NEW YORK CITY: Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF) has announced that Los Angeles-based director, writer, and cultural organizer Mark Valdez is this year’s recipient of its annual Zelda Fichandler Award. The award, named after the founding artistic director of Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., recognizes directors and choreographers who have demonstrated great accomplishment with singular creativity and deep investment in a particular community or region. The annual award focuses on a different region each year, with this year’s nominees coming from the Western United States. Valdez will receive an unrestricted award of $5,000, and the award will be presented at a virtual ceremony on Jan. 24, 2022.
Jennifer Chang, Leslie Ishii, and Erika Chong Shuch were all named as finalists for this year’s award. The selection committee, chaired by director Tony Taccone, included directors Christopher Acebo and Casey Stangl as well as choreographer Donald Byrd.
“Mark Valdez has spent the entirety of his phenomenal career making work by, for, and with disparate and marginalized communities in the Los Angeles area and beyond,” said Taccone in a statement. “He has used the theatre to invite audiences and performers to engage with ideas they didn’t think they could understand or embrace. All the while bringing his singular talent and imagination to create art that has the capacity to change lives. With the granting of this award, Zelda Fichandler is undoubtedly smiling down from her place in the firmament.”
Valdez’s work has been seen at community venues and professional theatres across California, including a tomato field in Grayson and a decommissioned Catholic cathedral in downtown L.A., as well from the stages of La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley to the stages of Ricardo Montalbán Theatre in Hollywood for a Center Theatre Group production. Nationally, Valdez has worked at theatres such as the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, where he created A Road to a Dream, a community collaboration along a 10-mile stretch of the Buford Highway, to shed light on the toll our nation’s broken immigration policies have on families and communities; Arizona’s Childsplay Theatre, where he adapted and directed Gary Soto’s book, Chato’s Kitchen, about a low-rider gato from East L.A.; and Trinity Rep in Providence, where he directed A Christmas Carol with 85 community choirs. His play Highland Park Is Here won the Audience Award at the Highland Park Film Festival and will be featured in Re:Encuentro, the national Latina/o/x Theater Festival.
Valdez is the recipient of various grants from organizations and foundations such as the MAP Fund, NEFA, the Ford Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and awards he’s received include a Legacy Artist Fellowship from the California Arts Council, a Princess Grace Award, and the 2019 Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities. He is a current board member of Double Edge Theatre and Cornerstone Theater Company, and a former board member of TCG. Valdez is currently working on The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe, a multi-city project that aims to influence housing policy using performance, cultural organizing, and creative community development strategies.
For more information on the award, and to read the bios of the other finalists, click here to visit the SDCF website.
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