Meet the 2015 Artists In Residence

February 23, 2015 / Plus the inaugural Beatrice Terry Residency recipient


At the 2014 Musical Celebration of Broadway Benefit Gala, we announced the launch of a new Directors Project residency. Named in memory of an extraordinary alumna of the Directors Project, the Beatrice Terry Residency was to be granted to a female writer/director to develop her own project.  The response was overwhelming, both in gerenosity of donations towards the initiative, and in worthy applicants.  A year later, at this year's  Benefit Gala on February 2nd, we introduced our inaugural recipient, Elena Araoz

Elena joins the 2015 cohort of talented Artists In Residence; innovative directors who will create exciting new work in the Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley Studio Lab at the Drama League Theater Center this year. They are: Zi Alikhan, Tara Ahmadinejad, Amanda Friou, West Hyler, Jeremy Pickard, Nicole A. Watson, and Lily Whitsitt

The nine artists below will receive rehearsal time in the studio lab to develop their chosen project.  In addition, each artist will hold a public event which will open the doors of creative process, and works-in-progress to the general Drama League community. We hope you will join us for those events to help support these emerging artist. 

Click here for more information about the Artists Residency Program.

Click here for more information about the Beatrice Terry Residency

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Artist/Collaborator Team: Elena Araoz
Plastic Drastic
Written and Directed by Elena Araoz

When a colossal storm dumps a mountain of plastic trash onto their shoreline home, a young brother and sister are left alone to find their missing parents and fend for themselves. The boy and girl set out on the open sea where they encounter one monster after another, but nothing is as terrifying as when they shipwreck upon the monster they unknowingly created themselves, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Realizing they are the only ones left to battle this toxic giant, they must overcome their insatiable impulses to accumulate stuff.

Elena Araoz directs theater and opera. Recent productions include Mac Wellman’s Wu World Woo and Horrocks and Toutatis too (Sleeping Weazel at ArtsEmerson),Architecture of Becoming by Kara Corthron, Sarah Gancher, Virginia Grise, Dipika Guha, and Lauren Yee (Women’s Project at City Center), Natalia Naman’s Lawnpeople (Cherry Lane Mentor Project), Lucia di Lammermoor (Opera North in NH), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Prague Shakespeare Company), La traviata (New York City Opera at BAM),Falstaff (Brooklyn Philharmonic at BAM), Latin Lovers (Glimmerglass Opera), Li Tong'sThe Power (Beijing), Naomi Wallace’s The Fever Chart (Underground Railway Theatre). Productions she has both written and directed include War Music (Aurea Ensemble, FirstWorks Festival, New York Institute for the Humanities, and Chicago Humanities Festival), Faust (Aurea Ensemble, FirstWorks Festival), Laberintos/Labyrinths (Chekhov Theatre Ensemble), and an upcoming commission from the Rose Theatre in Omaha. She is currently a 2050 Fellow at New York Theatre Workshop. www.elenaaraoz.com

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Artist/Collaborator Team: Zi Alikhan / BASiC Theatre
THE GRIND, OR How We Became Posthuman
Directed by Zi Alikhan
In 2015, it’s possible to unlock your phone, swipe somebody right on Tinder, and be completely naked with them in 10 minutes without exchanging a single spoken word. We craft an Internet-only persona, we are always searching for the OBO, and trying to replicate the experience of IRL without all the mess. Drawing inspiration from Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde, and text from NYC dating blogs, TED talks, magazine articles, and N. Katherine Hayles’ foundational book on cyborg theory, How We Became Posthuman, THE GRIND sets out to ask: as the advent of new technology enables us to make sexual and romantic connections in less conventional, less personal, less ‘human’ ways, will the act of seeking pleasure as we know it become a ghostly relic of humanity’s past? Has technology truly f**ked us over?

Zi Alikhan is an NYC-based stage director and founding Artistic Director of The BASiC Theatre Project, a collective dedicated to creating socially aware performance for the millennial generation. Zi is especially interested in infusing documentary sources into classic theatre texts to reimagine pieces from our past in a contemporary world, a notion that THE GRIND was born from. Favorite NYC directing project include Gross Indecency (BASiC), The Mistakes Madeline Made (14th Street Y), N/F (HERE Arts Center), and Strindberg’s To Damascus (Pearl Theatre Company PYP Series). Zi is a proud 2014 Drama League Directing Fellow, where he initially developed THE GRIND at The Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, NY. He is a graduate of NYU/Tisch/CAP-21.

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Artist/Collaborator Team: Tara Ahmadinejad / Piehole
The Fizzles
Directed by Tara Ahmadinejad
The Fizzles is an adaptation of a collaborative book containing short prose by Samuel Beckett and etchings by Jasper Johns. Incorporating theater, dance, electroacoustic sound, and live and recorded video projection, The Fizzles promises a compellingly imperfect meeting of media. Like Beckett and Johns’ Foirades/Fizzles, Piehole’s The Fizzles conveys at once a lightness and gravity in its examination of the body's toil and waste over time, motivated by an inexplicable hope.

Tara Ahmadinejad is a NY director, originally from Philadelphia. She is a core founding member of Piehole, with whom she investigates the process of collaboration and collective authorship. Piehole’s work has been seen in theaters, galleries, and hotel rooms in NYC, Philadelphia, Prague, and Providence. Their latest project, Old Paper Houses, was part of Prelude14 and has an upcoming run at the Irondale in March 2015. With Piehole, Tara has received grants from BAX, the Mental Insight Foundation, and Puppeteers of America. Tara recently graduated from the MFA Directing program at Columbia, during which she worked with Anne Bogart, Brian Kulick, Robert Woodruff, and Tina Landau, and assisted Dan Rothenberg, Jay Scheib and Kristin Marting. Tara is a current 2050 Fellow at New York Theatre Workshop. Piehole’s core group also includes Allison LaPlatney, Alexandra Panzer, Elliot B. Quick, and Jeff Wood. For more info:www.pieholed.com

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Artist/Collaborator Team: Amanda Friou
Return from Selma
Directed by Amanda Friou
Selma, Alabama, 1965, a white civil rights activist found crawling in the mud, convinced he was a worm. Psychotic break. Wife and three kids at home. Committed in a segregated hospital. Not safe. This puppetry infused dance/theatre piece by director Amanda Friou unwraps one family's struggle to answer what of privilege? Protest? Equality? When you’d sacrifice the cause to bring him home.

Amanda Friou is a Brooklyn based director and multidisciplinary artist primarily focused on developing new plays and musicals. Her highly theatrical and intellectually rigorous work is distinguished by the organic and inclusive process by which she develops productions. She has worked nationally for ART, La Jolla, CTG, The Guthrie, Geva Theatre Center, and the University of Iowa, and in NYC for Ars Nova, NYU, HERE, and Second Stage; including assisting directors Jo Bonney, Will Pomerantz, Henry Wishcamper, and Warren Carlyle. Favorite projects include the NY premiere of Naomi Wallace’s No Such Cold Thing and a site specific production of Martha Boesing’s Pimp. Amanda has also built puppets for Basil Twist, Hudson Vagabond Puppets, and Das Puppenspiel Puppet Theatre where she was also a puppeteer. Friou is a proud graduate of Macalester College, a 2011 Drama League Alum, and Member of SDC. She is currently directing [title of show] at Asolo Rep.

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Artist/Collaborator Team: West Hyler
Directed by West Hyler
Georama tells the story of American artist John Banvard, who traveled the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers as a young man in the mid-1800s — first as a sketch artist scrambling to make a living, and later as a showman in towns and onboard riverboats up and down the Mississippi. Banvard was the first American millionaire artist who invented and created the first moving picture, a 3,000-foot long scrolled painting of the Mississippi River.

West Hyler is a director and writer living in New York City. Broadway credits include How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Jersey Boys. New York directing credits include work at Primary Stages, Ars Nova, York Theater Company, HERE Arts Center and New York Musical Theater Festival. Regional directing credits include work at Actors Theater of Louisville, St. Louis Repertory Theater, The Colony Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, The Guthrie Theater, The Old Globe, Great River Shakespeare Festival, Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, SC Upstate Shakespeare Festival, and Mythmakers Theater Company. In the world of circus he directed the Big Apple Circus productions Legendarium and Metamorphosis (NY Times Critics Pick) as well as the Martial Arts Circus Panda! in Beijing and at the Palazzo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. As a writer his credits include Georama (St. Louis Rep, Great River Shakespeare Festival) and the short film A Jake and A Tom. MFA University of California at San Diego.

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Artist/Collaborator Team: Jeremy Pickard / Superhero Clubhouse
Earth (a play about people)
Directed by Jeremy Pickard
EARTH (a play about people) finds a couple faced with the possibility of having a child who embark on separate journeys through time and space. The fifth in Superhero Clubhouse's series of Planet Plays, EARTH is a multidisciplinary performance exploring personal, social and environmental questions of overpopulation and is being created collaboratively and remotely by international teams of artists and scientists based on limitations inspired by the Voyager Golden Record project.

Jeremy Pickard is the captain of Superhero Clubhouse, a collective of artists and scientists working at the intersection of environmentalism and theater. Since 2007, Jeremy has been at the helm of a number of eco-theater initiatives including Big Green Theater Festival (an annual eco-playwriting program for Brooklyn fifth-graders produced in partnership with The Bushwick Starr), Climate Collaborations (multidisciplinary performances for all ages created in collaboration with climate scientists) and The Planet Plays (nine stories that together form a new mythology for our changing world). A leading voice on eco-theater, Jeremy takes a holistic approach to theater-making in which content, process and production remain tethered to complex environmental questions. He experiments with this approach in a bimonthly Lab intended to develop a working model of collaboration between scientists, policy experts and theater artists. Training: Ithaca College (’05), National Theater Institute (’03) and SITI Company (since ’06).

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Artist/Collaborator Team: Jennifer Sandella
Einstein’s Dreams
Directed by Jennifer Sandella
Einstein's Dreams is an adaptation of the beloved and acclaimed novel by Alan Lightman. Depicting snapshots of worlds with varying rules of time, this piece is an exploration of human connection through sound, dance, language and science.

Jennifer Sandella is a Brooklyn based theatre director with a foundation in classical text and performance, specializing in new works, adaptations and musicals. She holds a M.A. in Text and Performance/Directing Pathway from The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and B.F.A in Theatre Performance from Hofstra University. Recent directing projects include: Rosmersholm (Random Access Theatre), The Taming of the Shrew (Brooklyn Bridge Park/Shakespeare at Sunset), Save the Robots (NYMF), Friends Scream for 2 Days (2014 NYC DADA Festival), Reach (Theater for the New City), Anthem (Directed/Adapted, Random Access Theatre), The Shape of Things (Estrana Theatre Co.), Subway Savant, A New Musical (Dramatists Guild), Highway Blue – A New Play with Music (Manhattan Shakespeare Project), and Nesting (Token Collective). Jennifer is the Artistic Director of Random Access Theatre, a member of the Directors Lab West (’14) and an associate member of the SDC. www.jennifersandella.com 

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Artist/Collaborator Team: Nicole A. Watson
We Sat in the Death House
Directed by Nicole A. Watson
We Sat in the Death House is a text/movement collaboration between Nicole A. Watson and MJ Kaufman exploring the spectatorship of violence, past and present. To move from first hand written accounts to uploaded videos, what does it mean when we can witness acts of violence, preserve them and share them? Is witnessing an act of collaboration, consent or resistance?

Nicole A. Watson is a freelance director. Selected credits include We Play for the Gods, (The Women's Project), Better Homes & Homelands (The Drama League DirectorFest), Foreign Bodies (Women Center Stage), born bad, Milk Like Sugar, Ti-Jean and His Brothers (NYU-Tisch School of the Arts), BlindSight: A Melodic Hypothesis, which was an original work devised for the Women Center Stage Festival, and the world premiere of the opera Approaching Ali, (Kennedy Center). She is the associate director on The Great Society, directed by Bill Rauch and works frequently with Ruben Santiago-Hudson and was the assistant director on The Piano Lesson at Signature Theatre. Nicole teaches at NYU, is a current member of the New Georges' Jam, a 2013 Drama League Fall Fellow, the 2011 recipient of the League of Professional Theatre Women’s Josephine Abady Award, an alum of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, and the Women’s Project Directors Lab. BA, Yale. MA, NYU.

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Artist/Collaborator Team: Lily Whitsitt / Door 10
This Is The Color Described By The Time
Directed by Lily Whitsitt
This Is The Color Described By The Time is a theatrical performance based on Gertrude Stein’s rarely performed text, Mexico, which she penned in 1916 war-torn Europe. Incorporating dance and an original live score, the piece investigates the danger and power of words; how conversation creates identity, relationships, and social structures. Door 10 experiments with a physical mode of expression for Stein’s slippery text.

Lily Whitsitt is founding artistic director of Door 10 performance group and a director and producer of theater and film. Her work has been presented at HERE Arts Center, Jack, Wesleyan University, CalArts, NYU and site-specific locations including Fishkill Correctional Facility with Rehabilitation Through the Arts. Whitsitt has held artistic and teaching residencies at Centquatre, PACT Zollverein, CalArts, NYU, Wesleyan, and Orchard Project. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University and received her M.F.A. from CalArts in Directing. Currently Whitsitt is producing Ian Olds’ new film The Fixer, starring James Franco and Melissa Leo. She is a Drama League Directing Fellow, Time Warner Fellow at the Women’s Project Directors Lab 2012-2014, San Francisco Film Society/ KRF 2014 grantee, and Princess Grace Award recipient.www.door10.org