ACT artistic director John Langs on building community through making art

Illustration by Tom DesLongchamp

Being the artistic director of a major arts organization like ACT Theatre is like having two full-time jobs, but for AD John Langs right now it’s probably more like four. He’s directing back-to-back shows this fall: 1996 Olivier winner Skylight, then 2017 Tony winner Oslo, inspired by the behind-the-scenes machinations of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and Palestine.

What show(s) are you working on this fall?
I’m working on two shows that I’m directing and prepping many others. I’ll be directing Skylight by David Hare and Oslo by my fellow UNSCA alum J.T. Rogers.

What fall show that you’re not involved with are you most looking forward to seeing?
I want to see Sarah Harlett play Richard the Third at Seattle Shakespeare Company.

Artist you think everyone should know and why:
Scenic designer Matthew Smucker. You should pay attention to his talent as a designer and how he works with so many local theatre companies.

What do you value most in your collaborators?
Patience, trust and passion.

What do you wish civilians knew about your job?
How fun it is to be in dialogue with the community of Seattle through making great art.

Best (or worst) advice you ever got:
“You should not be an actor” was the best advice that I received. At the same time, I was told, “The world of directing holds a lot for you.” Both pieces of advice were given by my mentor, Gerald Freedman.

Your weirdest survival job:
Water polo coach

I would give anything to work with:
Unlimited resources

Biggest non-theatre inspiration:
Dance choreographer Pina Bausch

What is your hidden talent?
One-man, 6 a.m. readings of Curious George to my two-year-old daughter Maggie Jo.

My one wish for Seattle is:
I’d love to see all the Seattle arts organizations work together to make more of a national identity for the city that we love.