The award is $5,000 and is presented by SDC, the stage director's and choreographer's union, to honor achievements to date as well as future promise in the honoree's community.
According to press notes, "Since 2006 Joseph Haj has...a long history working in regional theatre, from the Guthrie to Actors Theatre of Louisville to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As one of the few Arab-American artistic directors in the country, Mr. Haj has worked to transform the stage at PlayMakers into a place of diversity and inclusion. In addition to his tremendous output in professional theatre environments, he has also made work with non-professionals in maximum security prisons, in the West Bank in Gaza and in rural South Carolina. In his time at PlayMakers, Mr. Haj has dedicated himself to communicating with his community, giving them tools to engage with the diverse programming of the theatre and educating audiences with outreach initiatives."
In addition to Haj, the committee recognized five finalists in Tracy Brigden at City Theatre Company in Pittsburgh, Steven Cosson of the Civilians in New York City, Kwame Kwei-Armah of Baltimore CenterStage in Baltimore, Preston Lane of Triad Stage in Greensboro, NC and Bonnie J. Monte of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison, NJ.
The finalists were all deemed promising candidates for their groundbreaking commitment to their respective communities through theatre arts. The Zelda Fichandler Award, named after the founder of the regional theatre movement, is presented Nov. 3 in New York alongside the Joe A. Callaway Awards for excellence in direction and choreography in New York City and the "Mr. Abbott" Award for lifetime achievement in the theatre.