Fellows & Residents
We're excited to announce our 2021 Directing Fellows & Residents!
Recipients become part of our 350+ alumni of The Drama League’s directing programs, often partnering with theaters across the country to develop and hone their directing skills. They join our cohort of fellows currently in production for DirectorFest 2021 after a year of programming shifts internally and across the industry. Check back in to learn more about the individual programs and get updates when applications open next season.
New York Fellows
RYAN DOBRIN (he/him/his) is a queer, biracial New York-based director and producer interested in the exploration of emotional growth, spectacle, otherness, human connection, and morality. He is one of the Producing Artistic Leaders of The Movement Theatre Company, a member of the Roundabout Directors Group, and the director of Those Guilty Creatures. Previous fellowships include Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan Theatre Club, and Ars Nova. Recent directing includes collaborations with Atlantic Acting School, Experimental Theatre Wing, A4, Playdate Theatre, Ars Nova, and Waterwell. His phone-based experiential short film The Homiesexuals: a social media tragedy written by Gage Tarlton will be released in 2021. Ryan graduated from Wesleyan University, where he received the Rachel Henderson Theater Prize and the Outreach & Community Service Prize in Theater. ryandobrin.com
REENA DUTT (she/her/hers) Los Angeles: The Sitayana (Or How to Make an Exit) (East West Players, May 2021), This is Not a True Story (Artists At Play, Los Angeles, TBA), Antigone, Presented by the Girls of St. Catherine’s (Sacred Fools Theatre Company), Defenders (Pandelia’s Yellow Canary Company), Rise & Shine: I thought I was white (Bad Hindu Productions), Katy and Jennifer (Kings and Desperate Men Productions | Fierce Backbone). Online Productions: Sitayana (East West Players, TBA 2021), If I Should Wake (Greenway Court Theatre, Los Angeles). Assistant Directing: Hannah and the Dread Gazebo (The Fountain Theatre, Los Angeles), The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona (Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles). Film/TV: “Too Many Bodies” (Director), “Good Trouble” (Shadow, Disney|Freeform). Awards/Honors: LA Times Critic’s Pic 2020 Antigone, Presented by the Girls of St. Catherine’s, Producer’s Encore Award 2019 Katy and Jennifer and 2018 Waitless. Affiliations: Bridging the Collective Mentorship, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Directors Lab West. www.ReenaDutt.com
Keenan Tyler Oliphant
KEENAN TYLER OLIPHANT (he/him/his) Off-off Broadway/New York: Self-Combustion of a 30 Something Year Old Chet; or, Icarus Tries to Catch the Sun (New Ohio Producers Club), Being in Time (International Human Rights Art Festival), Round (Samuel French Off-off Broadway Festival), queen (Dixon Place). International: “In-between”, South African National Arts Festival (Director); “Private Parts”, South African National Arts Festival (Director). Assistant Directing: We’re Gonna Die (Second Stage), Moby Dick (A.R.) Educational Performance: baldwin[GIOVANNI]brando, Neptune, Romeo and Juliet, Three Sisters (Columbia University). Artistic Director of Mixing Bowl Productions. Clubbed Thumb Directing Fellow 2020/2021. SDC. MFA Directing for Theatre: Columbia University 2020; BMus Honours Jazz Vocals: University of Cape Town; BA Drama and English Literature: University of Cape Town. keenantyleroliphant.com
Lanise Antoine Shelley
LANISE ANTOINE SHELLEY (she/her/hers) is the Artistic Director of The House Theatre of Chicago. She is a Haitian actress, director, playwright and podcast host. Selected directing credits include: Just Cause (Defamation Experience), Pretended (written & directed for Paramount Theatre’s Inception Project), Blue Manakin (Rising Sun Performance Company), Rastas & Hattie, Black & Blue, Muthaland (16th St Theatre) Identity Lab (Lookingglass Theatre), The Tenant (Akvavit Theatre), RefuSHE Project (Voices & Faces Project), Rumors (DePaul University). Associate Director: the world premiere of Plantation (Lookingglass Theatre, dir. David Schwimmer), Nell Gwynn (Chicago Shakespeare), The First Deep Breath (Victory Gardens Theatre) and The Snow Queen (American Repertory Theater), as well as staged readings at Stratford Shakespeare Festival. She holds a BFA in directing, acting, and playwriting from Cornish College of the Arts, an MFA from ART/MXAT at Harvard University, certificate in Classical Theatre from BADA in Oxford, England, and Birmingham Conservatory. She was Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s Chicago Fellow 2016 and Victory Gardens Theatre’s Directing Fellow 2019. Presently Lanise is the host of the podcast “When They Were Young: Amplifying Voices of Adoptees” available on all listening platforms. www.laniseantoineshelley.com
Public Works Fellow
(ella/she) Regional/Other: Fade, Tanta Bulla…¿Y pa que?, and La Tempestad (Trinity Rep, Rhode Island); References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot and She Kills Monsters (Pell Chafee Performance Center, Rhode Island); Real Women Have Curves and Clybourne Park (Mainstreet Players, Miami). Assistant Director: A Seat at the Table (Rites and Reason Theater), Song of Summer (Trinity Rep), Orlando and Soft (Williamstown Theatre Festival, Massachusetts). Awards/Honors: 2020 MFA Directing Candidate (Brown University), 2019 Matt Harris Directing Fellow (Williamstown Theatre Festival). SDC. www.TatyanaMarieCarlo.com
Leo Shull Musical Theater Fellow
SIVAN BATTAT (she/they) is an Iraqi-Jewish theatre director & community organizer. Sivan’s work is across genres – in the theatre, community, ritual celebration, and beyond. They create work that leans into multiplicity and resists cultural erasure, exploring displacement across immigrant experiences, asking questions about nostalgia and home. Recent projects include: Layalina (National Queer Theater), The Night Traveller (Cutting Ball Theater), Coexistence My Ass (Harvard University/Tour), Baba Karam, McArabia (Atlantic Middle Eastern Mixfest), East o’, West o’! (ANTFest, Ars Nova). Fellowships/Residencies: Roundabout Theatre Company (Directing Fellow), NYTW (Adelphi Residency), 14th Street Y (LABA Fellowship), Studio Theatre (Artistic Apprentice). www.SivanBattat.com
DESDEMONA CHIANG (she/her) Regional (selected): Hold These Truths (People’s Light Theatre Company, Malvern, PA); Snow White, The Journal of Ben Uchida (Seattle Children’s Theatre); Vietgone (Alley Theatre, Houston); White Pearl (Studio Theatre, Washington DC); The Great Leap (Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis); M Butterfly (South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa); The Winter’s Tale (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland); Pride and Prejudice (Pittsburgh Public Theatre); King of the Yees (Baltimore CenterStage / ACT Theatre, Seattle); As You Like It (California Shakespeare Theater, Berkeley); Constellations (Seattle Repertory Theatre); The Crucible, We Are Proud to Present…, 4,000 Miles, Hairspray (Playmakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill); Smart People (Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven); The Comedy of Errors (American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA). Awards/Honors (selected): 2019 Princess Grace Award, 2016 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Theatre, 2013 SDC Sir John Gielgud Directing Fellowship, 2011 Drama League Directing Fellowship. Unions/Affiliations: Member of SDC. Adjunct Faculty, Cornish College of the Arts. MFA Directing: University of Washington School of Drama. www.DesdemonaChiang.com
CHRISTIAN ÁVILA (he/him) is a director, playwright, and activist based in New York City. Recent credits include Dark Yes (with Richard Schechner), Electability, Debates (Theatre in Asylum), Masseur (Dream-Up Festival), Daddy’s Boy (Theater for the New City), Chasing the Dream (Columbia University), Big Love, Alice, Falling in Line (PTC), Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, On Stage in 20 Questions, and Last Unicorn (TDPS, Berkeley), and on-screen as Host and Co-Creator of “Club TV” in San Francisco. Christian is a founding member of Back to Work Collective, which created the “Feminist Flashmob” performed at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. He holds an M.A. in Theater from LIU Post and an undergraduate degree in Dramatic Art from UC Berkeley. He has trained with Stan Lai, Anne Bogart, SITI Company, and Richard Schechner. www.ChristianAvila.com
Jasmine B. Gunter
JASMINE B. GUNTER (she/her) is the 2019-20 artistic apprentice at Hartford Stage, and a proud associate member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. Recent directing credits include Intimate Apparel (SUNY Brockport), Lines in the Dust (Geva Theatre Center), Reroute (24 Hour Plays: Nationals). Assistant directing: Nina Simone: Four Women (Arena Stage), In the Heights (Seattle Rep), Quixote Nuevo (Hartford Stage/Huntington Theatre Company), and The Luckiest People (Actors Theatre of Charlotte/NNPN). As well as being a freelance director, Jasmine has a wealth of experience as a teaching artist. She taught for the Berkshire Theatre Group and the Redhouse Arts Center in Syracuse NY. www.JasmineBGunter.weebly.com
CARA HINH (she/they) is a mixed Vietnamese American, fat and queer director, educator and collaborator originally from Indiana. Select Directing Credits Include: Where The Lovelight Gleams (UCLA New Work Festival), The Sensational (Actors Theatre of Louisville), & Tornkid (Asian Pasifika Arts Collective). Most recently, Cara was the Education Coordinator for The Winter Bear Project at Perseverance Theatre and a directing apprentice at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Before that they were the SDC Observer on Hadestown with Rachel Chavkin and the Learning and Social Accountability Fellow at Baltimore Center Stage. Cara is an associate member of SDC and a proud member of Roundabout Directors Group. carahinh.com
NICHOLAS POLONIO (he/him) is a Filipino-sourced, American-born, Chinese-bred theater director based in Brooklyn, NY. He has adapted and directed works including Late Fame: A History Play, A Phoenix Too Frequent, We are Wombats!, and The 100 Most Beautiful Names of Todd. As an Assistant Director, he has worked on and off-Broadway, regionally, and internationally for directors including Robert O’Hara, Tatiana Mallarino, and Bill Buckhurst. Nicholas is an alum of the Williamstown Theatre Festival Directing Corps, the Young Vic Genesis Directors Program, and the Conservatory at Shakespeare’s Globe. He was a 2016 National YoungArts Finalist in Spoken Theater, and received his BFA in Acting from Rutgers Mason-Gross School of the Arts. www.NicholasPolonio.com
Current Resident Directors
Beatrice Terry Residents
RAN XIA (she/her) is a Shanghai-born, Brooklyn-based playwright, director, and sound designer. She’s a Resident Director at the Tank, where she received the inaugural Artist of the Year award in 2019 and directed the world premiere of Independent Study by Ben Gassman, US premiere of The Tallest Man in the World by Ailís Ní Ríain, her own play In Blue, and most recently, a cinematic theatrical hybrid production of Prometheus Bound (adapted by Howard Rubenstein). Risa Puno’s The Privilege of Escape (Creative Time). Alumnus of Pipeline Theater’s PlayLab 2020, and a usual suspect at Exquisite Corpse Co (Memory House, Governor’s Island). Sound designing works include Islands of Contentment (Hypokrit), Zoetrope (ECC), etc. Guest directing Orlando at Barnard College (Fall 2021). Ranxia.info
(RESIDENCY PROJECT – Chava the Giant and the Oldest Bird by Ran Xia)
Rachel Gita Karp
RACHEL GITA KARP (she/her) makes rigorously-researched performances about politics and public policy. She has developed and directed new performances through Ars Nova, Irondale, Mabou Mines, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Flea, IRT, The Brick, Dixon Place, PlayPenn, New York Stage and Film, Women Center Stage, Barn Arts, and SPACE on Ryder Farm. Associate and assistant directing credits include productions on Broadway, Off-, and regionally, including the Tony-winning The Waverly Gallery and productions through Signature Theatre, The Mad Ones, Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company, 13P, Woodshed Collective, and the Humana Festival. Rachel is a 2020 Creative Fellow at Town Stages, an Avant Gardens Resident through Anonymous Ensemble, and a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. BA, Columbia; MFA, Carnegie Mellon. At Carnegie Mellon, Rachel was a John Wells Directing Fellow, supporting her academics, and a Milton and Cynthia Friedman Fellow, supporting her work in women’s policy research.
How to Put On a Sock is an interactive sex-ed tour of the United States. Featuring actual, in-use curricula, How to Put On a Sock collides conflicting lessons about sex, relationships, consent, and choice. Interviews with people working across the sex-ed spectrum supplement the lessons, as the audience participates through a text-in polling network, sharing anonymously their experiences with sex education, pregnancies, and STIs. The U.S. has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STI contraction in the industrialized world; How to Put On a Sock tries to understand why.
RACHEL DICKSTEIN (she/her) devises and directs theatre, opera, and dance-based performance. Artistic Director, Ripe Time since 2000. Commissions: BAM, CTG, Annenberg Center. SLEEP (BAM Next Wave, Yale Rep, Annenberg), THE WORLD IS ROUND (BAM-Fisher, Obie Award), SEPTIMUS AND CLARISSA (Joe A. Calloway, Drama Desk, Drama League nominations, BPAC) FIRE THROWS at 3LD, INNOCENTS, BETROTHED (Ohio Theatre). Opera/New Music: BLOOD MOON (Fisher/ McLaughlin/BMP, Prototype), DESIRE (Lash/Jack Quartet/Miller Theatre), Sankaram’s THUMBPRINT (LA Opera), Iyer/Ladd’s IN WHAT LANGUAGE? (Asia Society, REDCAT, PICA). 2015 LPTW Lucille Lortel. Nominated: Alan Schneider Award (2014), Doris Duke Impact Award (2014,15). Drama League Fall Program, NEA-TCG Director’s Fellowship. BA, Yale College. Co-Chair, Theatre and Performance, Purchase College, SUNY.
(RESIDENCY PROJECT – Candidate X by Aisha Zia, created in collaboration with Ripe Time)
STEVEN SAPP (he/him) is a co-founder and member of UNIVERSES, where he has served as a playwright, actor, and director since 1995. His playwriting and acting credits include Africantic, americUS, Unison, Party People, Ameriville, The Denver Project, On Shot in Lotus Position, Blue Suite, Slanguage, Rhythmicity, The Ride, and The Comedy of Errors (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). Directing credits include Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu, Swopera (Carpetbag Theatre), Metamorphosis, The Seven (University of Iowa), and Ubu: Enchained (Poland). Awards and affiliations include the 2015 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award (Theatre); Oregon Shakespeare Festival Acting Company (2012-present); U.S. Cultural Ambassador with the U.S. State Department for Jazz at Lincoln Center Rhythm Road Tour (2008); Theatre Communications Group; Theatre National Directors Award (2002); National Theater Artist Residency Program Award (2002-2004 and 1999-2001); Peter Zeisler Award (2008); BRIO Awards (Bronx Recognizes Its Own — Performance, 1998 and 2002); Van Lier Fellowship (New Dramatists); The Point CDC (co-founder), and New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspects. His publications include UNIVERSES’ The Revolution will be Live! (2020 release through Theatre Communications Group Books); SLANGUAGE in The Fire This Time; BLUE SUITE (Goodman Theatre’s Festival Latino); PARTY PEOPLE (Manifesto Anthology); and he has been featured on the covers of American Theatre Magazine (2004) and The Source (2000). Steven is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association and holds a BA in Theatre from Bard College. www.universesonstage.com
Africanticis an audiovisual immersive theatrical experience by UNIVERSES which identifies, maps, deconstructs and reconstructs the musical DNA chains that bind us. From the complexities of spiritual ancestral rhythms and chant, across the middle passage into the Americas (where African deities entangle, to this day, in a delicate and vicious dance with Catholic Saints), from work songs and field hollers all the way to today’s music, Africantic explores the importance of music and the social movements that have shaped us. Africantic traces the African musical ancestry that remains, even as the Diaspora continues to evolve.
Next Stage Residents
MATT DICKSON (he/him/his) is a freelance director based in Brooklyn with a focus on new work, classics and musicals. Upcoming: WHERE DID WE SIT ON THE BUS? by Brian Quijada (Colorado
Springs). Recent credits: EVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL by Chelsea Marcantel (Juilliard), WHERE DID WE SIT ON THE BUS? (A digital creation w/ Actors Theatre of Louisville, Drama League nomination), MIKE PENCE SEX DREAM by Dan Giles (A digital presentation, Ensemble Studio Theatre), BRONTË by Polly Teale (a digital stream, NYU Stella Adler), WE THE PEOPLE: AMERICA ROCKS! (Theatreworks, US Tour), SELKIE by Krista Knight (Dutch Kills), THE SIGN IN SIDNEY BRUSTEIN’S WINDOW by Lorraine Hansberry (NYU Grad) and DISCO PIGS by Enda Walsh (Drama League DirectorFest). He is a 2017 Drama League Fellow, a Jonathan Alper Directing Fellow (Manhattan Theatre Club) and member of Ensemble Studio Theatre. He is currently an adjunct professor at NYU teaching, “Theatre- making in the Digital Age”. B.F.A. from Boston University. Mattjdickson.com
(RESIDENCY PROJECT – Regrettably, the Ghost that was Previously Haunting our Mansion has Died by Nadja Leonhard-Hooper)
Lyam B. Gabel
LYAM B. GABEL (they/them) is a trans* director, writer, and researcher who creates containers for collective remembering and radical celebration. They are co-founder of trans-media oral history and performance collective LAST CALL, and co-director of the NEFA NTP ‘18/ MAP ‘16 performance Alleged Lesbian Activities. They are a member of physical theater ensemble NEW NOISE where they directed MAP ‘17 project Jubilee, about undoing familial patterns of racism. Their work the dance floor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table exploring queer care from the early years of the AIDS crisis through COVID-19 recieved a NPN Creation Fund commission. Other work includes an AR journey through trans* euphoria and queer ecology and a short film about lip-sync as time travel. They developed work at Judson Church, Pipeline, Ashland New Plays Festival, The Theater Offensive, and The New Orleans CAC. Drama League Fellow 2017, Distillery Artist New Orleans CAC 2016
(RESIDENCY PROJECT – the dance floor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table by Lyam B. Gabel)
ARPITA MUKHERJEE (she/her/hers) is the Artistic Director and co-founder of Congressional Award–winning Hypokrit Theatre Company and the Festival Chair for Tamasha for South Asian performing artists. Upcoming: Running by Danny Pudi (East West Players/Enacte/Hypokrit) Recent: Islands of Contentment by Dipti Bramhandkar (Hypokrit/The Tank), Bollywood Kitchen by Sri Rao (Geffen Stayhouse/Hypokrit), Jump by Charly Evon Simpson (APAC), House of Joy by Madhuri Shekar (San Diego Rep), Eh Dah? Questions For My Father by Aya Aziz (Next Door at NYTW), Elements of Change by Divya Mangwani (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, UNICEF). Arpita is a 2020-2021 Clubbed Thumb Directing Fellow, 2019 SDC Denham Fellow, a 2018-2020 Womens Project Lab Member and a 2018 Eugene O’Neill National Directing Fellow. Arpita is currently the book writer for Monsoon Wedding musical and is developing several film and TV projects in India and USA.
(RESIDENCY PROJECT – Maya by Cheeyang Ng and Eric Sorrels)
DANNY SHARRON (he/him/his) is a Brooklyn-based theater director with a focus on developing new plays and musicals. He is committed to creating work about the LGBTQ+ experience and providing a platform from which the voices of that community can be heard. Danny is the Senior Associate Director for the Tony Award-winning Dear Evan Hansen (Broadway/London/Toronto/Tour). He recently directed the world premiere of Jason Kim’s The Model American at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and an environmental production of Taylor Mac’s Okay at Bushwick’s Central Arts. He has developed and directed work with The Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Ars Nova, LAByrinth Theater Company, Primary Stages, Ma-Yi, and The Lark. Danny is a recipient of New York Theatre Workshop’s 2050 Fellowship, Williamstown’s Bill Foeller Fellowship, The Drama League’s New York Fellowship, and is an alumnus of the Ars Nova Director’s Troupe. Proud member of SDC. www.dannysharron.com
(RESIDENCY PROJECT – Untitled by Jason Kim)
MOHAMMAD AGHEBATI (he/him) is an award-winning theater director, educator, and actor. He has staged numerous dramas during his career, including commissions from the Japan Foundation and Marienbad Freiburg Theater Festival. A residency at Kennedy Center followed by a Special Research Fellowship at Yale School of Drama resulted in his immigration to the United States, where he has worked since 2013. His plays have been presented at the Public Theater’s Under the Radar and Seoul Performing Arts Festival. Aghebati has taught directing and acting around the world including Shanghai Theater Academy, Edinburgh Theater Festival, and Tehran University. As an actor, Aghebati’s films played at the Berlin Film Festival (“Modest Reception” 2012) and Cannes Film Festival (“They” 2017). He is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Maaa Theater that produces plays by/about immigrants. www.maaa.us
Rooftop is a black comedy that takes place in the Trump era in New York City, the story of an Iranian-American woman whose life turns upside down when she is diagnosed with a terminal illness on her 40th birthday. As Mitra faces the reality of her disease, she decides to reconnect with people from her past…a journey that leads her and those she meets to reevaluate their moral values, perceptions of social norms, and belief systems as it concerns sexuality, race, and gender.
LARISSA LURY (she/her) is a director, an associate professor at New Mexico State University, a deviser, and a former acrobat. She has directed and workshopped plays for companies including Cherry Lane Theatre, The Playwrights’ Center, Urbanite, Dorset Theatre Festival, Portland Center Stage, Southern Rep, InterAct, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Clubbed Thumb, Ma-Yi, New Jersey Rep, Keen Company’s Keen Teens, McCarter Theatre’s Youth Ink!, Curious Theatre Company, ASTC, and Passage Theatre. She was a National Directing Fellow, an LMCC Process Space Resident, a New Georges Audrey Resident, and a Resident Director at Ensemble Studio Theatre. She is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, and a New Georges Affiliate Artist. She received a BS from Northwestern University and an MFA from UC San Diego. www.LarissaLury.com
An epic and muscular theatrical shakedown, the Untitled Mercury 13 Project intertwines imagined scenes with congressional transcripts to unearth the story of thirteen female pilots who might have, if the world had followed a different path, been among our earliest astronauts. Before any human had traveled to space, a program was launched to test female pilots for spaceflight. Thirteen of the best pilots in the country were selected; they sacrificed nearly everything for a vital, equitable opportunity. Commissioned by Ensemble Studio Theatre/Sloan Foundation, the piece asks what it takes – for women, people of color, queer folx, disadvantaged citizins – to get off the ground.
Travis Lee Russ
TRAVIS LEE RUSS (he/him) Off-Broadway: The Gorgeous Nothings: In Concert (Joe’s Pub, Director; Playwright), America is Hard to See (HERE, Director, Playwright), Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey (Sheen Center/HERE, Director; Playwright). International: America is Hard to See (Scotland – Edinburgh Festival Fringe / London – Arcola Theatre / Director; Playwright). Awards/Honors: three 2016 New York Innovative Theatre Award nominations. Residencies: Drama League, SPACE at Ryder Farm, the Tank, Make Room on Governors Island, One Company, and IRT. www.lifejackettheatre.org/travis-russ
Based on true events, The Gorgeous Nothings is a fantastical play that reconstructs the extraordinary, campy, and sometimes heartbreaking history of a group of homosexuals unjustly imprisoned and quarantined on New York City’s Welfare Island (later renamed Roosevelt Island) during the 1930s for committing “lewd and unnatural acts which offend the public decency.” Weaving a rich and complex historical tapestry based on interviews, archival documents, and prison records, these disparate artifacts tell the forgotten story of fearless pioneers who led a silent but fierce revolution, bravely building the foundation of the modern gay liberation movement — four decades before Stonewall.