O’Brien won his first Tony Award in 2003, for directing the musical adaptation of John Waters’ Hairspray. The following year he won a second Tony for directing William Shakespeare’s Henry IV and repeated the feat in 2007 for helming Tom Stoppard’s trilogy, The Coast of Utopia. Easily moving back and forth between plays and musicals, O’Brien also has received Tony nominations for directing Porgy and Bess, Two Shakespearean Actors, The Full Monty, The Invention of Love and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
As artistic director of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego from 1981 to 2007, O’Brien picked up another pair of Tony nominations as a producer for Best Play nominees The Piano Lesson and Two Trains Running. At the Old Globe, O’Brien directed more than 60 productions and received numerous awards, including the Drama League’s 2001 Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing, the Lincoln Center’s Joan Cullman Award for Extraordinary Creativity in 2001 and 2007, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s 2002 “Mr. Abbott” Award and The Acting Company’s 2005 John Houseman Award. In 2007, the National Theatre Conference named O’Brien its Person of the Year, and the following year he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
At CAA O’Brien joins fellow new clients Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the Tony-winning songwriters of the O’Brien-directed Hairspray, whose signing was announced on Monday.
O’Brien’s next New York assignment is directing the first of this summer’s Public Theater Shakespeare in the Park productions, Much Ado About Nothing, which runs June 3 through July 6, starring Lily Rabe (American Horror Story) and Hamish Linklater (The Newsroom). And while details have not yet been confirmed, O’Brien also is expected to direct an updated revival on Broadway in the early fall of Terrence McNally‘s theater-biz comedy It’s Only a Play, reuniting Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, former co-stars of The Producers.
O’Brien’s theatrical memoir, Jack Be Nimble: The Accidental Education of an Unintentional Director, was published in June last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.