NEW YORK – Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF), the not-for-profit foundation of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), announces that Lisa Portes is the recipient of the 2016 Zelda Fichandler Award, which recognizes an outstanding director or choreographer who is transforming the regional arts landscape through singular creativity and artistry in the theatre. The award heralds accomplishment to date and promise for the future, artistic vision, and deep commitment to a region outside of New York. It carries an unrestricted grant of $5,000 to the individual recipient.
The award will be presented to Ms. Portes by Steppenwolf Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro on Sunday, October 30, at 7:30pm at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St. in Chicago.
A review committee selected Ms. Portes from nominees living and working in the Central region of the United States. Selection Committee Chairperson Casey Stangl said, “With the recent passing of the legendary Zelda Fichandler, it was especially moving to serve on this year’s selection committee for the award that bears her name. The committee was presented with 38 outstanding nominees, demonstrating the breadth and depth of directors and choreographers in the Central Region – artistic directors, freelancers, and educators making impactful work in communities ranging from large cities to rural towns.” Portes’ selection as the 2016 recipient represents a milestone in the Award’s history. SDCF Chair Sheldon Epps stated, “For the first time, the selection committee chose to honor a freelance director to receive this prestigious award. Lisa Portes, in her work as a director, educator and advocate, is breaking new ground and expanding the narrative of what American Theater can be, just as Zelda did in her long career.”
“I am deeply honored to receive the 2016 Fichandler Award for the Central Region,” says Portes. “Ms. Fichandler – a woman artist, producer, and leader dedicated to changing the very nature of the American Theatre – has long been an inspiration to me. In everything I do, I seek to build in some small way upon the work she began in Washington, D.C in 1950 – to break ground, make room, and expand our understanding of what the American Theatre can be.”
The Committee also selected two finalists: Aimée Hayes (New Orleans, LA), Producing Artistic Director of Southern Rep dedicated to new play development and former chair of the TCG Governance Committee and Eric Rosen (Kansas City, MO), Artistic Director of Kansas City Repertory Theatre, and TCG Board Member.
This year’s Fichandler Selection Committee was chaired by Casey Stangl and included Kimberly Faith Hickman, Aditi Kapil, KJ Sanchez, and Roche Schulfer.
SDC Foundation Chair, Sheldon Epps remarks, “The Foundation thanks the Fichandler Selection Committee for their rigor and generosity.”
In establishing this award named after Zelda Fichandler, a founder of the American regional theatre movement, SDCF recognizes the profound impact of the founders of regional theatre and honors their legacy. This award is given annually within rotating regions of the U.S. The Fichandler Award serves as a complement to the “Mr. Abbott” Award presented in recognition of lifetime achievement in theatre and the Joe A. Callaway Award for excellence in direction and choreography in New York City.
Lisa Portes is a Chicago-based director, educator and producer dedicated to expanding the circle of Americans reflected on our stages. She heads the MFA Directing Program at The Theatre School at DePaul University and serves as Artistic Director of Chicago Playworks for Young Audiences. A co-founder of the Latina/o Theatre Commons (LTC), Lisa served as artistic producer of the LTC Carnaval 2015, a festival of new Latina/o plays. Her work has been seen in Chicago at Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, American Blues Theatre, Silk Road Rising, Next Theatre and Teatro Vista; regionally at Cincinnati Playhouse, Guthrie Theatre, South Coast Rep, and the Kennedy Center; and in New York at Playwrights Horizons, Soho Rep, New York Theatre Workshop, and the Public Theatre. Lisa is an alum of the inaugural SPARK Leadership program supported by American Express and the Joyce Foundation, and administered by TCG. She is a past recipient of the NEA/TCG Career Development grant for Directors, as well as an alum of the Drama League Directing Fellowship program, and a current member of the TCG Board. Recent projects include the world premieres of This Is Modern Art by Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval (Steppenwolf Theatre) and TRANSit by Darren Canady (American Blues Theatre), as well as the Cincinnati premiere of Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar (Cincinnati Playhouse). She lives in Chicago with her husband, playwright Carlos Murillo and their two children, Eva Rose and Carlos Alejandro.
Zelda Fichandler dedicated her early career to the establishment of America’s regional theatre movement. In 1950 she founded Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage and in 1968 she produced The Great White Hope, which became the first production to transfer from a regional theatre to Broadway, winning the Tony and the Pulitzer Prize, and launching the careers of James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander. Her production of Inherit the Wind toured Soviet St. Petersburg and Moscow and Arena Stage was the first American theatre company sponsored by the State Department to do so. Like many other regional theatres afterward, Arena Stage cultivated an evolving but resident company over the decades that included some of America’s best actors: Robert Prosky, Frances Sternhagen, George Grizzard, Philip Bosco, Ned Beatty, Roy Scheider, Robert Foxworth, Jane Alexander, James Earl Jones, Melinda Dillon, Dianne Wiest, Max Wright, Marilyn Caskey, Harriet Harris, and Tom Hewitt. In 1975 it was the first regional theatre to be recognized by the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League with the Regional Theatre Tony Award for outstanding achievement. When Ms. Fichandler retired as producing artistic director of Arena Stage in 1990, she had achieved the longest tenure of any non-commercial producer in the annals of the American theater. Ms. Fichandler was Chair Emeritus of New York University’s acclaimed graduate acting program where she personally taught, guided, and inspired more than 500 acting students, including Marcia Gay Harden, Rainn Wilson, Billy Crudup, Debra Messing, Peter Krause, and Michael C. Hall. She has received the George Abbott Award, The Acting Company’s John Houseman Award, the Margo Jones Award, and the National Medal of Arts, and in 1999 she became the first artistic leader outside of New York to be inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. Zelda Fichandler passed away July 29, 2016, at the age of 91. She was a trailblazer who transformed American theatre through her vision, artistry and mentorship.
About SDC FOUNDATION
For 50 years, Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation has developed and promoted the creativity and craft of directors and choreographers. SDCF’s mission is to create access to the field, to connect artists, and to honor the theatrical legacy of these artists. The centrality of the director’s role in theatre and the impact that they have on other artists’ careers—from playwrights to designers to actors—makes SDCFs services essential to the theatre industry’s health and continued vitality.
Through mentorship programs, community forums and public events, SDCF constructs paths for early-career directors and choreographers from all backgrounds to interact with established artists around the country; puts mid-career artists in the room together to debate and solve issues they face in the business; and reaches beyond the theater industry to tell the story of what directors and choreographers contribute to the art form. In a discipline that can often feel isolating, SDCF serves the needs of artists at all stages, building a cross-generational theatre community. www.sdcfoundation.org