Head of Musical Theatre
University Park, PA
The Musical Theatre B.F.A. degree program is an intensive pre-professional training program with alumni working around the country and the world. Our faculty is made up of artists dedicated to both the profession and the academy. As working actors, dancers, music directors, choreographers, and directors, we bring our students Broadway, national tour, regional theatre, and film and television experience. With a ratio of thirteen faculty to forty-nine students, the training is individualized, specific, and demanding.Students accepted into the program will receive specialized training in singing, acting, and dance. In addition to this training, Penn State Musical Theatre offers signature initiatives like the New Musicals Initiative (which commissions musical theatre writers to write for our students), the Master Class Series, and our unique Musical Theatre Wellness Center – which assists our students in the areas of Mental, Physical, Vocal, and Nutritional Health during their training.
John Simpkins directed the three-time Drama Desk nominated Off-Broadway production of Bloodsong of Love (by Tony nominee Joe Iconis) at Ars Nova. Also with Mr. Iconis, he directed the World Premieres of Love in Hate Nation (Two River Theater – starring Amina Faye, Lauren Marcus) and The Black Suits at Center Theatre Group (Kirk Douglas Theatre – starring Annie Golden, Will Roland, Veronica Dunne).
New York credits also include the Off-Broadway productions of The Bus (59E59 Theatre); ReWrite (Urban Stages); The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks (Theatreworks, USA- Lucille Lortel Theatre); Things to Ruin (which he co-conceived and directed productions of at Second Stage, Le Poisson Rouge, Zipper Factory, Joe’s Pub, Ars Nova, NYMF) and The Black Suits (SPF at the Public Theatre – starring Annie Golden, Jason Tam, and Krysta Rodriguez). International productions include the World Premiere of Legendale (music by Andrea Daly, words by Jeff Bienstock) at Fredericia Teater in Denmark.
Regional productions include Raging Skillet (World Premiere – Theaterworks Hartford – starring Dana Smith-Croll, Marilyn Sokol, George Salazar); Legendale (American Premiere – Human Race Theatre Company – starring Max Crumm); Hairspray (North Carolina Theatre – starring Dale Hensley, Dirk Lumbard); The Black Suits (Barrington Stage – starring Ben Platt, Will Roland, Annie Golden); Damn Yankees (Engeman Theatre – starring André De Shields, Felicia Finley, Austin Miller); A Wonderful Life (Engeman Theatre – starring Will Reynolds); Annie (Sacramento Music Circus- starring Mark Zimmerman, Jim Walton, Adinah Alexander); Cabaret (Sacramento Music Circus- starring Teri Ralston, Jacquelyn Piro, Max von Essen); Evita (Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma- starring Kate Chapman, Eric Michael Gillet, Dan Cooney).
John served as Artistic Director at Sharon Playhouse from 2011-2016– where he directed Quartet (starring Tony Winner Elizabeth Franz), Judge Jackie: Disorder in the Court (Kooman/ Dimond – starring Klea Blackhurst), Nine Wives, True Love, Georgie (written by and starring Ed Dixon), Merrily We Roll Along (starring Jason Tam, A.J. Shively), Big River, Falsettos, Les Miserables, They’re Playing Our Song (starring Lauren Marcus, Eric William Morris), Damn Yankees, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Altar Boyz, Rent, A Funny Thing…Forum and The Wedding Singer.
A strong supporter of the development of new work, he has commissioned and directed Love in Hate Nation (Joe Iconis), The Last Day (Mike Reid/ Sarah Schlesinger), The Lucky Boy (Kirsten Childs), Dust and Embers (Sam Salmond) and Nostalgia Night (Matthew McCollum, Sofya Levitsky-Weitz) through a New Musicals Initiative he created at Penn State University.
He has also directed NYC and Regional workshops/ readings/ productions of the new works For Better, For Worse (Reed Arnold); Adam Lives (Goodspeed Opera House); ReWrite (Goodspeed Opera House); Hellraisers (Barrington Stage); Fantasy Football, the Musical; All the Kids Are Doing It; When the World Ends (Blaemire- Ars Nova); Ripper (NAMT); Party Come Here (David Kirshenbaum/ Daniel Goldfarb); Go-Go Beach (NYMF – 37 Arts); Pool Boy (Tsakalakos/ Allard); Next Thing You Know (Berkshire Theatre Festival); Queen Esther (Merkin Hall); Half Married (Cunningham/ Antin); Plastic! (Maddock/ Iconis/ Jacobs – York Theatre), You Don’t Know Jack (York Theatre), Bad Kid School (Barrington Stage), 29 (Alter/ Newman), Lyrical Langston Hughes (New Triad- Lincoln Center), Blood Drive (Rachel Sheinkin), Beasts and Saints (Mindi Dickstein) and Like You Like It (Buck/ Acquisto).
In addition to his directing life, John is Head of Musical Theatre at Penn State University. Prior to joining Penn State, he was a member of the faculty at NYU – where he directed Sweet Smell of Success, Floyd Collins, A Man of No Importance, The Fix, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Violet, Urinetown, Merrily We Roll Along, Parade, Fiorello! and A New Brain. His production of Parade was preserved and is on reserve at Lincoln Center’s Theatre on Film and Tape Archive. He holds a Bachelor of Music from Miami University and a Master of Arts from NYU.
Chaz Wolcott is a theatremaker and teaching artist, who has been on faculty at Steps on Broadway since 2017. His director/choreographer credits include Broadway: Red Bucket Follies (New Amsterdam Theatre), Gypsy of the Year, and Broadway Backwards (Al Hirschfeld Theatre); Regional: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Crazy for You, Cats, Newsies (5x), Me and My Girl, Bright Star, La Cage aux Folles, Kiss Me Kate, Altar Boyz, and Mamma Mia. Chaz has created & directed numerous benefit concerts for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS from coast to coast.
Chaz has taught and choreographed for the Summer Study and Steps Conservatory students, along with teaching open Tap, Theater, and Jazz classes at Steps on Broadway. Chaz created & starred in a dance web series called Cooped Up that chronicled his life during the pandemic. He also created, directed, and hosted The Stars Align, featuring 150 performers from his alma mater, to raise money for The Actors Fund during the Broadway shutdown.
As a performer, Chaz is perhaps best known for his work in Disney’s Newsies: The Broadway Musical, now available on Disney+. He’s also been seen on the National Tour of Cats (Mr. Mistoffelees), the First National Tour of Disney’s Newsies (Buttons), and in Me and My Girl for NY City Center Encores! Regional performing credits include: Arena Stage, MT Wichita, The Gateway, The Rev (Merry-Go-Round Playhouse), The Fulton, The Fireside, Gretna Theatre, Casa Mañana, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma Westchester Broadway, and the Moon River Theatre. Chaz has been featured on FOX’s hit show So You Think You Can Dance.
Chaz currently serves as a Full-Time Lecturer of Dance and Musical Theatre for Penn State Musical Theatre, training the artists of tomorrow at one of the best programs in the country. Chaz earned his BFA in Dance from Oklahoma City University and is currently pursuing his MFA in Theatre from the University of Idaho. More about Chaz can be found at www.chazwolcott.com or @dancinchaz on social media!