Hometown: Potomac, Md.
Current homes: New York City and Washington, D.C.
Known for: Paul has worked as associate artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) in D.C. for the past seven years, directing Shakespeare, other classics, and musicals. He received the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Director for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Other favorite past projects include Man of La Mancha, starring Anthony Warlow, and Kiss Me, Kate starring Douglas Sills.
What’s next: He’ll direct The Pajama Game at Arena Stage in D.C. Oct. 27-Dec. 24, with Donna McKechnie as Mabel. In the spring, he will helm Kiss Me, Kate (April 6-29, 2018) at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre. Then he’ll direct Camelot at STC May 22-July 1, 2018.
What makes him special: “Alan has a particular genius for giving vibrant and resonant life to classic musicals with brilliant theatrical flair, and he brings the same skill to a thorough investigation of classical and modern plays,” says STC artistic director Michael Kahn. “I believe he will be a leader in the American theatre.”
Opera vs. theatre: “Directing opera has had a huge impact on my theatre work. The visual is so important, and a successful opera must have five or six images the audience will always remember,” declares Paul, who is partial to designers like Allen Moyer and Dane Laffrey, who are “unafraid to make strong visual statements.” The forms are different, of course, as Paul explains: “With singers I talk about action and intention, and with actors I talk about musicality. Once in a while you are blessed to work with someone like Stephanie Blythe, who has it all.”
Amelia Acosta Powell
Profession: Producer and director
Current home: Ashland, Ore.
Known for: As artistic associate and casting director at Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage, she produced the Lillian Hellman Festival. She directed Heathers: The Musical at Red Branch Theatre in Columbia, Md., and directed and co-devised Closer Look’s Unspoken as part of the Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival in D.C. She’s currently the line producer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF).
What’s next: At OSF she’s busy wrapping up the 2017 season and preparing for the next. As a steering committee member of the Latinx Theatre Commons, she’ll attend November’s convening at the Los Angeles Theatre Center’s Encuentro de las Americas Theater Festival.
What makes her special: “Amelia has always been a true professional,” raves Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith. “She adapts easily to changing situations, is imaginative and is engaged in the life of the artistic community around her.” Smith has no doubt that her former mentee is “going to change the world. The amazing thing is that she will do so with her friendly, outgoing grace and kindness.”
On mentorship: Powell hasn’t done it alone, and she’s well aware of the debt she owes mentors who’ve “inspired, empowered, and challenged me.” She credits everyone from her high school drama teacher, Shelby O’Clair, to Allen Lee Hughes fellowship mentor Dan Pruksarnukul. (She also saves a shout-out for her TCG Rising Leaders of Color cohort.) Unsurprisingly, she plans to give back: “My work is inspired by a passionate desire and responsibility to pass on to others the mentorship and opportunities that I have been (and continue to be) afforded.”
G. Austin Allen
Profession: Lighting and projection designer
Hometowns: Born in Burbank, Calif., raised in Denver
Current home: Los Angeles
Known for: Allen’s work takes him all over the world, from Waiting for Obama at last year’s New York Fringe to this past summer’s Wall! A Thinly Veiled Metaphor for Our Current Political Landscape Disguised as a New American Musical at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Last year he assisted Howell Binkley on Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson in L.A.
What’s next: This fall Allen will be repairing and rebuilding submersible LED fixtures on the World of Color fountain show at the Disneyland Resort, in addition to various assistant work around the L.A. area.
What makes him special: Elsbeth M. Collins, a theatre practice professor who taught Allen at USC, recalls that the young designer “consistently challenged ‘what could be done’ within the framework of our production periods and budgets,” but that what impressed her the most wasn’t his “technical capacity” but “the breadth of Austin’s creativity.” She also hails his “quirky and subversive” spirit. Shawn Hann, a director of theatre at Denver School of the Arts, highlights Austin’s mentoring capacities, particularly for “kids who were just like him in high school: knowing a little too much for their age and always trying to be right.”
Spectacle and story: Allen grew up in a theatrical family, and believes that “the best theatrical experience is the most collaborative one. Spectacle and story, when woven tightly together, are the most effective way to reach an audience. One that does not support and serve the other is useless.” What keeps him going is the response: “There is nothing like seeing an audience react to theatrical magic that you helped bring to life.”
Elena María García
Hometowns: Born in Philadelphia, grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Current home: Fort Lauderdale
Known for: She wrote 2017’s ¡Fuácata! or A Latina’s Guide to Surviving the Universe with Stuart Meltzer and co-wrote and staged Chris Perez’s Flying Lessons in 2016.
What’s next: She plans to remount Do You Speak Mexican?, a solo piece first staged in 2010 that chronicles her experience as a first-generation Cuban-American woman.
What makes her special: “Elena María is one of South Florida’s favorite actors and an inspiring educator,” says Liz Wallace, VP of programming at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. “Earlier this season, she returned to the Arsht Center with Zoetic Stage’s world premiere of ¡Fuácata!, a contemporary one-woman tour de force which displayed the outstanding range of this passionate, funny, and fierce Latina actor and writer.” Wallace enthuses, “I look forward to seeing what’s next for her!”
Moving mountains: As a woman of Latin American heritage, García believes it’s her “responsibility as an artist to use my platform to make positive changes in the world.” She adds that she strives to “teach my students that you can create when your voice is strong and loud. One of the great things about theatre is you can be innovative. These are lessons they can take with them anywhere and change a little bit of the world.” Of her various endeavors, she calls teaching “by far the most rewarding and challenging. In the classroom I feel I can move mountains—my way.”
Nathan Alan Davis
Hometown: Rockford, Ill.
Current home: New York City
Known for: Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea, which received a National New Play Network rolling world premiere in 2015 and earned a Steinberg/ATCA citation, and Nat Turner in Jerusalem, which had its world premiere at New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) in 2016.
What’s next: The Wind and the Breeze will have its world premiere at Cygnet Theatre in San Diego, Calif., in May 2018. The three-work series The Refuge Plays is being developed at New York’s Public Theater in collaboration with Princeton, N.J.’s McCarter Theatre Center.
What makes him special: “With indelible imagery and gorgeous lyricism, Nat Turner in Jerusalem is an exploration of our nation’s darkest demons and their haunting echoes,” says James C. Nicola, artistic director of NYTW. “Yet rather than simply presenting these symptoms of our societal ills or damning those who could be held culpable, Nathan Alan Davis has the generosity to take each historical actor on his own terms and ask questions that open a conversation to a way forward. It is rare to hear a voice cry out with such eloquence and potency.”
Crisis to clarity: When he became a father, he notes, he struggled to decide how to proceed with his professional life. “It became abundantly clear to me that I needed to write plays,” says the former theatre actor. “I didn’t know what they were or what form they would take, and I still don’t (other than the plays I’ve already written). I committed myself completely to writing them nonetheless, and I haven’t looked back.”
Profession: Stage manager
Hometowns: Florence, S.C., and Philadelphia
Current home: Philadelphia
Known for: She is the resident stage manager at the Wilma Theater, where she’s worked for 20 years, racking up credits on 10 of the theatre’s 12 Stoppard plays as well as the premieres of Blanka Zizka’s Adapt! and Paula Vogel’s Don Juan Comes Home From Iraq.
What’s next: The coming season includes Lorca’s Blood Wedding, helmed by Hungarian director Csaba Horváth and featuring artists from the Wilma’s HotHouse company.
What makes her special: For Wilma artistic director Zizka, the title stage manager “doesn’t come even close to capturing what Pat does and who she is.” Zizka considers her a primary collaborator: “It’s as if we breathe together in unison, as if we silently sing the same piece of music. I profoundly trust her intuitions.” Local actor David Bardeen ranks her high among stage managers he’s worked with, saying, “Wherever she is feels like home.”
Pinch: “Sometimes, I have to pinch myself (still) because I am actually doing what I love,” Adams effuses. She credits “hands-on” training at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and seven seasons at New Jersey’s Crossroads Theatre with preparing her for the Wilma. Along the way she realized that “the challenge of the work never got boring and I had a real knack for calling cues. It is my favorite thing; my reward for surviving ‘the process’—auditions, rehearsals, tech, production meetings, etc.” She also relishes working with the HotHouse ensemble: “I get to see the artists grow, on a daily basis, as they are pushed to the limits and find muscles they didn’t know they had. I’m still growing too.”