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Thursday, 15 October 2009 19:56

Stage Directors & Choreographers Society Establishes Zelda Fichandler Award



Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF), the not-for-profit foundation of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), announces the establishment of The Zelda Fichandler Award to recognize an outstanding director or choreographer who is making a unique and exceptional contribution through his or her work in regional theatre.

Named after Zelda Fichandler, one of the founders of the American regional theatre movement, the Award, which is being established as part of SDC’s 50th anniversary season, celebrates prominent achievement in the field, singular creativity and artistry, and a deep investment in a particular place outside New York.

By establishing this Award, SDCF recognizes the profound impact of the founders of regional theatre and honors their legacy.  SDCF will award extraordinary individuals who are building upon this legacy by continuing to transform theatre.  Founding Artistic Director of Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage, Zelda Fichandler stands at the forefront of this movement of visionaries who dedicated themselves and their artistry to communities across the country beginning over 50 years ago.

“Zelda’s vision, aesthetic, and rigor have brought seminal works to the stage; her influence has profoundly shaped the careers of actors, designers, writers, and fellow directors; her leadership has informed cultural policy; and her tenacity and spirit have brought strength to the ecosystem that is the foundation of the American theatre today,” says Laura Penn, Executive Director of SDC.  “Her courage and that of her fellow founders resulted in the establishment of theatres in communities across the United States that still today illuminate our nation’s cultural life,” she continued.

Karen Azenberg, President of SDC and SDCF, says, “Zelda Fichandler and the founders of the regional theatre movement have left an indelible mark on the national arts landscape.  This Award will recognize directors and choreographers who are making a deep and extraordinary contribution to the region in which they live and practice by cultivating a distinct regional perspective while creating a significant body of work.  With this Award SDCF will increase the visibility of great theatre being created across the United States, outside of New York, and strengthen our connection to SDC Members throughout the country.”

The Zelda Fichandler Award is SDCF’s first award devoted to regional theatre, where the majority of professional theatre directors and choreographers in the United States now work.  The Award will serve as a complement to the “Mr. Abbott” Award, presented annually in New York to recognize lifetime achievement, and the Joe A. Callaway Award, given for excellence in direction and choreography in non-Broadway productions in New York.  The three awards are the only awards given to theatre directors and choreographers by their peers.

The Award will be given regionally on a rotating basis.  This year it will be awarded to a director or choreographer who has made and who continues to make a significant contribution to theatre in the Western region (which comprises Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming).  In subsequent years the Award will honor achievement in three other designated regions: Central, Eastern, and Southern.

Each year, a committee will select The Zelda Fichandler Award Recipient from artists nominated from that year’s selected region.  Nominations will be accepted from all sources through November 2, 2009.  Nominators need not be SDC Members.  A short nomination form is available at (see Fichandler Award under Foundation).  The Award will be presented in Los Angeles on December 6, 2009.

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 is 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.

Stage Directors and Choreographers Society is a national theatrical labor union whose mission is to foster a national community of professional stage Directors and Choreographers by protecting the rights, health and livelihoods of all of its members; to facilitate the exchange of ideas, information and opportunities, while educating the current and future generations about the role of Directors and Choreographers and providing effective administration, negotiations and contractual support.

Founded in 1965, Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation exists to foster, promote and develop the creativity and craft of stage directors and choreographers.  SDCF’s goals are to provide opportunities to practice the crafts of directing and choreography; to gather and disseminate craft and career information; to promote the profession to emerging talent; to provide opportunities for exchange of knowledge among directors and choreographers; and to increase the awareness of the value of directors’ and choreographers’ work.


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