On April 11 the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society announced the Standout Moments of the 2015-2016 Season, a new program of recognition focused on the contributions directors and choreographers make every day to create a more inclusive, diverse theatre.
The announcement was made by Diversity and Inclusion Committee co-chair Seret Scott (freelance director) and SDC executive vice president John Rando (freelance director) at the Union’s semi-annual membership meeting.
Rando stated, “In a year where Tommy Kail and Andy Blankenbuehler’s bold and dynamic collaborations with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton advanced the discourse on diversity, we also want to highlight the choices SDC Members make across the board, as freelancers and as Artistic Directors, to increase access for underrepresented artists.”
The inaugural recipients, according to the SDC, follow:
Michael Arden + Spencer Liff (Deaf West’s Spring Awakening on Broadway), for creating a theatrical experience that brought together deaf and hearing actors, brought an array of underrepresented young talent to Broadway, and also rendered a Broadway musical accessible to deaf audience members.
Stafford Arima (Allegiance on Broadway), for tirelessly advocating for and guiding Allegiance’s move to Broadway. Allegiance was the first Broadway musical with an all-Asian American creative team, featuring a predominantly Asian American/Pacific Islander cast, and a decidedly Asian American perspective on history.
Oskar Eustis (Public Theater 2015-2016 season), for his demonstrated, ongoing, and ever- growing commitment to diversity. In his tenth season, he programmed plays and musicals that were directed by diverse SDC Members, explored underrepresented issues and experiences, and reached out to diverse communities.
Leslie Ishii (artEquity) for her work as the only director involved with the leadership of artEquity, an organization that provides tools, resources and training to support the intersection of art and activism. As co-facilitator of the 2015 Cohort, she trained a diverse, well-equipped cadre of national facilitators who can support equity-based initiatives nationwide.
Davis McCallum + Kevin Moriarty (Clarkston, Dallas Theater Center), for Davis McCallum’s selection of Director Evan Cummings as his Observer on Clarkston at DTC; and for Kevin Moriarty’s attention to Evan’s welcome into the DTC community and facilitation of ADA- compliant housing for Evan, who uses a wheelchair.
Robert O’Hara, for introducing Clubbed Thumb to directors of color for their Emerging Directors Fellowship, and for being vocal about diversity in casting and in directors. These introductions have inspired relationships with young directors of color, and educated the theatre on how these artists are currently forging their paths in this industry.
Lisa Portes, for spearheading the groundbreaking Carnaval of New Latina/o Plays, a collaboration between the Latina/o Theatre Commons, Howlround, Teatro Vista, the Chicago Alliance of Latino Theatre Artists (ALTA) and The Theatre School at DePaul University. The Carnaval raised the visibility of Latina/o theatre artists by presenting work by 10 Latina/o directors, working with 12 Latina/o writers and featuring over 35 Latina/o actors.
Molly Smith, for her dedication to diversity and parity in programming Arena Stage’s 2016-2017 season, which features five female directors of its 10 announced productions, of which seven were written by women and six by playwrights of color.
Liesl Tommy, for her extraordinary leadership in shepherding Eclipsed from its regional world premiere to Off-Broadway and Broadway. Eclipsed is the first-ever Broadway play to feature an all-female, all-African/African American cast, playwright and director.
For initiating and producing the Women's Voices Theatre Festival, Washington, DC, Michael Kahn, Shakespeare Theatre Company; David Muse, Studio Theatre; Eric Schaeffer, Signature Theatre; Howard Shalwitz, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company; Molly Smith, Arena Stage + Non-Members Paul R. Tetreault, Ford’s Theatre and Ryan Rilette, Round House Theatre. The festival highlighted the scope of new plays being written by women, and the range of professional theater being produced in the nation’s capital. It was the largest collaboration of theatre companies working simultaneously to produce original works by female writers in history.
In other news the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society announced the release of a Diversity and Inclusion Statement of Commitment. Diversity and Inclusion Committee co-chair Scott said, “SDC is proud to take this important first step towards achieving greater diversity, parity, and equity within our industry. Our Statement is aspirational. It does not indicate where we are, but rather where we would like to be. It represents SDC’s public, lasting commitment to increasing access, diversity, and inclusion in the American theatre.”
The statement begins as follows: "SDC believes that the American theatre must reflect the great diversity of our nation and affirms its commitment to equitable hiring practices in order to achieve that goal. As the Union that unites, empowers, and protects professional stage directors and choreographers whose work appears on stages across the country, we believe strongly that these values should manifest in the hiring of artists for projects and positions, as well as the representation of our Membership and our staff."
SDC is the theatrical union that represents over 2,900 professional stage directors and choreographers throughout the United States. Its mission is to "foster a national community of professional stage Directors and Choreographers by protecting the rights, health, and livelihoods of all its Members."