To honor the memory of member Josephine Abady, the League of Professional Theatre Women presents an annual award to an emerging director, producer, or creative director of a work of cultural diversity who has worked in the professional theater for at least five years.
Recent award recipients include:
Emily Joy Weiner
Emily Joy Weiner is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Houses on the Moon Theater Company, founded in 2001 with the mission of telling untold stories in the interest of social justice. For the last many years, she has been creating, developing, performing, producing and directing new works with Houses that address the complex and sensitive issues of our time in partnership with community organizations and a talented company of artists. She most recently performed in and guided the company through its production of DE NOVO as part of the inaugural season of Next Door at New York Theatre Workshop. In the spring of 2017 Emily co-developed and directed the world premiere of THE ASSIGNMENT at the ART/New York Gural Theatre. Emily is also a teaching artist and has been facilitating creative workshops in the NYC public schools for the past 20 years, specializing in programs with teenagers going through the criminal justice system
LILEANA BLAIN-CRUZ (DIRECTOR) Recent projects include Suzan Lori-Parks’ The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (Signature Theater), a devised production of SALOME (LMCC on Governor’s Island, Jack)Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins War (LCT3, Yale Rep), Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again (Soho Rep), Lucas Hnath’s Red Speedo (New York Theater Workshop), Much Ado About Nothing ( Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Christina Anderson’s Hollow Roots (Under the Radar Festival at The Public Theater); a new translation of The Bakkhai ( Fisher Center of Performing Arts at Bard College); A Guide to Kinship and Maybe Magic, a collaboration with Jacobs-Jenkins and choreographer Isabel Lewis (Dance New Amsterdam). MFA Yale School of Drama. Upcoming projects include Henry IV Part 1 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Bluest Eye at the Guthrie, and Dominique Morrisseau’s Pipeline at Lincoln Center.
Lear deBessonet is the founder and artistic director of Stillpoint Productions. Her many New York directing/devising credits include Lucy Thurber’s Monstrosity (13P), Brecht’s Saint Joan of the Stockyards (PS122), transFigures (a site-specific work at Calvary Church in 2003, produced Off-Broadway by Women’s Project in 2007), Bone Portraits (Walkerspace), Death Might Be Your Santa Claus (a site-specific work performed at an abandoned bank next to the NY Stock Exchange), Flying on the Wing (NY Fringe, Outstanding Solo Show), The Eliots (Center Stage), The Female Terrorist Project (HERE Arts Center). Regional: When I Was a Ghost (Guthrie Dowling Studio), A Year with Frog and Toad (Dorset Theatre Festival), Equus (Hangar Theatre), Naomi Iizuka’s adaptation of The Scarlet Letter (Intiman). For NYU: Fefu and Her Friends, L’Histoire du Canard, Bite Your Tongue. Internationally, Lear directed In the Dark Ages, a new tri-lingual musical for the National Opera Theatre of Kazakhstan. Lear directed On the Levee, produced by Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3. She has assisted Martha Clarke, Anne Bogart, and Marianne Weems, and has trained with DAH Theater of Yugoslavia. She is an alumnus of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, the Women’s Project Directors Lab, a Drama League Directing Fellow, and a Jefferson Scholar. Lear is the recipient of the LMCC’s Presidential Award for Artistic Excellence and was featured in Time Out New York’s “25 People to Watch 2006.”
Lear deBessonet conceived and directed On the Levee, a Yale Rep commission.
Sandra A. Daley-Sharif
Sandra A. Daley-Sharif is a theatre veteran. She recently received an honorable mention for her play Katrina and Sandy for the EstroGenius Festival, and was named a 2013 NYFA Fellowship Finalist for Playwriting. She has earned her merits over twenty years in the arts as a professional actress, director, playwright, dramaturg, and producer. She is the Producing Artistic Director of Liberation Theatre Company, home to emerging Black playwrights. She facilitates Black Playwrights’ Group, and is founder/member of HARLEM9, an alliance of black theatre producers. HARLEM9 is a 2014 Obie Award winner for their annual sold-out production 48 Hours in Harlem.
Sandra is a member of Abingdon’s Theatre Company’s Playwriting Group, where she completed several full length and 10-minute plays. She is currently a member of NewShoe Theatre, a playwright-director organization that supports work and careers and encourages collaborations among women directors & playwrights. She is also a member New Perspectives Theater’s Women’s Work Project where her one-act Jake was produced in August 2012 and where she is now working on her full-length playLes Freres, inspired by Lorainne Hansberry’s Les Blancs.
MEIYIN WANG is the Director of the Devised Theater initiative and the Co-Director of the Under the Radar Festival at The Public Theater. She has been at The Public since 2006, where she held various positions, including Associate Artistic Producer of Under the Radar, which presents new and cutting-edge theatrical work from the U.S. and abroad. Working alongside Festival Co-Director Mark Russell, she has produced seven international symposiums, overseen the presentation of over a hundred productions from over 15 countries, and supported artists and companies such as Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Reggie Watts, Elevator Repair Service, and Young Jean Lee. She was the lead curator of ArtsEmerson’s TNT Festival 2013, and was an associate producer of Radar L.A. 2011. She has served on numerous local and national arts panels including Association of Performing Arts Presenters, National Endowment for the Arts,Jerome Foundation, Yale, NYFA, MAP Fund and Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. She is a recipient of the Theatre Communications Group’s Nathan Cummings Foundation Young Leader of Color award and is part of the TCG network of inter-generational leaders of color. Born and raised in Singapore, Meiyin served as resident playwright and director with Singapore Repertory Theatre before moving to New York. As a theater-maker she has directed at venues including Singapore Repertory Theater, HERE, ClassicStage, Berkeley Rep, Long Beach Opera, Joe’s Pub, and a MAPFund recipient. She studied Political Science and Theater Studies at Yale and holds an M.F.A inDirecting from Columbia University.
Stephanie Ybarra, an avid fan of her hometown San Antonio Spurs basketball team, still owns – and often wears – a pair of cowboy boots. With almost 15 years of experience under her belt (which matches her boots), Stephanie is currently putting her producing skills to work as Artistic Associate at The Public Theater. When she is not line producing projects such as the Mobile Shakespeare Unit and Public Forum at The Public, she serves as the Program Director for the Cherry Lane’s Mentor Project (and can’t imagine spending her “spare time” any other way). Prior to The Public, Stephanie spent three years up to one ear in scripts and the other ear in spreadsheets as Producing Director of The Playwrights Realm, where she produced early-career playwrights like Anna Ziegler, Jen Silverman, and Gonzalo Rodriguez Risco. She made her New York producing debut in 2007 with the original production of Tarell McCraney’s The Brothers Size at the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival (directed by Tea Alagic), for which she received the inaugural Producer’s Chair Award from the Foundry Theater. Since then she has produced at HERE Arts Center, Women’s Project, Ars Nova’s A.N.T Fest, Studio 42, and INTAR.
Stephanie started in her native Texas, working in Marketing and Development for Dallas Theater Center and Dallas Children’s Theater, and then spent time in Boston as the Deputy Director of Operations for Citizen Schools. Roles such as Associate Managing Director of New Play Production at Yale Repertory Theatre, Executive Producer of Summer Cabaret 2007 and Interim General Manager for Two River Theater Company round out her tri-state credits. Stephanie is a member of the LXP Producing Collective, an alumni of the Women’s Project 2010-2012 Producer’s Lab, and serves on the board of the Yale Latino Alumni Association. She holds a BFA from Baylor University, an MFA from Yale School of Drama, and a deep belief in the power of the post-it note.
Nicole A. Watson
Nicole A. Watson is a freelance director and educator. A former history teacher, she recently directed the 52nd Street Project Teen Ensemble in a production of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, which toured to the University of Calgary and the Banff Performing Arts Center. Nicole received a BA in History from Yale and an MA in interdisciplinary studies from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Favorite accomplishments include designing and teaching an interdisciplinary history and playwriting course for high school students at the Museum of the City of New York, directing Derek Walcott’s Ti-Jean and His Brothers and running the 2010 NYC Marathon.
Kamilah Forbes is the Apollo‘s new Executive Producer. A director, producer, and cofounder of Hi-ARTS/Hip Hop Theater Festival. Forbes‘ diverse body of work includes leadership roles in the nonprofit and commercial fields, developing presentations engaging artists from around the globe. Notable credits include What’s Going On, a partnership with the Kennedy Center on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Marvin Gaye‘s seminal album; One Mic: Hip Hop Culture Worldwide, a month-long festival that brought together more than 75 artists for a range of performances and education programs; serving as associate director of the recent Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun; and as producer for seven seasons of HBO‘s DEF Poetry Jam as well as the recent live television event The Wiz. Throughout her career, Forbes has also spearheaded innovative audience engagement initiatives utilizing traditional and digital platforms, engaging a breadth of audiences with creative works across disciplines.
Tamilla Woodard is a theatre director who works both nationally and internationally. She is co-founder of PopUp Theatrics, a partnership creating site impacting theatrical events around the world and in collaboration with international theatre artists. Currently, she is serving as the Artistic Director of The Five Boroughs/One City Project, a multi year initiative of The Working Theater. The project will support the commissioning and development of 5 Playwright/Director teams working in collaborations and creating theatrical works in response to working class communities in all 5 boroughs.
She is a current Time Warner Directing Fellow at the Women’s Project Theater Lab, a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop, alumnus of The Lincoln Center Directors Lab and artistic affiliate with New Georges. She graduated from The Yale School of Drama’s Acting program and is the recipient of The Charles Bowden Award from New Dramatists and The Josephine Abady Award from The League of Professional Theatre Women. Her work has been presented and developed at the Working Theater, NYTW, New Georges, HERE, The Lark, The Actors Theatre of Louisville, PS122, DR 2, The Culture Project, Urban Stages, Dance Theatre Workshop, The Kitchen Theatre and for festivals and theater’s around the US and Internationally. She has also directed, taught and facilitated workshops at Colleges and Universities around the country, notably: New York University Tisch Graduate Acting, Suny-Purchase, Pace University, Fordham University, University of Connecticut, Webster Conservatory of Theatre and Queens College.
Gisela Cardenas is a Peruvian born director living in NYC who has trained theater professionals and directed in the UK, Sao Paulo, Germany, Peru, Uk, Romania, The Netherlands, Norway and USA. In New York City she has directed plays and musicals in Off and Off-Off Broadway. Awards and Memberships: Princes Grace Theater Fellowship (2007), 2008 Phil Killian Directing Fellow (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), 2008-10 Women’s Project Director’s Lab, recipient of the 2008 Josephine Abady Award (League of Professional Theatre Women), recipient of the TCG/ NEA 2009/2011 Career Development Program for Directors and member of the Society Directors and Choreographers Foundation.
She has an MA in performance studies (New York University) and an MFA in directing (Columbia University). Past credits: Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Riverside Church Theater), Garcia Lorca’s Don Perlimplin (Repertorio EspaÃ±ol); Aeschylus Agamemnon (Drama Desk Nomination 2006/Directing); Antigone adapted by Jose Watanabe (Sibiu International Theater Festival, Romania), New York Revival of Kander & Ebb’s Kiss of The Spider Woman (Vortex Theater Company); HotInk Festival 2008-2009; Part 1 of An Oresteia (Classic Stage Company), Euripides’ Medeain Lima, Peru (2010), Brecht’s In The Jungle of The Cities, Richard III in Norway, Sir Arnold Wesler’s The Kitchen, Richard III for the Portland Experimental Theater Ensemble, a version of Elektra/Orestes and Oedipus, El Rey for ACT in Seattle, Fassbinder Katzelmaher. Upcoming: Peter Asmussen’s Nobody Meets Anybody in Sao Paulo, Ibsen’s The Enemy of the People. Currently Gisela is developing two devised theater plays with Playwright David Koteles about organ transplantation and a second devised play based on Bizet’s Opera, Carmen.
Maria Goyanes was recently named the Associate Producer of The Public Theater. Previously she was the theater’s Director of Special Projects where she worked on the development and cultivation of new plays and initiatives that support the work of a wide range of artists. She helped launch the theater’s successful Public LAB, a series now in its fourth year that brings productions in development to audiences for only $10, working with Adrienne Kennedy, the Civilians, Naomi Wallace, Suzan- Lori Parks, Roger Guenveur Smith, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, and many others. Both The Good Negro by Tracey Scott Wilson and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson by Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman transferred to The Public’s mainstage subscription season after successful runs in Public LAB. She spearheaded the Suzan-Lori Parks’ yearlong “365 Days/365 Plays” festival for New York City, working with 70 theater companies and over a thousand artists. She is also the Executive Producer of the OBIE Award-winning 13P (13 Playwrights, Inc.), a 13 play project founded with a collective of writers that includes Sarah Ruhl, Young Jean Lee, Anne Washburn, Lucy Thurber, and Sheila Callaghan. She is the recipient of the Josephine Abady Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women and was previously the Associate Producer at Trinity Repertory Company under Oskar Eustis. –
Deborah Ann Byrd
Debra Ann Byrd is the Founder, Chief Executive and Producing Artistic Director of Take Wing And Soar Productions, Inc., a women-led, NYS 501(c)(3), Theatre Arts Corporation. As an actor, producer, arts manager, and business leader, Debra Ann has received more than 20 awards and citations. She was recently appointed, by Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, to the Manhattan Community Board, was selected for inclusion in the 25 th Silver Anniversary Edition of Who?s Who of American Women and is the recipient of the LPTW?s 2006 Josephine Abady Award. This award winning theatre professional received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Acting from Marymount Manhattan College. She recently completed studies at The Commercial Theatre Institute and The Arts Leadership Institute, a unique Leadership Training Program for Arts Managers, at Teachers College- Columbia University. Debra Ann is a member of Actors Equity, a Producing Associate at The National Black Theatre, Inc. and an Associate Producer for 6-10 Productions, Inc. She was recently elected Vice President of Communications for the League, where she currently serves as the Editor of The Flash.
Evelyn Collins has 25 years of experience as an educator and artist in New York City, Ann Arbor and Detroit. She is also a theatre and film director, and playwright. Her performing arts initiatives in public schools have encouraged children to dream and find their voice in their passion, while also encouraging academic achievement.