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Published May 25, 2017
University of Wyoming alumnus Pete Simpson Jr. is the recipient of an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Performance, co-presented by the Village Voice and the American Theatre Wing. He received the award May 22 at the 62nd Annual Obie Awards in New York City.
Grandson of former Wyoming Gov. Milward Simpson -- and a son of Peter Koi and Lynne Simpson, who started their own theatrical company, Spontaneous Theatre Productions, in the early 1970s -- Simpson began his performance career by participating in the Casper Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps as a drummer for eight years.
During his time at the UW Department of Theatre and Dance, Simpson was a veteran of the UW stage, appearing in such productions as “Romeo and Juliet,” “West Side Story,” “Boys Next Door” and “Eleven Zulu.” He returned to UW in 2010 as a guest artist to take on the titular role in “Hamlet,” opposite his father, who played the ghost of Hamlet’s father.
The Obie Awards were created in 1955 by Jerry Tallmer of the Village Voice to salute excellence in off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway theater. Since its inception, the Obies have been purposely structured with informal categories to recognize persons and productions worthy of distinction in each theater season.
After completing a degree in English and theater at UW, Simpson earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting from the Denver Center Theatre Company’s National Theatre Conservatory in 1996. After graduation, Simpson was hired in the Blue Man Group, an avant-garde-based ensemble that has grown to become a national and international sensation since its New York debut in 1991.
Simpson has performed, trained, directed or organized for Blue Man Group productions in Boston, New York, Chicago, Amsterdam and the German companies in Oberhausen, Berlin and Stuttgart. He has appeared with Blue Man on several television programs at home and abroad, and has toured with the company internationally with such artists as David Bowie, Moby and Alicia Keyes.
Simpson is a veteran theater performer on both the New York and regional theater scenes. He has worked with other “downtown” theater artists, performing in such roles as Francis Parkman in Richard Maxwell’s “Cowboys and Indians”; Tommy Tuttle in Richard Foreman’s European tour of “Paradise Hotel”; and Ned Ludd in the Wooster Group’s production of “North Atlantic,” opposite actor Willem Dafoe.
More recently, Simpson has appeared in Young Jean Lee’s “Straight White Men” and Julia Jarcho’s “Grimly Handsome” and “The Terrifying.” He also has appeared in several productions with the Denver Center Theatre Company and the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Simpson also has appeared on television in “Law & Order” and “Conan O’Brien” and, this spring, starred as President Lincoln in “Lincoln in the Bardo,” the New York Times’ virtual reality film based on George Saunders’ novel of the same name.
He is married to Israeli-American costume designer, Naama Greenfield-Simpson, who is the daughter of notable Israeli painter Yitzhak Greenfield. The Simpsons have two children.