CLEVELAND: Theatre Communications Group has named the recipients of the 2015 National Conference Awards. James Houghton, Lear deBessonet and Rhodessa Jones will be recognized for their contributions to the American theatre; their awards will be presented at the Conference this week (June 18–20).
The TCG National Conference brings together theatre leaders, theatre makers and theatre enthusiasts from across the nation for peer exchange, model sharing and exciting plenaries. This year’s conference in Cleveland is called “Game Change,” to honor the game-changing theatre people, past and present, who’ve led the field to its current nation-wide diversity and vitality.
“For our 25th National Conference, we’re particularly excited to honor both the next generation of theatre leaders and the game-changing leaders who paved the way,” said TCG executive director Teresa Eyring in a statement. “There’s no better place to do so than Cleveland, a city experiencing a theatre-driven renaissance with two theatres, Karamu House and the Cleveland Play House celebrating centennials—not to mention the Cleveland Play House bringing home the 2015 Regional Theatre Tony Award!”
James Houghton will receive the the TCG Visionary Game-Changer Award, also known as the Visionary Leadership Award, given to an individual who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to advance the field of theatre. Houghton is the founding artistic director of Signature Theatre, founded in 1991 to honor and celebrate one playwright per season. He will step down from his post as artistic director this July. Under his leadership, Signature Theatre was the first recipient of the Regional Tony Award. Houghton recently received the 2015 Obie Award for Sustained Achievement. He is also the head of the drama division at the Juilliard School.
Lear deBessonet will receive the Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, in honor of the late TCG executive director, which recognizes an individual who exemplifies pioneering practices in the theatre and is dedicated to the freedom of expression. She is the director of Public Works at the Public Theater, an initiative that brings members of the community together to participate in workshops, take classes, attend performances and create a piece of theatre. She has garnered many awards for her inventive productions and community activism, including an Obie Award and a Lilly Award. She will next direct a Public Works production of The Odyssey Sept. 4–7 (with music by composer Todd Almond), collaborating with community groups and individuals throughout all five boroughs of New York City.
Rhodessa Jones will receive the Theatre Practitioner Award, which recognizes a living individual whose work has demonstrated exemplary achievement over time, and who has contributed significantly to the American Theatre. She is co-artistic director of the performance company Cultural Odyssey. She is also the director of the Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women, a performance workshop that aims to transform the personal and social lives of incarcerated women. Her published plays include Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women, A Beginner’s Guide to Community-Based Arts, Colored Contradictions An Anthology of Contemporary African American Plays and Let’s Get it On: The Politics of Black Performance. Jones was recently the spring 2014 interdisciplinary artist in residence for the College of Letters and Science and the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Beginning in 2015, she will be a visiting professor at St. Mary’s College.
Check back on American Theatre this week for daily coverage of the 2015 TCG National Conference.