Johan Simons, born in 1946 in Heerjansdam (Netherlands), trained as a dancer at the Rotterdam Academy and as an actor at the Maastricht Theatre Academy. In 1976 he became director and actor of the Haagsche Comedie. This is where he staged his first play. In 1985 he founded the theatre group Hollandia together with the musician Paul Koek. Their repertoire focused on topics such as survival instinct and intensive life experiences, special venues were empty factory buildings, stables and churches, especially in the province of North Holland. In 2001 Hollandia merged with Zuidelijk Toneel to form ZT/Hollandia, one of the largest troops in the Netherlands. Johan Simons became artistic director. Important productions of ZT/Hollandia included De Leenane Trilogie, Bacchanten, Sentimenti, performed at the Ruhrtriennale in 2003, and the farewell production Fort Europa: Hohelied der Zersplitterung, performed at the Ruhrtriennale in 2005. In 2005, ZT/Hollandia was dissolved. Simons went as artistic director to the Belgian Publiekstheater, which he renamed NTGent and with which he set new artistic impulses. In 2009, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ghent. From 2005 to 2010 Simons directed adaptations of novels by Arnon Grünberg, Michel Houellebecq, J. M. Coetzee and Louis Paul Boon, classics by Aeschylus and Beckett and screenplays by Krzysztof Kieślowski and Billy Wilder at NTGent.

Since 2000 Johan Simons has been invited regularly as a guest director of German-speaking theatres. His Munich production of Heiner Müller's Anatomie Titus Fall of Rome was shown at the Berlin Theatertreffen in 2004. Elementarteilchen after Michel Houellebecq at the Schauspielhaus Zürich, also invited to the Theatertreffen, was awarded the Nestroy-Theaterpreis as the best German-language performance in 2004. With Kasimir and Karoline (Schauspiel Köln) he was again invited to the Theatertreffen oft he Berliner Festspiele in 2010.

From 2010 to 2015 Johan Simons was artistic director of the Münchner Kammerspiele. With his productions Gesäubert/Gier/4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane and Die Straße. Die Stadt. Der Überfall by Elfriede Jelinek, he was again invited to the Berlin Theatertreffen. In Munich he staged Winterreise by Elfriede Jelinek, E la nave va by Luchino Visconti, King Lear by William Shakespeare, Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov and Danton's death by Georg Büchner, among others. In 2013, Theater heute awarded the Münchner Kammerspiele the title of Theatre of the Year. For his production of Danton's Death, Simons received the German Theatre Prize Der Faust in 2014. In the same year he was honoured with the Berlin Theatre Prize. In 2014, Queen Máxima awards him the most important artistic prize in the Netherlands, the Prinz Bernhard Kulturfonds Preis, for his significant contributions to the theatre at home and abroad.

From 2015 to 2017 Johan Simon was artistic director of the Ruhrtriennale and returned to NTGent as an artistic consultant. In 2017, Theodor Storm (Thalia Theater Hamburg) invited his production of Der Schimmelreiter to the Berlin Theatertreffen.

Since the 2018/2019 season, Johan Simons has been the artistic director of Schauspielhaus Bochum, which was voted Theatre of the Year in 2022 by the critics of the theatre magazine Theater heute.

His production of Georg Büchner's Woyzeck (co-production Schauspielhaus Bochum and Burgtheater Wien) was awarded the Nestroy for Best Director in 2019. Simons was invited to the Berlin Theatertreffen for the 7th and 8th time with his Bochum productions of Hamlet (2020) and Macbeth (2024).

Current roles:

Past roles: