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School of Drama Welcomes New Director!

NORMAN, OKLA. – Costume designer and drama professor Yuanting Zhao has been named the new director of the Helmerich School of Drama in the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma. 

A native of Jinan, China, Zhao comes to OU after previously serving as chair of the Nazareth University Theatre and Dance Department in Rochester, New York. She joined the Nazareth faculty in 1996 as assistant professor and costume designer and earned associate and full professor titles before moving into the department chair role in 2013. 

As a passionate educator, Zhao has taught costume design, costume construction, makeup and acting at the collegiate level.

“After 27 years at Nazareth University, I am thrilled to join the Helmerich School of Drama and become a Sooner,” Zhao said. “I am committed to working alongside the faculty, staff and students to propel our school forward, building on the already excellent acting, design, dramaturgy and stage management programs OU is known for. Our students show such great enthusiasm for learning, and I look forward to helping facilitate incredible opportunities for them.”

During her time as chair at Nazareth, Zhao launched several new majors and helped build the existing programs through innovative partnerships. One such partnership was with the REV Theatre Company which brings professional guest artists to Nazareth as well as opportunities for students to perform at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse/Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival. 

Zhao also helped increase the number of artists and agents based in New York City coming to Nazareth’s campus to direct and design productions and conduct master classes and workshops, fostering relationships and networking that benefitted students upon graduation. 

“We are delighted to welcome Professor Zhao to the leadership team of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts and to the position of director of the Helmerich School of Drama,” said Mary Margaret Holt, dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts. “As one of the oldest and most established schools of drama in the country, it is uniquely poised to continue to expand its excellence in all programs with the added benefit of Zhao’s significant experience and expertise in program development, partnership development and outreach.” 

As a costume designer, Zhao has designed more than 90 collegiate productions, ranging from plays and musicals to dance performances. Professionally, she has designed costumes for Rochester City Ballet’s original production of “Blood Countess” and “Nine Parts of Desire” for Geva Theatre Center. 

Zhao received her master of fine arts degree in costume design from the University of Arizona and bachelor of fine arts degree in acting from Shandong University of Art in Jinan, Shandong, China.

Long before the University of Oklahoma was established, the land on which the University now resides was the traditional home of the “Hasinais” Caddo Nation and “Kirikirʔi:s” Wichita & Affiliated Tribes.

We acknowledge this territory once also served as a hunting ground, trade exchange point, and migration route for the Apache, Comanche, Kiowa and Osage nations. 

Today, 39 tribal nations dwell in the state of Oklahoma as a result of settler and colonial policies that were designed to assimilate Native people.

The University of Oklahoma recognizes the historical connection our university has with its indigenous community. We acknowledge, honor and respect the diverse Indigenous peoples connected to this land. We fully recognize, support and advocate for the sovereign rights of all of Oklahoma’s 39 tribal nations. This acknowledgement is aligned with our university’s core value of creating a diverse and inclusive community. It is an institutional responsibility to recognize and acknowledge the people, culture and history that make up our entire OU Community.