Skip to Main Content

Staff Directory

William Pullinsi

Artistic Director Emeritus

WILLIAM PULLINSI was the Founder and Artistic Director of Candlelight Playhouse, America's first Dinner Theater which opened in Washington, D.C. in 1959 and Summit, IL in 1961. He is widely credited with introducing theater to hundreds of thousands of patrons who might not have otherwise attended live theatrical productions. Pullinsi is recognized as a master director amongst theater professionals internationally and nationally for staging the American musical.

He joined Theatre at the Center in 2005 as Artistic Director until 2015, when he began his new role as Artistic Director Emeritus. He has directed and/or produced more than 400 shows in his career receiving 18 Jeff Awards. Bill produced numerous shows that became part of Chicago's rich theatrical history due to their record breaking multi year-runs including Fiddler on the Roof; Man of LaMancha and Little Shop of Horrors, which transferred to the Royal George Theatre. Bill is long known for his high production values and creative staging.

Highlights of his career include purchasing the Broadway set of Company from Hal Prince; the off Broadway plants for Little Shop of Horrors; and the Tony Award winning costumes from NINE. Not one to rest on commercial hits alone, Pullinsi opened the Forum Theatre in 1970 to present deeper and more thought provoking theater including The National Health, Robert and Elizabeth, and the World Premiere of Boss. Additionally, at Candlelight, he took chances on musicals that were considered to be artistic or commercial flops that he made major successes in the Chicagoland area including Follies, Song & Dance, and Rags.

Shows for which he received awards for both Best Production and Best Direction include: Follies, Into the Woods, Phantom, Little Shop of Horrors, Nine, The National Health and Man of LaMancha. He directed Into the Woods at Marriott's Lincolnshire Theatre; and the long run of Over the Tavern at Northlight Theatre and the Mercury Theatre. He served as Associate Producer of Trying, a new play off Broadway in New York. Pullinsi received his B.F.A. from Boston Conservatory, did graduate work at the Goodman School and received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from Lewis University. He was named a Distinguished Artist in the Theatre by the Chicago Academy of Arts and also by the Chicago Drama League.

In 1989, Pullinsi became the first American director to stage a musical in Russia with a Soviet cast and crew. He directed Man of La Mancha during a five week visit to the Drama Theatre of Turgenev in Orel (south of Moscow). Pullinsi is a lifelong member of Actors Equity Association and a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

Back to Staff Directory