In April 1999, the League received a bequest from the Lucille Lortel Estate requesting that a fund be established and maintained by the League to support The Lucille Lortel Grant with a monetary award given annually to an aspiring woman in any discipline of theatre who is showing creative promise and deserves recognition and encouragement. In 2008 and 2017, an additional award of $1,000 was awarded as the Lucille Lortel Women’s Visionary Award.
Each year the Lucille Lortel Committee visits theatre productions and makes an award to an aspiring woman who is showing creative promise and deserving of recognition and encouragement.
Recent award recipients include:
JESS CHAYES is a Brooklyn-based director and founding co-artistic director of The Assembly, with whom she has co-created and directed eight original productions, including I Will Look Forward To This Later (New Ohio Theater/IRT Theater Archive Residency) and HOME/SICK (NY Times and Backstage Critics’ Pick). Recent directing includes Half Moon Bay (Lesser America), Primal Play (New Georges), The Bachelors (Williamstown Theater Festival), The Sister (Dutch Kills), and The Netflix Plays (Ars Nova). She has developed new work with The Vineyard Theatre, The Playwrights Center and New York Theatre Workshop, among others. Jess is a NYTW Usual Suspect, a co-founder of The New Georges Jam artists’ lab, and alum of The Civilians R&D Group and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. Associate Director on Peter and the Starcatcher (Brooks Atkinson Theater and New World Stages) and Misery (Broadhurst Theater).
Emily Simoness (Lucille Lortel Women's Visionary Award)
EMILY SIMONESS is an entrepreneur, teacher, facilitator, motivational speaker and the founder and Executive Director of SPACE on Ryder Farm, a non-profit artist residency program committed to supporting and developing artists and activists and their work. Housed on 130 acres of organic farmland in Brewster, NY, SPACE has quickly become one of the premier centers for new play development in the country. Additionally, she has developed and taught curriculum for The North Carolina School of the Arts and NYU. In ‘13, she was the chief of staff for the Beijing International Screenwriting Competition. In ‘15 she gave a talk at TEDx Broadway. Emily holds a BFA from UNCSA where she is the inaugural Kenan Arts Research Fellow. She’s on the Advisory Board of the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation and is on the Board of Directors for Ryder Farm Inc., the entity that owns Ryder Farm.
Ari Laura Kreith
Ari Laura Kreith is a theatre director and the Artistic Director of Theatre 167, which received the 2015 Caffe Cino Fellowship from the New York Innovative Theatre Foundation for consistently producing outstanding work. Theatre 167 is named for the number of languages spoken in Jackson Heights, Queens and is now in residence at Manhattan’s West End Theatre.
At Theatre 167, Ari conceived and directed The Jackson Heights Trilogy: 167 TONGUES, YOU ARE NOW THE OWNER OF THIS SUITCASE, and JACKSON HEIGHTS 3AM (PBS Pick-of-the-Week)—three full-length plays collaboratively written by 18 playwrights featuring 37 actors in 93 roles in 14 languages—which were produced individually in Queens, then in rotating repertory as a 6-hour epic in Manhattan, and subsequently re-imagined as an immersive installation for Queens Museum.
Her production of PIRIRA, set simultaneously in Malawi and New York, received the 2014 NYIT Award for Outstanding Premiere Production Of A Play and transferred Off-Broadway. Recent commissions/ collaborations include I LIKE TO BE HERE: JACKSON HEIGHTS REVISITED, OR, THIS IS A MANGO at the New Ohio Theatre, three short pieces for Queens Theatre’s WORLD’S FAIR PLAY FESTIVAL (NY Times Critic’s Pick), and THE CHURCH OF WHY NOT, based on an interfaith activist community, which premiered at the space that inspired it this February. Musical theatre highlights include DREAMHOUSE, which she also co-created, and the European premiere of Adam Guettel’s MYTHS AND HYMNS.
BA: Yale University. MFA: UC Davis.
Rachel Dickstein is the Artistic Director of Ripe Time and she devised, choreographed, and directed the world premieres of the critically acclaimed THE WORLD IS ROUND (BAM-Fisher, Obie Award, Special Citation, Finalist for 2014 Richard Rodgers Award, based on Gertrude Stein), SEPTIMUS AND CLARISSA (Joe A. Calloway, Drama Desk, Drama League nominations, adapted by Ellen McLaughlin from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway) at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, FIRE THROWS (based on ANTIGONE) at 3LD ART & Technology Center, INNOCENTS at the Ohio Theatre (based on Edith Wharton’s THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, BETROTHED (based on stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, Chekhov and S. Ansky) at the Ohio Theatre. Other Ripe Time projects include THE SECRET OF STEEP RAVINES at P.S. 122, THE HOLY MOTHER OF HADLEY NEW YORK by Barbara Wiechmann and co-produced with New Georges, and THE PALACE AT 4 A.M. (based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe and the work of photographer Sophie Calle) presented at HERE Arts Center. Other recent directing projects include Kamala Sankaram and Susan Yankowitz’s opera THUMBPRINT (Prototype at Baruch Performing Arts Center), Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd’s IN WHAT LANGUAGE? (Asia Society, REDCAT, PICA) and university productions of Naomi Iizuka’s ANON(YMOUS), Sarah Ruhl’s EURYDICE and Ellen McLaughlin’s version of THE TROJAN WOMEN at Purchase College Conservatory of Theatre Arts. Other new works for New York Theatre Workshop, New Georges, The Ohio Theatre, Lincoln Center Theatre Directorʼs Lab, Drama League Director’s Project and Seattleʼs Annex Theatre. Artist in Residence at the Drama League. Nominated for the 2014 Alan Schneider Award and the Doris Duke Impact Award. Former resident director at New Dramatists and Assistant Director to Martha Clarke nationally and internationally. Recipient of commissions from NYSCA, the Rockefeller MAP Fund, P.S. 122 and the NEA/TCG Director’s Fellowship. BA, Yale College. Training: DellArte International (in Bali, Indonesia), Complicite, Norman Taylor (Lecoq.) Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance at the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Purchase College, SUNY. Rachel recently returned from Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor residency developing SLEEP an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s story with Naomi Iizuka, a project that will be presented in 2016 at the Japan Society. She is also creating ….AND SUDDENLY A KISS THERE ON THE BACK OF MY NECK, a site specific collaboration with designer Susan Zeeman Rogers commissioned by People’s Light and Theatre Company to be staged at Longwood Gardens.
The winner of the 2014 Lucille Lortel Award is Katherine Kovner.
Katherine Kovner is the artistic director of The Playwrights Realm; an Off Broadway theater dedicated to providing an artistic home for early career playwrights, nurturing them along the journey of playwriting, and helping them build meaningful artistic careers. For The Realm Katherine has directed Crane Story by Jen Silverman, Dov and Ali by Anna Zeigler and Substitution by Anton Dudley. Before founding the Realm in 2007 she was the artistic associate at Classic Stage Company and her directing credits include Elliot: A Soldier’s Fugue by Quiara Alegria Hudes, Iphigenia and Other Daughters by Ellen McLaughlin, Lizardskin by Jen Silverman and Roxy Font by Liza Lentini, which won FringeNYC’s best ensemble award. She has developed work with New York Theater Workshop, Soho Rep, New Dramatists, Classic Stage Company, New Georges and EST. In 2006 Katherine was the directing fellow for The Public Theatre’s Shakespeare Lab, she was a member of the 2008-2009 Soho Rep Writer Director Lab, and she has assisted directors on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in the West-End. A graduate of Brown University, Katherine is a member of the Lincoln Center’s Director Lab and an affiliated artist with New Georges.
Ashley Marinaccio is a director, writer, performer and photographer who creates work that challenges the status quo. She is dedicated to documenting the socio-political issues that define our times. Ashley is a League of Professional Theatre Women Lucille Lortel Women’s Visionary Award recipient for her artistic direction of Girl Be Heard, a theatre company that brings global issues affecting girls center stage by empowering young women to tell their stories. She’s been a featured TED speaker. Her theatrical work has been seen off-Broadway, at TED conferences, The White House, The Apollo, United Nations and on tour throughout the United States and Europe. Her work has received critical acclaim from The NY Times, New Yorker, Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine, Ebony, NY Press, Time Out NY, Backstage, Show Business and has been featured in segments on Buzzfeed, NBC, BBC, Al Jazeera, MTV, VH1 and NY1.
Ashley is co-founder/Artistic Director of Girl Be Heard and co-founder/director of Co-Op Theatre East. She is an alumna of BAM/Kennedy Center’s Professional Development Program, Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics – EMERGENYC, American Theatre Wing’s – SpringboardNYC and member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab and Old Vic/New Voices.
Ashley holds her M.A. in Performance Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and BA in theatre directing and sociology/anthropology with minors in women/gender and Middle Eastern from Pace University. She is a member of SAG/AFTRA, League of Professional Theatre Women and American Anthropological Association. Ashley is a faculty member at Pace University’s School of Performing Arts.
Mia Katigbak is the Artistic Producing Director and co-founder of NAATCO (National Asian American Theatre Company). She is the recipient of an Obie Award for performance (2014), the 2012-13 Lucille Lortel and the 2008 Lee Reynolds Awards (League of Professional Theatre Women); the Actors Equity’s Rosetta LeNoire Award, in recognition of her “artistic contribution to the universality of the human experience in the American theater”; New Dramatists’ Charles Bowden Actor Award; Distinguished Award for Artistic Excellence from Ma-Yi Theater. She is a founding director of CAATA (Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists) and served as the president of its board from 2011-15. She was one of the organizers of the 1st and 2nd National Asian American Theater Festivals in 2007 and 2009 in New York City. She is on the advisory boards of Ma-Yi Theatre and Fulcrum Theater.
She has acted in NYC with Women’s Project (having just recently finished portraying Elizabeth Bishop in Sarah Ruhl’s Dear Elizabeth), the Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, The Foundry Theater, Soho Rep, The Civilians, Ma-Yi, Target Margin, New Georges, Clubbed Thumb, Intar, Pan Asian Rep; and extensively with NAATCO; regionally at Berkeley Repertory Theater (CA), Swine Palace (LA), and the Guthrie (MN); and internationally, in Manila, Philippines and Abu Dhabi, UAE. She has served in panels for the theatre programs of the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Nancy Quinn Fund for Emerging Theaters and the Fund for Small Theaters (both administered by ART/NY), and the Asian American Arts Alliance. She has been a guest speaker for forums sponsored by the New York Times, the Humana Festival, and Theater Communications Group.
She holds a BA from Barnard College and an MA from Columbia University.
The winner of the 2012 Lucille Lortel Award was Rachel Reiner.
Rachel Reiner is the Managing Director of Resonance Ensemble, a theatre company dedicated to producing classic plays and new work inspired by the timelessness and universalism of the classics. Her production company, RachelReiner Productions LLC, has also produced numerous plays off-Broadway. Additionally, she is the Senior Manager of Membership Services and Education Programs at The Broadway League, where she has worked since 1996. Rachelgraduated summa cum laude from the Theatre Department at Brandeis University and is Chair of the New York City Alumni Performing Arts Network. She served a two-year term as co-President of the League of Professional Theatre Women (2009-2011), and has been co-Secretary, co-producer of the New Play Festival, and chair of the Networking Committee.
Jessica Burr is the Artistic Director of Blessed Unrest, an ensemble-based experimental theatre company she co-founded in 1999. For Blessed Unrest she has directed ArtCamp SexyTime FootBall, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Nick (a new translation and adaptation of Chekhov’s Ivanov by Laura Wickens), Doruntine (with Florent Mehmeti of Teatri Oda, Kosovo, in New York and on tour in the Balkans), Measure for Measure and Suzan-Lori Parks’365Days/365Plays. Other directing credits include Pericles, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, and The Love of Don Perlimplin and Belisa in the Garden. Burr graduated from Bard College in 1996 and became a traveling street performer, living and working on sidewalks from Scotland to Morocco with handmade masks and original pieces Layla and Majnun and Zulieka’s Love. After a year spent teaching in Poland, she returned to New York City and founded Blessed Unrest with Matt Opatrny, her co-producer and partner. Burr lives in Hell’s Kitchen with Matt and their daughter Evelyn.
Debra Ann Byrd
Debra Ann Byrd is the Founder of Take Wing And Soar Productions, Inc., where she currently serves as Chief Executive and Producing Artistic Director. She has guided this company’s growth from its birth, forging a viable support organization for classical artists of color and theatre arts groups throughout New York. As an actor, producer, arts manager, and business leader Debra Ann has received more than 20 awards and citations including the 2006 Josephine Abady Award. She was recently selected for inclusion in the 2010 Editions of Who’s Who in the World and Who’s Who of American Women. She received a B.F.A. in acting from Marymount Manhattan College, did advanced studies at The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab, completed producer training at the Commercial Theater Institute and received additional training from the Arts Leadership Institute, a unique Leadership Training Program for Arts Managers at Teacher’s College/Columbia University.
Rebecca Patterson (Director) NYC: Wapato, Greeks & Centaurs (Women’s Project), The Gabriels (SPF), The Imaginary Invalid (Resonance Ensemble), The Wonder, Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew, Edward II, School For Scandal, Much Ado About Nothing, The Lucky Chance, Antony & Cleopatra, The Feign’d Courtesans, The Duchess of Malfi, The Rover, Macbeth (The Queen’s Company) Regional: One Flea Spare, Angels in America, Vinegar Tom, Too Tall Blondes in Love, Marisol, The Dance and The Railroad and The Lisbon Traviata. Rebecca is Artistic Director of The Queen’s Company, known for its innovative productions of classical plays featuring all-female casts.
A co-founder of Voice & Vision, Jean Wagner has developed and directed new works at Voice & Vision including The Good Life by Yeardley Smith (The Culture Project, developed in the 2003 ENVISION Lab) Ana Traina’s In Audela, Wendy Kesselman’s The Black Monk, Colette Burson’s A Dry and Thirsty Land, the world premiere of which she also directed at HERE in NYC, Sheila Schwartz’s Benefit of the Doubt; and productions of Dulcitius by Hrotswitha and Maricela de la Luz Lights the World by Jose Rivera. Other directing credits include works at New York Theatre Workshop, New York Stage & Film Company, Manhattan Class Company and the Mabou Mines/Suite, the world premieres of The Notebook by Wendy Kesselman at Boston’s Wheelock Theater and the musical Hans in Luck by librettist Margie Duffield and composer Dan Ashkenaze at The Blue Heron Theater in NYC. Ms. Wagner was the Associate Director on the 1998 Tony-nominated revival of The Diary of Anne Frank, and Twelve Dreams at Lincoln Center Theater directed by James Lapine. She is on the faculty of the Bard College Theater Program.
Liz Jones is a founder of Page 73 Productions. From 2002 through 2005 she served as the Manager of Development and Communications for National Corporate Theatre Fund, where she created and managed several programs aimed at marketing theater to corporate audiences, designed and pitched multi-city theater sponsorship proposals, and helped to increase the organization’s annual fund support by $200,000 in three years. From 1996 to 2000 she was on the Artistic Staff of Manhattan Theatre Club, where she assisted Artistic Director Lynne Meadow and served as a consultant to the literary department, and for whom she still reads scripts. Other positions include Company Manager for the 2001 National Tour of Camp Broadway, Events Management Associate for the 2002 Tony Awards, and Associate Producer for Stage Blue, the bi-coastal celebration of Yale’s contribution to the theater industry. She is a member of the Board of Directors of ART/NY and the Yale University Dramatic Association Alumni Associates. She holds a BA from Yale in American Studies and an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Dave Kausch, a freelance film and television editor.
Chelsea Silverman is a former Dewey Ballentine litigator who left the practice of law after five years to produce and perform Off-off Broadway. In an effort to create more opportunities in the theater for women, Chelsea co-founded Woman Seeking…in 1997 and served as its Producer and Co-Artistic Director until 2004. Under her leadership, Woman Seeking…’s programming grew from intimate scene nights to multiple full-length productions in repertory. Chelsea’s development acumen created a generous and loyal donor and audience base for Woman Seeking… who now bring their support to 3Graces. In 3Graces’ first Season, Chelsea led fundraising campaigns to double the operating budget for the company as well as helping to refine 3Graces’ mission and unique process. She has performed all over New York City in numerous productions. Chelsea is a founding member of 3Graces. In addition to her work in the arts, Chelsea is the Director of Recruiting for Solomon-Page Group’s Temporary Legal Staffing Division.
Justine Lambert is the founder and artistic director of Looking Glass Theatre in New York, founded in 1993. A recipient of The Lucille Lortel Award for her work with Looking Glass she has been working in theater in NY for over 25 years; directing, acting in and producing dozens of shows, ranging from classical to contemporary, traditional to experimental. In 2003, she was named one of the top 100 New Yorkers by NY Resident magazine. Her direction of Three Sisters at Looking Glass won an Off Off Broadway Review Award for Best Production and her Direction of M at Turnip Theatre won her Honorable Mention as Best Director. From 1989 through 1991, she was co-Artistic Director of Peregrine Theater, a company that produced classics and children’s work in Central Park.
Mandy HackettMandy Hackett is the Associate Artistic Director of The Public Theater. Prior to joining the Public Theater, she was the founder and producer of The Underwood Theater, a new company dedicated to supporting and producing new work from emerging playwrights. At Underwood, she produced the world premiere of Julian Sheppard’s Buicks (nominated for two Drama Desk Awards including Outstanding Play and Outstanding Lead Actor, Norbert Leo Butz) and the New York premiere of Sunil Kuruvilla’s Fighting Words. Prior to founding the Underwood Theater, Mandy served as Literary Manager/Resident Dramaturg at New York Theatre Workshop where she had the privilege of collaborating on many projects including James Lapine’s Dirty Blonde, Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul, Doug Wright’s Quills, Jonathan Larson’s Rent, Paul Rudnick’s The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, John Guare’s Lydie Breeze, Theresa Rebeck’s A View From the Dome, Naomi Wallace’s The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, David Rabe’s A Question Of Mercy and Dael Orlandersmith’s The Gimmick. Ms. Hackett sits on the board of Ars Nova and graduated cum laude from Barnard College.
Cara Reichel is the Producing Artistic Director of Prospect Theater Company, and since 1998 has worked to establish herself as a vital presence in NYC’s theater community, becoming a leader in the field of new musical theater development.
Through Prospect, she has collaborated frequently with fellow founding company artist, composer / lyricist Peter Mills, creating the new musicals Death for Five Voices, Evergreen, Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge, Honor, The Rockae, The Pursuit of Persephone, The Taxi Cabaret, The Flood, Illyria, Lonely Rhymes, and The Alchemists. Currently they are working on a new Civil War inspired piece, Soldier’s Heart. The Taxi Cabaret is published and licensed by Samuel French; Illyria is licensed by Theatrical Rights Worldwide and has a cast recording available from the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge has an original cast recording available on Amazon.com and was selected for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s (NAMT) 2011 Festival of New Musicals.
As a director, Cara collaborated with Susan DiLallo, Peter Mills, and Stephen Weiner on the creation of Iron Curtain, an original musical which received the 2006 Innovative Theatre Award for “Outstanding Production of a Musical,” and for which she also received an “Outstanding Director” IT Award nomination. She subsequently directed Iron Curtain at the O’Neill Theatre Center, at NAMT’s 2009 Festival of New Musicals, and in its 2011 critically-acclaimed Off-Broadway premiere.
As a bookwriter, Cara is collaborating with lyricist Marion Adler and composer Peter Foley on the new musical I Capture the Castle, adapted from the beloved British novel by Dodie Smith, workshopped in 2013 through the Pace New Musicals program at Pace University. In 2014 she participated in the Goodspeed Musicals Johnny Mercer Writers Colony, the Weston Playhouse Artists’ Retreat, and the Rhinebeck Writers’ Retreat developing new works. Recently, she received a Spring 2015 Bogliasco Fellowship to conduct research and work in Italy.
Also through Prospect, Cara has collaborated with many other emerging and established writers on readings, workshops, and productions of new work, including Michele Brourman, Sheilah Rae, and Thomas Edward West on I Married Wyatt Earp, Susan DiLallo and Stephen Weiner on Once Upon a Time in New Jersey, Michael Cooper and Hyeyoung Kim on Sunfish, and Randy Courts and Mark St. Germain on The Book of the Dun Cow. She has a passion for re-interpreting classic stories and has directed adaptations of The House of Bernarda Alba, Purcell’s DIDO (& Aeneas), Danton’s Death, Twelfth Night, Everyman, and others.
She was selected to receive 2004 and 2007 “New Directors / New Works” Grants from the Drama League, and participated in the Drama League’s 2012 international exchange with Bulgarian theatres. She was named as one of NYTheatre.com’s 2006 “People of the Year.”
Cara was educated at Princeton University, from which she graduated in 1996 with an A.B. in Anthropology and a Certificate in Theater, and in the M.F.A. Program for Directing at Brooklyn College, where she was named 2006 “Alumna of the Year.” She has worked on the administrative staffs at such notable NYC non-profits as Manhattan Theatre Club, American Ballet Theatre, and HERE Arts Center.
Melanie Joseph is the founder and artistic leader of The Foundry Theatre. Championing an artist-led development process, Joseph takes on multiple creative roles across projects including co-creator, director, dramaturg and/or producer. Joseph is known for making theatre in unusual forms such as a bus tour of the south Bronx, THE PROVENANCE OF BEAUTY (2009) with poet Claudia Rankine; a play built of questions, HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH (2013) with playwright Kirk Lynn; or the upcoming 2014-15 music-theatre piece to be performed in peoples’ homes with singer/songwriter Gideon Irving. Her productions have collectively garnered 12 OBIEs, seven Drama Desk nominations, and multiple MAP Fund grants. For twenty years, she has also led The Foundry’s Dialogues Series and community engagement programs which gather artists together to explore how their work is situated within social and political contexts. For its hybrid focus, Joseph’s work has twice been honored with The Ross Wetzsteon OBIE Award for “creating cutting edge theatre and engaging artists in the thorniest issues of the world we inhabit.”