The Drama League Directors Council was formed as a way to further embed artists in the decision-making process of our organization, establish peer-to-peer mentorship for Fellowship recipients, and have the nation’s leading directors guide programming as we expand our mission to support directors and lead in re-emergence strategies for Broadway and the American theater industry.
The Directors Council is composed of award-winning directors and creators from across the country, in theater and its related mediums. All members have participated in The Drama League’s director-focused programs in the past, and have committed to providing counsel, guidance, and partnership to the organization moving forward.
Faculty, Founder and Research Director, Innovations in Socially Distant Performance
Princeton University, NJ
Elena Araoz (she/her/hers) is a director of theater, opera, multimedia and virtual performance. Her productions span BAM, McCarter Theatre Center, Cherry Lane Theatre, Barrington Stage, New York City Opera, Prague Shakespeare, New York Theatre Workshop Next Door, Bucharest International Theatre, People’s Light, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, White Snake Projects, Mexico Beyond Mariachi, Glimmerglass Opera, Oregon Symphony, Audible, to large-scale performance events for PEN American, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Anna Deavere Smith, and Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue. She is currently in development for three commercial musicals, one in collaboration with the Shubert Organization, and has been serving as dramaturg on Senator Bill Bradley’s solo performance and upcoming documentary film Rolling Along. Elena is the Producing Artistic Director of the Theater and Music Theater Season at Princeton University where she also leads the research lab Innovations in Socially Distant Performance which studies the aesthetics, philosophies, and tools that are transforming the field. The New York Times dubbed ISDP’s artistic practice as “form-busting,” and their research is being archived by the Library of Congress. DL Resident 2015. She is a member of the Board of Directors of The Drama League.
Co-Artistic Director, DNAWorks
Ft. Worth, TX
Daniel Banks (he/him/his) is a director, deviser, dance dramaturg, and dialogue facilitator. He has directed at National Theatre of Uganda, Belarussian National Drama Theatre, Market Theatre Lab (South Africa), Playhouse Square (Cleveland), HERE Arts Center (NY), Bay Area Playwrights Festival, NYC and DC Hip Hop Theatre Festivals, Oval House, Teatro Technis, and with Kompany Malakhi (London). He worked as movement director/choreographer at Shakespeare in the Park, Theatre for a New Audience, Maurice Sendak’s The Night Kitchen, Singapore Rep, and La Monnaie. Daniel is co-director of DNAWORKS, an arts and service organization dedicated to dialogue and healing through the arts, engaging the topics of representation, identity, and heritage. He is Associate Director of Theatre Without Borders, on the national cabinet of US Department of Arts and Culture, and the 2020 recipient of TCG’s Alan Schneider Director Award. DL Fellow 1994, 1997.
Artistic Director, Hartford Stage
Melia Bensussen (she/her/hers) became Artistic Director of Hartford Stage in 2019. The recipient of an OBIE Award for Outstanding Direction, she has directed extensively around the country and internationally. Raised in Mexico City, Melia is fluent in Spanish and has translated and adapted a variety of works, including her edition of the Langston Hughes translation of Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding, published by TCG. A past recipient of a Princess Grace Fellowship, she was awarded the Foundation’s top honor, the Statue Award. A graduate of Brown University, she was the recipient of a Drama League Directing Fellowship, serves as Chair of the Arts Advisory Board for the Princess Grace Foundation, and is the Secretary for the Executive Board of the Society of Directors and Choreographers (SDC). She is on the faculty at Emerson College where she previously served as Chair. DL Fellow 1986.
Director/Actor and Professor, LaGuardia Community College
New York, NY
Christopher Burris (he/him/his) directed the world premiere of Geese by Samuel D. Hunter at Theatre Row and The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. Other new works include: When We Wake Up Dead (Brooklyn College), Lords Resistance (The Fire This Time), Snakeskin Suit (EST Lab), Outcry! (JACK), and the 2010 FringeNYC smash, A Raisin in the Salad: Black Plays for White People. Recently, he directed The Brothers Size (Luna Stage). Directed readings/workshops: The New Group, Labyrinth, Ensemble Studio Theatre Lab, National Black Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem, Epic Theatre Ensemble, The New Black Fest, Liberation Theater Company, Hudson Valley Writers Center, The Cell, Manhattan Theatre Source. As an actor, he has been seen on television (“The Guiding Light,” “Damage Control,” “As The World Turns”), stage (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse, North Shore Music Theatre), commercials, and more. DL Resident 2017.
Associate Artistic Director, TheaterworksUSA
New York, NY
Jillian Carucci (she/her/hers) is a director, educator, and Associate Artistic Director of TheaterWorksUSA. She is passionate about creating quality theater for young audiences and supporting early career artists. At TheaterWorksUSA, she oversees artistic and education programs in addition to casting up to 30 musical productions, workshops, and readings each season. She has worked off-Broadway and regionally at theaters such as: The Hangar Theatre, Atlantic Acting School, McCarter Theatre Center, Keen Company, and Mile Square Theatre. She also teaches on the BFA Musical Theatre faculty at CAP21/Molloy College and serves on the Artistic Advisory Board at Forestburgh Playhouse (In the Works-In the Woods) and as Chair of the Board of What Will The Neighbors Say? Theatre Company. DL Fellow 2017.
Desdemona Chiang (she/her/hers) is a stage director based in Seattle, WA and Ashland, OR. Co-Founder of Azeotrope (Seattle). Directing credits include: Guthrie Theater, Alley Theatre, South Coast Repertory, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, California Shakespeare, Seattle Repertory, Playmakers Repertory, Studio Theatre, Long Wharf, ACT Theatre Seattle, American Shakespeare Center, Seattle Shakespeare, Village Theatre, Theatre Latte Da, Heritage Theatre Festival, Book-It Repertory, Aurora Theatre, Seattle Public Theatre, Shotgun Players, Crowded Fire Theatre, Impact Theatre, Playwrights Foundation, and Golden Thread Productions, among others. Intersection for the Arts Triangle Lab Artist-Investigator. Awards/Affiliations: Princess Grace Award (Robert and Gloria Hausman Theater Honor), Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Theatre, SDC Sir John Gielgud Directing Fellowship, TCG Young Leader of Color, Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and Directors Lab West. Gregory Award Recipient for Outstanding Direction. DL Fellow 2011, 2020.
Director/Producer, This Machine
Los Angeles, CA
R.J. Cutler (he/him/his) is an award-winning director and producer renowned for documentaries including “The War Room,” “A Perfect Candidate,” “The September Issue,” “The World According to Dick Cheney,” “Thin and Listen to Me Marlon.” A pioneer in nonfiction television, R.J. created landmark programs including “American High,” “Freshman Diaries” and “30 Days,” among others. Cutler’s scripted work includes “Nashville,” “If I Stay,” and the award-winning podcast “The Oval O`ce Tapes.” Upcoming projects include the feature documentary “BELUSHI” on Showtime and the highly anticipated Untitled Billie Eilish Documentary for Apple TV+. Cutler’s documentary series “Dear…” is currently streaming on Apple TV+, and his musical drama “Bronzeville” has been ordered straight-to-series by Showtime. Cutler has been nominated for an Academy Award® and is a two-time Emmy® nominee. DL Fellow 1984.
Estefanía Fadul (she/her) is a NYC-based Colombian-American stage director, producer, and the Co-Artistic Director of Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST) in New York City. Recent: Carla’s Quince created with The Voting Project (Drama League Award nomination), the world premieres of The Garbologists by Lindsay Joelle (Philadelphia Theatre Company), Azul by C. Quintana (Southern Rep), and Zoom Intervention by Noelle Viñas (Weston Playhouse, New York Times Critics Pick), and the US premiere of Kamloopa by Kim Senklip Harvey (WAM). She has developed new plays and musicals Off-Broadway and regionally at the Public Theater, Goodspeed, Playwrights Realm, Chautauqua, NYSAF, Musical Theater Factory, and more. Estefanía is the inaugural 2020 recipient of New York Stage and Film’s Pfaelzer Award, and a member of the Leadership Circle at the Center for Performance and Civic Practice, the New Georges Jam, the Latinx Theatre Commons advisory committee, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, and SDC. Alumna: Clubbed Thumb Directing Fellowship, O’Neill/NNPN National Directors Fellowship, Foeller Fellowship at Williamstown, Van Lier Fellowship at Repertorio Español, and NALAC Leadership Institute. B.A. Vassar College. www.estefaniafadul.com. DL Fellow 2015, 2018. She is a member of the Board of Directors of The Drama League.
Director and Resident Director, The Flea
Raz Golden (he/him/his) is a director of theatre, film, and voice over. He is a Resident Director at The Flea, a member of the Roundabout Directors Group, and was a Drama League Classical Directing Fellow. His current work focuses on new and classical texts, as well as narratives that explore shared cultural histories and myths and center people of color. He has developed work with The National Black Theatre, The Public Theatre, NYU Tisch, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Waterwell, Dixon Place, and McCarter Theatre. DL Fellow 2019.
A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Kyle Haden (he/him) is an Equity actor, director, and educator. He is also the artistic director of the Ashland New Plays Festival in Oregon. On stage, Kyle has performed at regional theaters nationwide, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Guthrie Theater, Shakespeare Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Arizona Theater Company, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Quantum Theatre, and Cleveland Play House, as well as various theaters in New York and Chicago. Kyle most recently performed in the world premiere of We Are Among Us at City Theatre. As a director, Kyle was named a 2018 Drama League Directing Fellow, and has directed various productions across the country, including A Brief History of America (Hangar Theatre Company), Hamlet (Island Shakespeare Festival) and The Monologue Project (Pittsburgh/NYC). Up next he will be spending his summer directing productions of The Winter’s Tale (Island Shakespeare Festival) and the world premiere of Hazardous Materials (Creede Repertory Theatre) www.kylehaden.com DL Fellow 2018.
Brian Eugenio Herrera
Associate Professor, Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University
Brian Eugenio Herrera (he/him/his) is a writer, teacher and scholar who examines the history of gender, sexuality and race within and through U.S. popular performance. He is author of Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in 20th Century U.S. Popular Performance (Michigan, 2015), which was awarded the George Jean Nathan Prize for Dramatic Criticism. He is also Inaugural Resident Scholar for The Sol Project, a longstanding contributor to the Fornés Institute, and part of the Core Facilitation Team with ArtEquity. Brian is Associate Professor of Theater and Gender & Sexuality Studies in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University. DL Fellow 1990.
Artistic Director, Theatre J
Adam Immerwahr (he/him/his) is the artistic director of Village Theatre outside Seattle, Washington. Previously, he served as the artistic director of Theater J in Washington, DC, and as associate artistic director of McCarter Theatre (Princeton, NJ). Adam served on the producing team of multiple productions that have transferred to Broadway and Off-Broadway, including the world premiere of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. As a director, his work has been seen across the world, from Aspen to Zimbabwe. He has directed off-Broadway and at many of the nation’s premier regional theaters, such as McCarter Theatre, Walnut Street Theater, Cleveland Play House, Woolly Mammoth, and many others. He currently serves on the board of the Alliance for Jewish Theater. DL Fellow 2008.
Candis C. Jones
New York, NY
Candis C. Jones (she/her/hers) is a theater director and rising artistic leader. She has directed and developed works at The Public Theater, The Alliance Theater, Detroit Public Theater, The Kennedy Center, The Lark, New Harmony Project, A.C.T, Zanzibar International Film Fest, New Black Fest, The Fire This Time Fest, Primary Stages, NYU, and American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Upcoming Productions: Cullud Wattah (The Public Theater), Detroit 67′ (Signature Theater DC), School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play (Cincinnati Playhouse). Awards and Fellowships: 2016 Lilly Award, WP Theater’s 2018-2020 Lab, Drama League Alumni. Candis is eternally grateful for the Drama League. She is thrilled to serve on the Director’s Council and support fellow directors in the field. DL Fellow 2016.
New York, NY
Sheryl Kaller (she/her/hers) most recently directed BLISS the musical by Tyler Beattie and Emma Lively (Seattle 5th Avenue Theater), The White Chip by Sean Daniels (59 E. 59) and A Walk on the Moon by Paul Scott Goodman and Pamela Grey (A.C.T.). She directed Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-nominated play on Broadway, Mothers and Sons with Tyne Daly. Sheryl received a Tony Award nomination for Best Director for the Broadway production of Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts. Other projects include Frozen (Disney Cruise Lines), Our Town (Deaf West Theater and Pasadena Playhouse), Sacred Valley by Josh Radnor (NYSAF), The White Chip by Sean Daniels and Choice by Winnie Holzman. She also recently directed the world premieres of Billy Porter’s play While I Yet Live (Primary Stages), Nick Blaemire’s A Little More Alive (Barrington Stage and Kansas City Rep), Roundabout Theater Company’s Underground production of Too Much Too Much Too Many by Meghan Kennedy, and the LCT3 production of Mr. Joy by Daniel Beaty. She’s is currently in development on a new Josh Radnor project, and Switched by Jonatha Brooke and Geoffrey Nauffts, among others.
Artistic Director, Juggernaut Theatre
New York, NY
Gwynn MacDonald (she/her/hers) has directed or produced theater, TV, film and radio receiving cable Ace and Emmy nominations, and Radio’s Gracie Award. She is a member of Juilliard alumni-founded Juggernaut Theatre, League of Professional Theatre Women, Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, and Society of Directors and Choreographers. Recent projects: Siachen a new play by Aditya Rawal supported in residency by Baruch Performing Arts Center, The Monument by Randall David Cook and Cheryl Davis developed as part of the Orchard Project Performance Lab, a workshop of Amy Freed’s translation of Taming of the Shrew co-produced by Play On! Shakespeare and Theater Breaking Through Barriers, and RM Cohen’s American Pastime an historical look at systemic racism in Baseball. International play development includes works from Eastern Europe, U.K., Argentina, India and Israel. International directing includes American plays in Cuba and Bogota. Gwynn studied theatre and film at Princeton, is a Drama League Fellow (2005), and a grad of Columbia University’s Arts Leadership Institute. DL Fellow 2005. She is a member of the Board of Directors of The Drama League.
Director/Showrunner, Midwest Livestock
Los Angeles, CA
Tony Phelan (he/him/his) After joining “Grey’s Anatomy” at the start of season 2, Tony Phelan and his wife Joan Rater rose through the ranks and co-ran the show alongside creator Shonda Rhimes for seasons 7 through 10. For their work on “Grey’s Anatomy” they earned a WGA Award for Best New Series in Television in 2005 and were nominated for two Emmy Awards in 2006 and 2007, both for Outstanding Drama Series. Since 2016, Phelan and his wife have been developing and running their own shows including “Doubt” for CBS and “Council of Dads” on NBC. The husband and wife team enjoyed a successful Off-Broadway run with their stage play Good Will at The Director’s Company in 1998, which The New York Times gave a rave review, hailing it as “touching and thought-provoking.” Yale University. DL Fellow 1987.
Director/ Head of MFA Directing Program, DePaul University
Lisa Portes (she/her/ella) is an award-winning Chicago-based director, educator, leader and advocate whose aim is to define and promote a new American theatre that is driven aesthetically and politically by the world we are becoming rather than the world we’ve been. She is a co-founder of the Latinx Theatre Commons and serves on the board of the Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and the executive board of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). She heads the MFA Directing Program at The Theatre School at DePaul University. Her work has been seen at numerous theatres in Chicago and regionally. Recent credits include Glass Menagerie (CalShakes), Quixote Nuevo (Round House), Thanksgiving Play (Cincinnati Playhouse), Native Gardens (Denver Center). DL Fellow 1992, 1997.
Dámaso Rodríguez (he/him/his) is a freelance director. He produced over 60 plays as artistic director of Artists Rep in Portland, Oregon, which joined the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) during his tenure (2013-2021). Rodríguez is a Co-Founder of Furious Theatre (called “one of the fastest-rising ensembles in L.A. stage history” by LA Stage Magazine). He also served as Associate Artistic Director of the Pasadena Playhouse (2007-2010). Credits include: Actors Theatre of Louisville, American Conservatory Theater, Intiman Theatre, A Noise Within, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Rep, and South Coast Rep, among others. He has received awards from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, Back Stage, and the NAACP. Rodríguez works with theatres around the country as a management consultant for Arts Consulting Group. He is a member of SDC.
New York City, NY
Lisa Rothe (she/her/hers) was nominated for SDC’s Joe A. Callaway Award for Direction for Hold These Truths by Jeanne Sakata, which has toured the country and also won Theatre Bay Area Awards for Outstanding Direction, Performer, and Production. Recent directing work has been seen at: The Guthrie Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theater, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Irish Repertory Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Theatreworks/Silicon Valley, Two River Theater, People’s Light and Playmakers Repertory Theatre. Leadership positions: Director of New Works at Kansas City Repertory Theatre; Director of Global Exchange at The Lark; co-Artistic Director of The Actor’s Center in NYC; co-President of the League of Professional Theatre Women. DL Fellow 2000.
Artistic Director, The Drama League
New York City, NY
Gabriel Stelian-Shanks (he/him+) is the Artistic Director of The Drama League of New York and a founder of A Certain Something. He has directed over sixty theater, film, and television projects across the United States and Europe, and is the author of eighteen plays, two screenplays, and a television series. An alumnus of the Orchard Project, nominee for Best Director at the Madrid International Film Festival, and recipient of the Theatre Project Honor for Outstanding Vision, he has been recognized for his arts leadership by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. One of the directors of Peculiar Works Project’s The Village Fragments (OBIE Award), his productions have been seen in New York, Seattle, Washington DC, Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, Vienna, Sofia, Bucharest, and Budapest, among others. As a writer and director in film and television, his work has premiered at the Madrid, Stockholm, Sicily, and Barcelona International Film Festivals, among many others. Proud member SDC, IFP.
Director of New Play Development, Queens Theatre
New York City, NY
Rob Urbinati (he/him/his) is a director and writer based in New York, and Director of New Play Development at Queens Theatre. His plays include Hazelwood Jr. High, Murder On West Moon Street, Death by Design, Mama’s Boy and Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, published by Samuel French. The Queen Bees, Nymph Errant, and UMW: University of Mostly Whites are published by Stage Rights. His book, Play Readings: A Complete Guide for Theatre Practitioners is published by Taylor and Francis. Rob’s plays have received over 200 productions world-wide. In NYC, Rob directed for the Public Theater, Classic Stage Company, Culture Project, Abingdon, Pearl Theatre, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, New York Fringe Festival, HERE, New York Music Theatre Festival, and Cherry Lane Theatre. DL Fellow 1997, 1999, 2001.
Nicole A. Watson
Director/Associate Artistic Director, McCarter Theater Center
Nicole A. Watson (she/her/hers) is a director, educator, and the Associate Artistic Director of McCarter Theater Center. As Associate Artistic Director of Round House Theatre, she directed He Brought Her Heart Back In A Box, School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play, A Doll’s House Part 2, and Sweat, among others. She is a member of the New Georges Jam and has worked with New Dramatists, the Lark Play Development Center, the Fire this Time Festival, the New Black Fest, the Women’s Project Theater, The 52nd Street Project, Signature Theater, Geva Theater Center, A.C.T., Asolo Rep, Washington National Opera, The Contemporary American Theater Festival, Working Theater, Smith College, NCSA, NYU, and LIU. Lincoln Center Directors Lab. the Women’s Project Directors Lab. SDC. BA: History, Yale. MA: NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study. DL Fellow 2013, U.S./Europe International Exchange 2018. She is a member of the Board of Directors of The Drama League.
Dawn Monique Williams
Dawn Monique Williams (she/her) is the Associate Artistic Director at Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley, CA. Recent directing credits include the world premiere of The Incrementalist by Cleavon Smith, an audio version of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye adapted by Lydia R. Diamond, Bull in a China Shop (Aurora), Beehive: The 60’s Musical (CenterREP), Lauren Gunderson’s The Half-Life of Marie Curie (TheatreSquared), Sweet Water Taste (Orlando Shakespeare Theatre), Letters to Kamala (American Stage Company), Earthrise (Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Moon Man Walk, Ti Jean and His Brothers, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (American Conservatory Theatre, MFA program), an audio version of Lynn Nottage’s Las Meninas, The Secretaries (Profile Theatre), Romeo & Juliet (Chautauqua Theatre), August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson (Le Petit), Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark (Douglas Morrisson and UNCO), and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Town Hall). Dawn’s awards include a Princess Grace Theatre Fellowship, a TCG Leadership U Residency Grant, and a Drama League Directing Fellowship. She holds an MA in Dramatic Literature and an MFA in Directing. Dawn is a proud member of SDC.
Pirronne Yousefzadeh (she/her/hers) is a director, writer, and educator, and was recently appointed the Associate Artistic Director of the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis. Prior to this appointment, she served as Geva Theatre Center’s Associate Artistic Director and Director of Engagement, and as Producing Artistic Director at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. She has a passion for new work that centers and uplifts the stories of global majority communities and has developed and directed work extensively regionally and in New York City. Some of her recent credits include the world premiere of Kid Prince & Pablo by Brian Quijada (Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe (Actors Theatre of Louisville), Queen by Madhuri Shekar (Geva Theatre Center), and The Royale by Marco Ramirez (Kitchen Theatre/Geva). She is currently developing new works with writers including Jessica Huang, Ramiz Monsef, Nikki Massoud, Sade Namei, and Vichet Chum. Pirronne is a Usual Suspect at NYTW, New Georges Affiliated Artist, member of EST, No More 10 Out of 12s, and Wingspace, and an alumna of the 2050 Fellowship at NYTW, Sagal Fellowship at Williamstown, SDC Denham Fellowship, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, New Georges Jam, and Drama League Directors Project. She was a finalist for the 2020 Zelda Fichandler Award from SDC and is a proud member of the union. Pirronne is a co-founder of Maia Directors, a consulting group for artists and organizations who wish to engage with the stories from the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. Alongside Kimberly Senior, Pirronne co-chaired an SDC committee creating a set of anti-racist best practices for directors. Upcoming projects include Vietgone by Qui Nguyen (Geva Theatre Center), Mother Russia by Lauren Yee (Playmakers Repertory Company), and the world premiere of It’s Christmas, Carol! by Mark Bedard, Brent Hinkley, and John Tufts (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). M.F.A., Columbia University.