro, dean of the College of Performing Arts. “He has been carrying a very heavy administrative load, in addition to his teaching, and will now be able to concentrate on his vision of creating a more distinctive degree in theatre technology. The program has already had considerable success in training students who are able to join an exciting industry, and Don will continue to build on that progress to develop it into a program of distinction for Chapman. He will also work more closely with me to enhance all the productions presented by the College throughout the year.”
In his new role as department chair for Theatre, Benitz oversees department operations, as well as academic and faculty affairs, and serves as artistic director of the production season. “John has consistently championed programs in the Department of Theatre which offer our students the knowledge and experiences to prepare them for careers in the performing arts,” said Dean Ongaro. “His expanded role as chair assures that our students will continue to benefit from his outstanding leadership and pedagogical standards.”
Professor Benitz is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and earned his MFA in Acting from Brandeis University. A member of both SAG and Actors’ Equity, John has performed Off-Broadway, in Los Angeles at the Odyssey and Fountain Theatre’s, and regionally with Shakespeare Orange County and the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago. He has also appeared on film and television nationally, including the Discovery Channel series
Proof of Life
Benitz wrote and directed the award-winning film
Children of the Struggle
, which was shown in film festivals across the country, featured on PBS, and is screened in high schools and colleges nationwide. It was also recognized by the NAACP Film Commission for its true and poignant portrayal of the fight for black voting rights.
In 2007, Benitz approached Andrew Carroll about the possibility of a play based on Carroll’s books,
Behind the Lines
. Three years later he directed the premiere of
If All the Sky Were Paper
at Chapman. In 2013 he was awarded a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts grant, as well as a Cal Humanities grant to bring the play to a wider audience.
Since then he has brought the play to Seattle Rep, the WAMC Linda Performing Arts Studio in Albany, N.Y., The Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles twice, the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara and the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C. Academy Award-winner Annette Bening and Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe winner Laura Dern and Academy Award winner Common are just a few of the wonderful actors he has had the pleasure to direct as part of this production.
“This is a very exciting time for our Theatre Department,” said Benitz. “Building on the work of Professor Lenoir and my shared chairship with Professor Guy last year, I think we are poised for great things in the coming years. Of particular interest to me are bolstering and managing our already strong admissions record and continuing to move our department solidly into becoming one of the top training programs in the country. We have innovative programs populated by talented students and taught by superior faculty who are professionals in their field. Also, with the new Musco Center for the Arts and our other great performing spaces, I’m very focused as artistic director of the production season on making each season as exciting, challenging and entertaining as possible. With all this said, I am really jazzed about our future.”
About the College of Performing Arts
The College of Performing Arts (CoPA) is home to the Departments of Dance and Theatre, and the William Hall and Marybelle and Sebastian P. Musco Conservatory of Music. The College offers Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Music, and Master of Music degree programs that meet the highest artistic and educational standards, taught by distinguished and award-winning faculty who are experienced, professional artists in their own right. With the recent opening of state-of-the-art Musco Center for the Arts, CoPA students have exceptional opportunities to learn, train, and hone their craft at the highest levels through hands-on, real-world production and performance, preparing them for today’s professions and giving them all the tools necessary to succeed. For more information, visit
About Chapman University
Consistently ranked among the top universities in the West, Chapman University attracts highly qualified students from around the globe. Its programs are designed to encourage leadership in innovation, creativity and collaboration, and are increasingly recognized for providing an extraordinary educational experience. The university excels in the sciences and humanities, business and economics, educational studies, film and media arts, performing arts, and law. Student enrollment in graduate and undergraduate programs is approaching 8,000 and Chapman University alumni are found throughout the world. The campus is located at One University Drive, Orange, CA 92886. Visit us at