Directors Council

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.

Elena Araoz

Elena Araoz

Faculty, Founder and Research Director, Innovations in Socially Distant Performance
Princeton University, NJ

Elena Araoz (she/her/hers) is a director of theater, opera, and virtual performance. Her productions span BAM, McCarter, Cherry Lane, Barrington Stage, Audible, 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, to large-scale performance events for PEN American, Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Anna Deavere Smith and Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue. Elena is faculty at Princeton University where she leads 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.

Daniel Banks

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.

Melia Bensussen

Artistic Director, Hartford Stage
Hartford, CT

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.

Christopher Burris

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.

Jillian Carucci

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.

Jennifer Chang

Director/Head of Undergraduate Acting, UC San Diego
Los Angeles, CA

Jennifer Chang (she/her/hers) is a founding member of Chalk Repertory Theatre, where she won an Ovation Award, an LA Weekly Award, and the Stage Scene LA award. Other awards include: 2019 LADCC Award in Direction, 2020 APAFT Award Outstanding Direction. She was the Assistant Director of Theresa Rebeck’s Bernhardt/Hamlet on Broadway starring Janet McTeer. Select directing credits: Hannah and the Dread Gazebo (The Fountain Theatre/EWP), Animals Out of Paper (East West Players – LA Times Critics Pick), Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them (Artists at Play – GLAAD Media Award, Stage Scene LA Award Best Director, Ovation Award Nominated), Our American Story and Residence Elsewhere (commissioned for the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066) at the Japanese American National Museum. Head of Undergraduate Acting at UCSD’s Department of Theatre and Dance. Member of SDC, SAG-AFTRA, AEA. DL Fellow 2018.

Desdemona Chiang

Seattle, WA

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.

R.J. Cutler

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.

EstefanĂ­a Fadul

Brooklyn, NY

Estefanía Fadul (she/her/hers)  is a NYC-based Colombian-American stage director and producer of new work. Recent: Carla’s Quince created with The Voting Project, Noelle Viñas’ Zoom Intervention (NYTimes Critics Pick), Christina Quintana’s Azul (Southern Rep) and Scissoring (INTAR), Stefan Ivanov’s The Same Day (Sfumato Theatre, Bulgaria), and Preston Max Allen and Jessica Kahkoska’s Agent 355 (Chautauqua, NYSAF). Estefanía is the inaugural recipient of New York Stage and Film’s Pfaelzer Award and a 2020/21 Clubbed Thumb Directing Fellow. Alumna: Drama League’s Fall Fellowship and TV Directing Fellowship, O’Neill/NNPN National Directors Fellowship, Foeller Fellowship at Williamstown, Van Lier Fellowship at Repertorio Español, and NALAC Leadership Institute. She is a co-leader of the New Georges Jam, and a member of the Latinx Theatre Commons steering committee, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, and SDC. B.A. Vassar College. DL Fellow 2015, 2018.

Raz Golden

Director and Resident Director, The Flea
Brooklyn, NY

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.

Kyle Haden

Carnegie Mellon University
Assistant Professor & Interim Senior Associate Head of the School of Drama
Ashland New Plays Festival
Associate Artist (and former Artistic Director)

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) DL Fellow 2018.

Brian Eugenio Herrera

Associate Professor, Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University
Princeton, NJ

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.

Adam Immerwahr

Artistic Director, Theatre J
Washington, DC

Adam Immerwahr (he/him/his) is the artistic director of Theater J, the nation’s leading Jewish theater. He served as the associate artistic director of McCarter Theatre (Princeton, NJ) and the resident director of Passage Theatre (Trenton, 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

Freelance Director
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.

Sheryl Kaller

Freelance Director
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.

Gwynn MacDonald

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 Director’s Lab, and Society of Directors and Choreographers. Recent projects: Siachen a new play by Aditya Rawal supported by Baruch Performing Arts Center, and Makena Metz’s DEATH BITES in honor of #ADA30 for Queens Theater / Lincoln Center at Home. 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, and a grad of Columbia University’s Arts Leadership Institute. DL Fellow 2005.

Tony Phelan

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.

Lisa Portes

Director/ Head of MFA Directing Program, DePaul University
Chicago, IL

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.

Lisa Rothe

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.

Gabriel Stelian-Shanks

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. Recently, his monodrama, DIASTREPHO, premiered as part of Stonewall 50: WorldPride at the LGBT Center of New York; this month, his film “The Damnable Deprivation Of Dmitri” premieres as the Opening Selection of the New Masculinites Festival. Proud member SDC, IFP.

Rob Urbinati

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
Princeton, NJ

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, DL Board Member.

Sharifa Yasmin

Director Providence, RI Sharifa Yasmin (she/her/hers)  is a trans Egyptian-American director and playwright. She has completed directing fellowships with The Drama League, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Manhattan Theatre Club, Geva Theatre, Pure Theatre, Hypokrit Theatre and is a 2020 Eugene O’Neill national directing fellow. Directing credits include The War Boys by Naomi Wallace, 3:59AM by Marco Ramirez, In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks, For Colored Girls by Ntozake Shange, Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts, Harriet Tubman Visits a Therapist by Carolyn Gage, and Mosque4Mosque by Omer Abbas Salem. She has assisted directors including Pirronne Yousefzadeh, Steve H. Broadnax III, Saheem Ali, Leslie Ishii, Mark Brokaw, Arpita Mukherjee, Sharon Graci and Meredith Mcdonough. Yasmin’s plays have been produced with Uprising Theatre Company, Amphibian Stage, Trans Theatre Fest, Women’s Theatre Festival, taught at DePaul University, and published in The Methuen Drama Book of Trans Plays. In 2021 Yasmin was the inaugural recipient of SDCF’s Barbara Whitman Award. She is currently a MFA Directing Candidate at Brown/Trinity Rep.

Pirronne Yousefzadeh

Producing Artistic Director, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theater Company
Colorado Springs, CO

Pirronne Yousefzadeh (she/her/hers) is the Producing Artistic Director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theater Company. She has directed and developed work at The Public/Joe’s Pub, Playwrights Horizons, New York Theatre Workshop, Ars Nova, Soho Rep, Atlantic Theater Company, Ma-Yi Theater Company, Noor Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Williamstown Theatre Festival, American Conservatory Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Cleveland Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Pioneer Theatre Company, Huntington Theatre Company, Milwaukee Rep, InterAct Theatre Company, and Hangar Theatre. Pirronne is a Usual Suspect at NYTW, New Georges Affiliated Artist, member of EST, and an alumna of the Sagal Fellowship at Williamstown Theatre Festival, SDC Denham Fellowship, and Soho Rep Lab. She is a founding member of Maia Directors. MFA: Columbia University. Member, SDC. DL Fellow 2006.