Can You Name the 9 Trailblazing Women Who Won Tony Awards for Directing?

Special Features   Can You Name the 9 Trailblazing Women Who Won Tony Awards for Directing?
A look back at the women directors who broke ground with their Broadway work and continue to do so today.
Rebecca Taichman Jemal Countess/Getty Images

This year, Rebecca Taichman won her first Tony Award for her direction of Paula Vogel’s Indecent, making her, remarkably, only the sixth woman to win the Tony Award for the Direction of a Play in the Tony Awards’ 71-year history. In celebration of Taichman’s achievement—and of her newest Broadway gig: the revival of J.B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways—we look back at the talented directors who paved the path for women in directing. These nine women won Tony Awards for Direction of a Play or Musical—five of them winning for their Broadway debuts—and four join Taichman in mounting work on Broadway this season.


Julie Taymor & Garry Hynes, 1998

Julie Taymor_Garry Hynes_HR
Julie Taymor and Garry Hynes

The 52nd Tony Awards were historic in two ways: a woman took home the Tony Award for Direction in both play and musical categories (Julie Taymor for The Lion King and Garry Hynes for Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane)—marking the first time a female director had won in either. Taymor earned two Tony Awards that evening: Direction of a Musical and Costume Design for The Lion King. Her work on the groundbreaking Disney musical is still celebrated today; the musical marks its 20th anniversary on Broadway this year and is now the third-longest running show in Broadway history. Prior to The Lion King, Taymor had received her two Tony Award nominations for her direction and scenic design of Juan Darien, for which she also co-wrote the book. This season, the multi-talented theatre artist returns to Broadway with a revival of David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly.

As for Hynes, since winning for The Beauty Queen of Leenane, she earned another Tony nomination for Direction of a Play the very next year, for 1999’s The Lonesome West. She also directed Sixteen Wounded in 2004 and Translations in 2007 for Broadway. The Tony-winning director continues to prove she is ahead of the theatrical curve. Hynes, who is the artistic director of the acclaimed Irish theatre company Druid, led the internationally acclaimed gender-bending DruidShakespeare, and last spring directed a “completely multi-ethnic” production of the musical 1776 as part of the New York City Center Encores! season.


Susan Stroman, 2001

Tony_Winning_Women_Directors_Susan Stroman, 2001 – The Producers_HR.jpg
Susan Stroman, 2001 – The Producers

In another history-making year at the Tony Awards, The Producers broke the record for the most Tony Award wins ever. At the helm of the acclaimed musical was Susan Stroman, who took home the Tonys for both Direction of a Musical and Choreography. Though it was her first win for direction, Stroman was already a three-time Tony winner for her choreography of Crazy For You, Show Boat, and Contact. In terms of direction, she received Tony nominations in 2011 and 2014 for The Scottsboro Boys and Bullets Over Broadway, respectively. The legendary director and choreographer, currently represented on Broadway with Prince of Broadway, boasts 18 Broadway credits to her name.

Mary Zimmerman, 2002

Tony_Winning_Women_Directors_Mary Zimmerman, 2002 – Metamorphoses_HR.jpg
Mary Zimmerman, 2002 – Metamorphoses

Directors often strive to be bold, and what could be more bold than adapting and staging Ovid’s Metamorphoses—the history of the world—in a swimming pool on a Broadway stage? The woman behind this out-of-the-box idea was Mary Zimmerman, who not only made her Broadway directorial debut with the production, but also took home the Tony Award for her direction. The Chicago-based director is a MacArthur “Genius” winner with a reputation for highly original concepts and her approach of building productions from the ground up.


Anna D. Shaprio, 2008

Tony_Winning_Women_Directors_Anna D. Shapiro, 2008 – August- Osage County_HR.jpg
Anna D. Shapiro, 2008 – August-Osage County

Though she’d built up quite the reputation in Chicago already, Anna D. Shapiro burst onto the Broadway scene in 2008 with August Osage County, Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning family drama. The production marked her first Tony Award win and also launched her Broadway career—August was followed by Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Motherf**ker with the Hat (2011), John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (2014), Kenneth Lonergan’s This is Our Youth (2014), and Larry David’s Fish in the Dark (2015). Shapiro, who has been the artistic director of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company since 2015, will return to Broadway this spring with Letts’ new play,The Minutes.

Marianne Elliott, 2011 (and 2015)

Tony_Winning_Women_Directors_Marianne Elliott (and Tom Morris), 2011 – War Horse_HR.jpg
Marianne Elliott (and Tom Morris), 2011 – War Horse

In 2011, British director Marianne Elliott wowed American audiences with her production of War Horse (co-directed with Tom Morris), a show that marked her Broadway debut and changed the game for puppetry on the Broadway stage. In 2015, the Tony- and Olivier Award-winning director did it again with her innovative staging of Simon Stephens’ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a kinetic and affecting adaptation of the novel of the same name that also took home the Tony Award for Best Play. Things have not slowed down for Elliott, who has a very busy year ahead. Her acclaimed National Theatre staging of Angels in America will transfer to Broadway in February 2018 before she returns to the West End next fall for her anticipated gender-reversed take on the musical Company.

Diane Paulus & Pam MacKinnon, 2013

Pam MacKinnon and Diane Paulus
Pam MacKinnon and Diane Paulus

It may have taken another 15 years for two women to win the both directing Tony Awards on the same night, but what a duo it was: the imaginative Diane Paulus, who won for her revival of Pippin, and Pam MacKinnon, who won for Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park.

After directing a slew of plays Off-Broadway, MacKinnon made her Broadway debut that year with back-to-back productions of Clybourne Park and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? She received a nomination for each, but won in 2013 for Virginia Woolf. Since her win, MacKinnon has directed Albee’s A Delicate Balance (2014), David Mamet’s China Doll (2015), Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles (2015), and Amélie, A New Musical (2017) on Broadway. This fall, she will helm the Uma Thurman-led The Parisian Woman by Beau Willimon.


Paulus, who has been the artistic director of the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts since 2009, is currently represented on Broadway with audience favorite Waitress; and this winter, her A.R.T stage adaptation of Eve Ensler’s In the Body of the World will play Manhattan Theatre Club Off-Broadway. She is also currently developing the Alanis Morissette musical Jagged Little Pill set to premiere at A.R.T. in 2018.

Rebecca Taichman, 2017

Tony_Winning_Women_Directors_Rebecca Taichman, 2017 – Indecen_HR.jpg
Rebecca Taichman, 2017 – Indecent

As a director, this year’s Tony winner refuses to be categorized. Taichman’s career to date features an eclectic range of works—from new plays to outdoor operas. After Time and the Conways, which opens on Broadway October 10, Taichman will direct two world premieres Off-Broadway: Jocelyn Bioh’s School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play at MCC Theater, and Lindsey Ferrentino’s This Flat Earth at Playwrights Horizons.


See photos of the directors and their works below:

Click Here to Shop for Theatre
Merchandise in the Playbill Store
Popular Features This Week

Blocking belongs
on the stage,
not on websites.

Our website is made possible by
displaying online advertisements to our visitors.

Please consider supporting us by
whitelisting with your ad blocker.
Thank you!