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6 Theatre Workers You Should Know

From a choral composer to a classics adapter, from a Boston dramaturg to a Chicago writer/performer, here are some theatre folks who should be on your radar.

Estefanía Fadul

Estefania Fadul. (Photo by Christine Jean Chambers)

Profession: Director and producer
Hometown: Hanover, N.H.
Current home: Brooklyn
Known for: She directed the musical Óye Oyá at Milagro Theatre in Portland, Ore., and Matthew Paul Olmos’s So Go the Ghosts of Mexico, Part One at Repertorio Español in New York City. She is currently an O’Neill/NNPN National Directors Fellow, and was a 2017 Foeller Fellow at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and a 2015 Drama League Fall Directing Fellow. She’s also a steering committee member of the Latinx Theatre Commons, and a member of the New Georges Jam and the Civilians’ R&D Group.
What’s next: She’ll direct Nora Sørena Casey’s The Nature Room at Signature Theatre as part of Columbia’s MFA program this spring, and helm Around 2, by James Anthony Tyler, for Keen Company’s KeenTeens program May 11-13. She’s also preppring a workshop of Tatiana Suarez-Pico’s new musical Rokera for LaGuardia Performing Arts Center Rough Draft Festival.
What makes her special: Rebecca Taichman, whom Fadul assisted at Williamstown, calls her “whip smart and a real talent. Her work is meticulous. I am thrilled to see her rise.” Gabriel Stelian-Shanks, executive artistic director of the Drama League, says that Fadul “sits at the top of the list” of “important new voices in directing…Her productions are breathtaking to watch: compelling, moving, socially aware, inspiring.”
Passing the baton: “Mentorship has been absolutely key for me,” Fadul says. In directing productions at universities, she gets the chance to mentor as well. “It’s important to me to create an environment in which the students can engage in deep discussion about the material, and also hold them to rigorous professional standards during the process while keeping it joyful.”

Esteban Andres Cruz

Esteban Andres Cruz. (Photo by 8FoldPhotography/Julia Marcus)

Profession: Actor/choreographer/director/writer
Hometown: Berwyn, Ill.
Current Home: Chicago
Known for: Stephen Adly Guirgis’s Jesus Hopped the A Train at Raven Theatre, Charm by Philip Dawkins at Los Angeles’s Celebration Theatre, Into the Beautiful North by Karen Zacarías at 16th Street Theater, and Rent at American Theater Company in Chicago.
What’s next: He’ll act in Time Is On Our Side by R. Eric Thomas at Chicago’s About Face Theatre (March 1-April 7). And his one-person show American Standards: The History of the United States Through the Eyes of a Cross-Eyed, Queer Mexi-Rican will get its world premiere in 2019 at 16th Street Theater.
What makes him special: 16th Street artistic director Ann Filmer, who met Cruz when she was casting Into the Beautiful North, raves, “He’s the kind of human one falls in love with instantly.” In the rehearsal room, Filmer says, Cruz is “full of love and light…very giving while demanding we all bring our best. He is bold and unafraid, he speaks up and cares about the production as a whole, not just his part.”
Making an Impact: As part of his research for American Standards—about “the history of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in the U.S. and what contributions we have made and why we matter and how we are beautiful”—Cruz will travel to Puerto Rico for three months to volunteer, in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Why use theatre to tell this story? “There’s magic, and it’s the space where we wield the greatest power to transcend and change people’s hearts,” he maintains. “We can make this country great again by producing work that teaches humanity how we are human.” In short: “Change the world. Write a play.”

Lucy Cashion

Lucy Cashion. (Photo by Katrin Hackenberg)

Profession: Director, administrator, college instructor
Hometown: Berkeley, Calif., and Orwigsburg, Pa.
Current home: St. Louis
Known for: The founding artistic director of Equally Represented Arts, Cashion also teaches at Saint Louis University. An avid creator and director of adapted classics, she recently led the creation of Oedipus Apparatus, which explored tragedy as a machine and reconfigured the chorus as a talk show modeled after “The View.”
What’s next: An adaptation of Antigone in a Missouri state women’s prison, a collaboration between SLU and Prison Performing Arts for which Cashion and her colleague Rachel Tibbetts conducted a playwriting workshop with SLU students, eliciting  original pieces by inmates and adaptations of the Sophocles play. This Antigone was performed by students at both SLU and inside the prison, and this spring the inmates will stage their own production that the SLU student cast will attend.
What makes her special: Nancy Bell, who also teaches in SLU’s theatre program and whose play Remember Me Cashion directed in 2016 at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, calls Cashion “fearless and audacious and still somehow vulnerable and open—she has an iron back and a velvet heart. I have never seen a director who empowers actors and designers more.”
Why go live: “What I’m most worried about for theatre is the audience,” Cashion says. “Most of the theatre I see doesn’t need to be live. It could be filmed, the audience could watch it at home and it would be the same.” It’s imperative to ask, she says, “Why does it matter that this is happening in real time, here?”

Jeffrey D. Kmiec

Jeffrey D. Kmiec.

Profession: Scenic designer
Hometown: Oak Park, Ill.
Current home: Chicago
Known for: Scenic designs for The Little Mermaid and Les Misérables (co-designed with Kevin Depinet) at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Ill., and Deathtrap at Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.’s Drury Lane Theatre.
What’s next: Kmiec will be the scenic designer for Phillip Dawkins’s new play, The Gentleman Caller, at Raven Theatre in Chicago (March 28-May 13), directed by Cody Estle. Kmiec will also be designing the sets of Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s production of Madagascar—A Musical Adventure in Charlotte, N.C. (April 13-May 6), Kokandy Productions’s Grand Hotel in Chicago (April 15-May 27), Redtwist Theatre’s Frost/Nixon in Chicago (April 21-May 20), and the Paramount Theatre’s Once in Aurora, Ill. (April 25-June 3).
What makes him special: Estle, artistic director at Raven Theatre, has collaborated with Kmiec on 14 productions over the last four years. “He creates exquisite designs and possesses a seemingly limitless imagination,” says Estle. “His designs are always meticulously thought out, whether they are for a large venue or a small storefront. I know that he will always strive for what will best serve the production. He is my most trusted collaborator and a true artist.”
Beneficial partnerships: “I love working with collaborators who bring their own unique interests to the table,” Kmiec says. “These are typically people who are not only passionate about their art but are also lifelong learners. Their work is informed by their personal perspective and experience, and they find joy in what they do. If I leave a project learning something new from other artists, then I’ve grown as an artist myself.”

Marisa Michelson

Marisa Michelson. (Photo by Mustafa Farhad)

Profession: Composer/performer/singing teacher
Hometown: Amherst, Mass.
Current home: New York City
Known for: Her composing credits include the Off-Broadway musical Tamar of the River and the Desire|Divinity Project, an inquiry into “the intersection of earthly passion and divine love.” She’s also the founder of the vocal performance ensemble Constellation Chor.
What’s Next: Her musical adaptation of Jason Grote’s play 1001, titled One Thousand Nights and One Day, runs April 5-29, produced by Prospect Theater Company at the new A.R.T./New York Theatres. And on June 17 her oratorio Naamah’s Ark, written with Royce Vavrek and starring Victoria Clark, will be part of NYC’s River to River Festival.
What makes her special: When Grote met Michelson at the Composer-Librettist Studio at New Dramatists, he says he was “struck by the originality and compassion of her music and her approach to theatre.” Fellow composer Dave Malloy praises Michelson’s “singular voice, combining lush and vibrant sacred music with insane vocal writing and beautiful ritualistic theatre. Her sense of community and all-embracing, holistic approach to music is absolutely captivating, creating some of the most alive music I have ever heard.”
Music and meaning: Michelson has an expansive vision of music’s possibilities. As she puts it, “I am an artist who wants to get to know the world intimately.” To that end, she privileges the concept of “Kairos, as opposed to Chronos—a sense of time that is less linear, a sense of time which feels at once the ancestors of the past and our ancestors of the future. Who will we become as humans? What does our future feel like? That experience of connection can be become present in listening to music, even if it can’t be articulated or fully understood with words.”

Phaedra Scott

Phaedra Scott.

Profession: Dramaturg, director, and playwright
Hometown: Wilmington, Del.
Current Home: Boston
Known for: As a dramaturg, she has worked on productions at the New Harmony Project, MCC Theatre, the Huntington Theatre Company, Utah Shakespeare Festival, and new-play development workshops around the country. As a producer and director she headed the Boston chapter of the national “Every 28 Hours” project with Company One Theatre.
What’s next: Scott is dramaturging Liesl Tommy’s staging of Top Girls at the Huntington (April 20-May 20), then will make her Boston directorial debut with Fresh Ink Theatre’s world premiere of Heritage Hill Naturals by Francisca DaSilveria (May 11-26). Scott is also working on DIASPORA!, commissioned through SpeakEasy Stage’s Boston Project.
What makes her special: M. Bevin O’Gara, producing artistic director of Kitchen Theatre Company in Ithaca, N.Y., got to know Scott when both worked at the Huntington. What set Scott apart, O’Gara says, was “her strong sense of conviction paired with a deep compassion for the artists involved…She imbues the work with dignity and approaches a script with focus, charm, intelligence, and heart.”
Uplift and affirm: Scott says she is “drawn to work featuring queerness, women, and people of color, by storytellers who for centuries were told that their stories did not matter. As an artist, I believe my greatest strength is in seeing people succeed—I firmly believe in the phrase ‘Lifting as I Climb’ as a personal motto.” Her vision of “richer, bolder, and more inclusive theatre” also includes building a foundation for marginalized voices “to go beyond the workshops or the first production.”

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