Whit MacLaughlin is an OBIE and Barrymore Award-winning creator of performance theatre work. He serves as Artistic Director of New Paradise Laboratories. He has conceived, written, directed, and designed 20 original performance works with the company since its inception in 1998. Prior to his founding of NPL, he was a charter member, for 17 years, of the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, originally under the artistic direction of the famed Alvina Krause. Thus, since 1978, he has acting in, directed, or written over 170 productions, most created in the midst of researching the techniques of collaborative theatre creation.
He has recently created a new company in Philadelphia, PAPAYA (PA Performing Arts for Young Audiences). PAPAYA is a “theatre-without-walls” specializing in producing and presenting work for cross-generational audiences – performance that is engaging to children and the adults who accompany them. PAPAYA is a ‘theatre without walls’ that brings together resources and expertise to expand high quality programming for families in its region. Additionally, he has helmed 18 award-winning productions for families at the Arden Theatre and at the Tony-award winning Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis.
His most recent works with NPL include 27, a piece revolving around the so-called 27 Club of dead rock geniuses in Purgatory, FREEDOM CLUB, a project created in collaboration with Adriano Shaplin and his company the Riot Group, FATEBOOK: Avoiding Catastrophe One Party at a Time, which existed both in real-space and cyberspace, performing to over 10,000 people worldwide; and PROM, a template play without characters, which has been performed in Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Wilmington, North Carolina in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2013.
He is a recipient of a Pew Charitable Trust Fellowship in Performance Art (2002), a NEA/Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Artistic Advancement Grant (1989-90), a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship Award (2003). He received an OBIE award in 2002 for THE FAB 4 REACH THE PEARLY GATES and a Barrymore Award in 2000 for the World Premiere of DRINK ME at the Interact Theatre. His work was featured at the 2011 Prague Quadrennial.
MacLaughlin’s work has been presented at the Ontological Theatre and PS 122 in NYC, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, as well as at residencies in a variety of colleges and universities all over the country. He has been commissioned by the Philadelphia FringeArts Festival, the Humana Festival of New American Plays, and the Tony Award-winning Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis. His work has been cited with “Best of the Year” designations by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, Philadelphia Weekly, and the Minneapolis City Pages.
In addition to his own work, MacLaughlin has directed and performed in many productions along the east coast as a free-lance artist. These include directing work (in Philadelphia and New York) with the Arden Theatre, Interact Theatre, Act II Playhouse, the Chinese Art Coalition, and a variety of colleges and universities.
MacLaughlin’s exploration of ensemble techniques commenced, in large part, in 1974 with an extensive interaction with western- and eastern-European repertory companies in England, Austrian, France, Germany, former Czechoslovakia, Poland, Greece, Italy, and Denmark where he met and studied with world theatre leaders including David Jones, Jean-Louis Barrault, Jerzy Grotowski, Peter Brook, Josef Svoboda, and Tadeusz Kantor.
He graduated with a BA in Buddhism from Northwestern University, and an MFA in directing from Virginia Polytechnic University. He has studied Suzuki Actor Training Method in Toga-mura, Japan.