George C. Wolfe
Wolfe in 2013
George Costello Wolfe

(1954-09-23) September 23, 1954 (age 69)
EducationKentucky State University
Pomona College (BA)
New York University (MFA)
Occupation(s)playwright, director

George Costello Wolfe (born September 23, 1954) is an American playwright and director of theater and film. He won a Tony Award in 1993 for directing Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and another Tony Award in 1996 for his direction of the musical Bring in 'da Noise/Bring in 'da Funk. He served as Artistic Director of The Public Theater from 1993 until 2004.

Early life and education

Wolfe was born into an African-American family in Frankfort, Kentucky, the son of Anna (née Lindsey), an educator, and Costello Wolfe, a government clerk.[1] He attended an all-black public school (a Rosenwald school) where his mother taught. He is interviewed in the documentary film Rosenwald, discussing his time at the school. After a family move, he began attending the integrated Frankfort public schools.

Wolfe attended Frankfort High School where he began to pursue his interest in the theatre arts, and wrote poetry and prose for the school's literary journal. After high school, Wolfe enrolled at Kentucky State University, a historically black college and the alma mater of his parents. Following his first year, he transferred to Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he pursued a BA in theater. Wolfe taught for several years in Los Angeles at the Inner City Cultural Center.

He moved to the East Coast and taught in New York City. In 1983, he earned an MFA in dramatic writing and musical theater at New York University.


In 1977, Wolfe gave C. Bernard Jackson, the executive director of the Inner City Cultural Center in the Los Angeles, the first scene of a play he was working on. Rather than suggest that he finish writing it, Jackson said, "Here's some money, go do it." The name of the play was Tribal Rites, or The Coming of the Great God-bird Nabuku to the Age of Horace Lee Lizer. Wolfe stated in an article he wrote about Jackson for the Los Angeles Times that "this production was perhaps the most crucial to my evolution" as an artist.[2]

Among Wolfe's first major offerings—the musical Paradise (1985) and his play The Colored Museum (1986)--were off-Broadway productions that met with mixed reviews. In 1990, however, Wolfe won an Obie Award for a best off-Broadway director for his play Spunk, an adaptation of three stories by Zora Neale Hurston.

Wolfe gained a national reputation with his 1991 musical Jelly's Last Jam, a musical about the life of jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton. After a Los Angeles opening, the play moved to Broadway, where it received 11 Tony nominations and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical. Two years later, Wolfe directed Tony Kushner's Angels in America: Millennium Approaches to great critical acclaim, and won a Tony Award. Wolfe also directed the world premiere of the second part of Angels, entitled Perestroika, the following year.

From 1993 to 2004, Wolfe served as artistic director and producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater. In 1996 he created the musical Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, an ensemble of tap and music starring Savion Glover; the show moved to Broadway's Ambassador Theatre. His work won a second Tony Award for direction and was an enormous financial success.

In 2000, Wolfe co-wrote the book and directed the Broadway production of the musical The Wild Party.

In late 2004, Wolfe announced his intention to leave the theater for film direction, beginning with the well-received HBO film Lackawanna Blues.

Wolfe has also continued to direct plays, such as Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize-winning play Topdog/Underdog (2001), and Tony Kushner's Caroline, or Change (2003), a through-composed musical. In the summer of 2006, Wolfe directed a new translation of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children at the time Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Austin Pendleton.

Wolfe directed the film Nights in Rodanthe, starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane, which opened in theaters in September 2008.

Wolfe is bringing his artistic talent to the design of the upcoming Center for Civil & Human Rights in Atlanta as its new chief creative officer.

In 2013, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[3]

In August 2017, Wolfe was the only one of the 17 private members of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities who did not sign on to a letter of mass resignation in the wake of Donald Trump's remarks on the Unite the Right rally incident in Charlottesville, Virginia. However, his representatives stated that he, too, would be resigning and would add his name to the letter.[4]

Wolfe directed a Broadway revival of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh in 2018, with Denzel Washington starring as Hickey. The production played at the Jacobs Theatre for 14 weeks and began regular performances April 26.[5]

Wolfe is openly gay.[6] In 2022, he was featured in the book 50 Key Figures in Queer US Theatre, with a profile written by theatre scholar Charles I. Nero.[7]



Year Title Credit Venue
1986 The Colored Museum Writer Crossroads Theatre
1992 Jelly's Last Jam Director, writer (book) Virginia Theatre
1993 Angels in America: Millennium Approaches Director, producer Walter Kerr Theatre
1993 Angels in America: Perestroika Director, producer Walter Kerr Theatre
1994 Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 Director, producer Cort Theatre
1995 The Tempest Director, producer Broadhurst Theatre
1996 Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk Director, producer, lyrics, concept Ambassador Theatre
1998 Golden Child Producer Longacre Theatre
1998 On the Town Director, producer George Gershwin Theatre
2000 The Ride Down Mt. Morgan Producer Ambassador Theatre
2000 The Wild Party Director, producer, writer (book) Virginia Theatre
2002 Elaine Stritch At Liberty Director, producer Neil Simon Theatre
2002 Topdog / Underdog Director, producer Ambassador Theatre
2003 Take Me Out Producer Walter Kerr Theatre
2004 Caroline, or Change Director, producer Eugene O'Neill Theatre
2006 Mother Courage and Her Children Director Delacorte Theatre in Central Park
2011 The Normal Heart Director John Golden Theatre
2013 Lucky Guy Director Broadhurst Theatre
2016 Shuffle Along Director, writer (book) Music Box Theatre
2018 The Iceman Cometh Director Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
2019 Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus Director Booth Theatre


Year Title Credit Role
1989 Trying Times Writer (1 episode)
1993 Fires in the Mirror Director
1994 Fresh Kill Actor Othello Yellow
2004 Garden State Actor Restaurant Manager
2005 Lackawanna Blues Director
2006 The Devil Wears Prada Actor Paul
2008 Nights in Rodanthe Director
2014 You're Not You Director
2017 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Director, writer
2019 She's Gotta Have It Actor Himself
2020 Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Director
2023 Rustin Director, producer

Awards and nominations

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by George C. Wolfe


  1. ^ "George C. Wolfe Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-28.
  2. ^ Wolfe, George C. (1996-07-22). "Recalling C. Bernard Jackson's Gift". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
  3. ^ "Cherry Jones, Ellen Burstyn, Cameron Mackintosh and More Inducted Into Broadway's Theater Hall of Fame". 27 January 2014.
  4. ^ "Citing Trump remarks, most of president's arts council quits". WJLA. AP. August 18, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  5. ^ Haigney, Sophie (2017-08-21). "Denzel Washington to Star in 'Iceman Cometh' on Broadway". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-09-07.
  6. ^ Anne Stockwell (1 February 2005). "Wolfe's New Direction". The Advocate. Archived from the original on 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2008-05-28.
  7. ^ Nero, Charles I. (2022). "George C. Wolfe". In Noriega and Schildcrout (ed.). 50 Key Figures in Queer US Theatre. Routledge. pp. 238–241. ISBN 978-1032067964.