John Hellweg

Professor Emeritus of Theatre

Smith College

Contact & Office Hours

Theatre 204



Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

M.A., Stanford University

B.A., University of California, Riverside


John Hellweg is a director, actor and teacher of directing, acting, European theatre and Southeast Asian theatre studies. He received his bachelor of arts in drama from the University of California, Riverside, his master’s in speech and drama from Stanford University, and his doctorate in the Director/Scholar Program in Dramatic Arts from the University of California, Berkeley.

Hellweg has performed in principal roles in more than 50 productions, including productions with the Stanford Baroque Comedy Workshop (Turandot, The Critic), with the Stanford Repertory Theater (That Scoundrel Scapin, All's Well That Ends Well, The Good Woman of Szechwan), and, most recently, with the Talking Band (Flip/Side) and the Ensemble of the Romantic Century (Peggy Guggenheim Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Toscanini: In My Heart Too Much of the Absolute, Jekyll & Hyde) in New York City.

He has directed over 40 productions in academic and professional venues. Most recently, he directed the off-off-Broadway production of Unravellings and Catastrophes: Four Short Plays by Jeffery Stingerstein at the Access Theater in New York. He has directed works by Kobo Abe, Fernando Arrabal, Alan Ayckbourn, Frank Bidart, Rhonda Blaire, Giordano Bruno, Calderón de la Barca, Anton Chekhov, Caryl Churchill, Noel Coward, Michael Ende, Euripides, Michel Ghelderode, Eugene Ionesco, Alfred Jarry, Craig Lucas, Molière, Slawomir Mrozek, Sean O'Casey, Aaron Petrovich, Jeffrey Stingerstein, Shakespeare, Wallace Shawn, Paula Vogel and George Walker.

A number of his productions have been coordinated with intensive actor training or immersion in specific physical disciplines. These have included a focus on Japanese Butoh ((Under)Belly, Petrovich); Commedia (School for Wives, Molière); Circus (Scapin, Molière); Suzuki and Tai Chi (Friends, Abe); Tibetan Quum Nye (Life is a Dream, Calderón); Aikido (The Bakkhai, Euripides); Contact Improvisation (The War of Vaslav Nijinsky, Bidart); and Javanese Dance and Indonesian Gamelan (The Tempest, Shakespeare).

Hellweg has taught at Smith College and at the University of California at Santa Cruz. His courses have included acting, directing and dramatic literature, focusing on European drama (seminars and performance workshops on Chekhov, Surrealism, Ionesco and Beckett), as well as colloquia on religion and theater in Southeast Asia. His research interests include Southeast Asian theater and dance, performance theory, improvisation, West African music and intercultural performance. He was instrumental in bringing performance training in Central Javanese dance and music to Smith College and has performed in major roles in traditional Javanese dance/theater concerts at Smith and Wesleyan University.

He has published studies on Chekhov, Peter Brook and intercultural theater. His article on Peter Brook’s production of the Mahabharata stimulated requests from theater scholars in Macedonia and Iran to translate it for publication into Macedonian and Farsi. His translation of Diderot’s Le Père de famille was published in Two Plays by Denis Diderot. The Illegitimate Son and The Father of the Family was translated with an introduction by Kiki Gounaridou and John Hellweg.

In 2006, Hellweg was awarded the Sherrerd Prize for Distinguished Teaching at Smith. He has received grants for productions from the National Endowment for the Arts, Hewlett Mellon Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. He serves on the board of directors of the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts and the Tashi Nyima Foundation.