Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF) announced that director, producer, actor, and educator Vivienne Benesch, of Playmakers Repertory Theater in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is the recipient of the 2017 Zelda Fichandler Award.
The award, which is given annually within rotating regions of the country, recognizes directors and choreographers “who are in the center of their creative lives, demonstrate great accomplishment to-date and promise for the future, and who have made prominent achievements in the field with singular creativity and artistry, and deep investment in a particular community or region.” The award carries an unrestricted grant of $5,000 to the recipient.
The two finalists were Curt Columbus, of Trinity Repertory Company (Providence, Rhode Island), and Wendy C. Goldberg, of Eugene O'Neill Theater Center (Waterford, Connecticut).
This year’s Fichandler selection Committee was chaired by Warner Shook and included Linda Hartzell and Lisa Peterson. Shook said in a statement, “Vivienne Benesch epitomizes the ideal choice for The Zelda Fichandler Award. She is a mid-career artist working at the peak of her powers, as she has so readily demonstrated in both upstate New York and now in North Carolina with her insightful, thrilling work. The dynamic finalists Wendy C. Goldberg and Curt Columbus complete The Fichandler Class of 2017. I'm very proud to have played a part in choosing this top notch trio. I think Zelda would be beaming.”
Benesch added, “I am so deeply honored by this recognition from my peers and SDCF. Zelda was a titan in our industry and I was also lucky enough to call her my teacher and a mentor. Receiving this award in her name is that much more meaningful and a call to continue working in the spirit of her global curiosity, commitment to regional excellence and belief in personal transformation through the arts—all of which have been career-long inspirations to me.”
Benesch is in her second season as the producing artistic director of PlayMakers Repertory Company, where she has directed productions of Molly Smith Metzler’s The May Queen, Deborah Salem Smith’s Love Alone, John Logan’s RED, Sarah Ruhl’s In The Next Room, and Libby Appel’s adaptation of Three Sisters. From 2005 to 2016 she was the artistic director of the Chautauqua Theater Company and Conservatory, and she has also directed at Trinity Rep, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and extensively for the Juilliard School Drama Division, where she has also served on the faculty. As an actor, Benesch has worked extensively on and Off-Broadway, in film, and television and at many of the country's most celebrated theatres. She received an Obie Award for her performance in Lee Blessing's Going to St. Ives.
The Fichandler Award will be presented to Benesch October 30 in Manhattan.