Director, designer and playwright ROGER BENINGTON was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He holds an MFA in Theatre Directing from the University of Utah and was awarded The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Young Artist Fellowship to study directing at The Juilliard School with JoAnne Akalaitis, Michael Kahn, and Garland Wright. Benington was a recipient of the NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Directors (03-05).
Over the past years, playwriting has become Roger’s main focus. He is currently working on a play set in Apartheid South Africa circa 1965. His first South African play, The Bear’s Fur Coat, dramatized in epic fashion his experience as a gay conscript in the South African Army. His play “the pangs” set in Tooele, Utah–about a Mormon mother’s conversion to Islam after she meets a young illegal immigrant from Libya–was a semi-finalist in the 2020 PlayPenn Conference. In October, 2017, Canal Cafe Theatre in London selected Benington’s script PSYCHOPOMP for inclusion in their “American Season,” giving the play its world premiere. In 2015, he wrote, produced, directed and designed THE MORMON BIRD PLAY at The New York International Fringe Festival. It had previously been seen in Seattle, in a co-production with Washington Ensemble Theatre. This play was developed over a seven-month period through weekly collaboration with six New York actors. In response to this play and the body of work that he had created as a director in Seattle over several years, one local critic described Benington as “a major theatrical talent.”
In 2012 Benington’s work as a designer and director was seen at The Seattle Art Museum, in an art installation/opera titled O(PA)PERA written by Byron Au Yong, and at The Stella Adler Studio of Acting (NYC) . In 2011, his staging and design of Glenn Berger’s O Lovely Glowworm for New Century Theatre Company in Seattle garnered rave reviews, and earned him two Gregory Award nominations for Outstanding Direction and Design. The Mormon Bird Play, which Benington wrote, directed, designed and co-produced with Washington Ensemble Theatre.
Other projects include the creation and direction of Cabaret de Curiosités for the Seattle Erotic Art Festival, the American premiere of Shine, A Burlesque Musical!, which played at Theatre Off-Jackson and the New York International Fringe Festival and the premiere of Tommy Smith’s Sextet for Washington Ensemble Theatre.
Past directing projects in NYC include Strindberg’s The Pelican at Classic Stage Company and an ensemble created play titled Diviners for the Lincoln Center Theatre’s Director’s Lab. In Salt Lake City, where he founded and served as the Artistic Director of Tooth & Nail Theatre for 9 years, Benington’s directing credits include Ibsen’s Little Eyolf, Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries, his own adaptation of Arabian Nights, Crave by Sarah Kane, Becky Mode’s Fully Committed, Ferdinand Bruckner’s The Pains of Youth, and two seasons of Project Fabulocity!, an original play by and about Queer youth in Salt Lake City. Benington’s extravaganza Shhh! Burlesque! brought burlesque luminaries Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas Muse, and World Famous *BOB* to Utah to perform alongside Burlesque Legend, Dee Milo.
For Sundance Children’s Theatre, he directed productions of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Little Prince, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which he was also commissioned to adapt. As both director and playwright, Benington developed his adaptation of Paul Monette’s novella Sanctuary at the 1998 Sundance Theatre Laboratory.
Regional productions include God’s Ear by Jenny Schwartz, Sarah Kane’s Crave and Daniel McIvor’s Never Swim Alone, all at at Washington Ensemble Theatre in Seattle, Doug Wright’s Pulitzer Prize winning play I Am My Own Wife at Madison Rep., and Guillem Clua’s Skin In Flames for Salt Lake Acting Company. Benington has staged productions with students at Bard College, The University of Rochester International Theatre Program, Cornish College and regularly directs at The Stellar Adler Studio of Acting in New York.
Original plays for children include The Dark Shadow, Ivona & the Voice Within, and The Secret in the Shoebox. His play Timocina & the Crocodiles was selected by The Drama League for development in their New Directors/New Works project. Among numerous grants awarded Benington for his work in theatre are a Jim Henson Foundation grant, two Arts Grants from the Salt Lake City Arts Council and four Individual Artist Grants from the Utah Arts Council.