Zelda Fichandler Award

Posted by Damaso Rodriguez on Monday, November 12, 2012
I am honored to be a finalist in the company of such great directors...

Bill Rauch Wins Zelda Fichandler Award

Bill Rauch, artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is the 2012 Zelda Fichandler Award winner.
Bill Rauch, artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is the 2012 Zelda Fichandler Award winner.

The Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation awarded Bill Rauch, artistic of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the 2012 Zelda Fichandler Award. The Zelda Fichandler Award recognizes a director or choreographer “who is transforming the regional arts landscape through imaginative, brave work in theatre.” It comes with a $5000 cash prize. Loretta Greco at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, Jane Jones of Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle, and Dámaso Rodriguez of Furious Theatre were specially named as finalists for the award.


Bill Rauch, Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is the 2012 recipient of The Zelda Fichandler Award recognizing an outstanding director or choreographer who is transforming the regional arts landscape through imaginative, brave work in theatre.  The $5000 award, given by Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, heralds both accomplishment to date and promise for the future, and commends deep commitment to a community.

Bill Rauch is Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Prior to his appointment in 2006, Mr. Rauch completed a 20-year journey as co-founder and artistic director of Cornerstone Theater Company, where he directed over 40 productions, most of them in collaboration with diverse communities across the nation. Mr. Rauch has also directed at Lincoln Center, the Mark Taper Forum, the Guthrie, Arena Stage, Seattle Rep, Pasadena Playhouse, Long Wharf, Portland Center Stage, Great Lakes Theater Festival, and he is an Associate Artist of South Coast Rep and Yale Rep.

A peer review committee selected Mr. Rauch from twenty-six nominees from the Western region of the United States.  “As someone who has had a dynamic effect on the west coast region, both as an artistic director and a first class artist, this choice is entirely apt and completely fulfills the goals of this prestigious honor.  Bill represents the very best of our union and our craft on so many different levels.  It is a pleasure to know and to work with him, and to recognize his many achievements in this much deserved way,” notes Selection Committee Chair Sheldon Epps.  The committee noted Rauch’s extraordinary transformation of the arts landscape in Los Angeles through his establishment and leadership of Cornerstone Theater Company and his great success in creating community and expanding diversity, both dramaturgically and among the company of artists, at OSF, one of the nation’s most visible theatres and, seemingly, the polar opposite of the smaller, nimble Cornerstone.

Upon hearing of his receiving this award, Mr. Rauch states, “Zelda Fichandler has been a role model throughout my career, as she is one of the great pioneers and most inspiring leaders in our field.  Since moving to the vibrantly diverse Los Angeles with Cornerstone Theater Company over 20 years ago and now contributing to the kaleidoscopic work of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, as well as having collaborated with many of the West Coast’s most vital companies, I am especially proud to represent the Western region of our country with this award. I have tried to build and strengthen community wherever my work takes me; for this reason, my nomination and selection by my peers, my fellow union members, is all the more meaningful.”

The Committee chose to honor three finalists in addition to Mr. Rauch.  The 2012 finalists are Loretta Greco for her ongoing work at Magic Theatre in San Francisco, Jane Jones of Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle, and Dámaso Rodriguez of Furious Theatre for his work in and around Los Angeles.

The award will be presented on Monday, November 12 at a private presentation in Los Angeles.

In establishing this award, named after Zelda Fichandler, a founder of the American regional theatre movement, SDCF recognizes the profound impact of the founders of regional theatre and honors their legacy.  This award is given annually within rotating regions of the U.S. The Fichandler Award serves as a complement to the “Mr. Abbott” Award, which will next be presented to Jerry Mitchell in spring 2013 in recognition of lifetime achievement in theatre, and the Joe A. Callaway Award for excellence in direction and choreography, to be presented in New York on November 5.  The three awards are the only awards given to theatre directors and choreographers by their peers.  This year’s Selection Committee was comprised of professional directors and choreographers throughout the region:  Sheldon Epps, Michael John Garces, David Ira Goldstein, Rick Lombardo, Lisa Peterson, Robin Lynn Smith, and Jane Unger.

Bill Rauch was named Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2007.  Prior to his appointment, Bill completed a 20-year journey as co-founder and artistic director of the Cornerstone Theater Company, where he directed over 40 of the company's productions, many of them collaborations with diverse communities across the nation.  While guiding Cornerstone in Los Angeles, Rauch also built a career in regional theatre, directing at the Lincoln Center Theater, the Guthrie Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Pasadena Playhouse, Long Wharf Theatre, and many others. He is an Associate Artist at Yale Repertory Theatre and South Coast Repertory, and was a Claire Trevor Professor of Drama at University of California, Irvine during the 2006-7 academic year.  Bill first came to OSF as a director in 2002, staging Robert Schenkkan’s Handler. In subsequent seasons, he directed  the world premiere Bill Cain’s EquivocationMeasure for Measure, The Pirates of Penzance, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, The Music Man, The Clay Cart, Romeo and Juliet, Hedda Gabler, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, The Comedy of Errors, By the Waters of Babylon and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. In 2012, his productions include Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella (with co-adaptor Tracy Young) and the world premiere of Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way. In the past five years, he has directed world premieres by nationally-celebrated writers including Lisa Loomer, Sarah Ruhl, Robert Schenkkan, and Jeff Whitty. In October of 2008 he was named a United States Artists Prudential Fellow, and is the recipient of the 2009 Margo Jones Medal.  In 2010 he was a Panelist for the Fund for National Projects, Doris Duke Foundation. A sampling of his many other awards for direction include DramaLogue, Garland, Connecticut Critics’ Circle, Helen Hayes and Ovation Awards, and he is the only artist to have won the inaugural "Leadership for a Changing World" award. Bill lives in Ashland with his husband Christopher and their two sons Liam and Xavier.

Zelda Fichandler dedicated her early career to the establishment of America’s regional theatre movement.  In 1950 she founded Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage and in 1968 she produced The Great White Hope, which became the first production to transfer from a regional theatre to Broadway, winning the Tony and the Pulitzer Prize, and launching the careers of James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander.  Her production of Inherit the Wind toured Soviet St. Petersburg and Moscow and Arena Stage was the first American theatre company sponsored by the State Department to do so.  Like many other regional theatres afterward, Arena Stage cultivated an evolving but resident company over the decades that included some of America’s best actors:  Robert Prosky, Frances Sternhagen, George Grizzard, Philip Bosco, Ned Beatty, Roy Scheider, Robert Foxworth, Jane Alexander, James Earl Jones, Melinda Dillon, Dianne Wiest, Max Wright, Marilyn Caskey, Harriet Harris, and Tom Hewitt.  In 1975 it was the first regional theatre to be recognized by the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League with the Regional Theatre Tony Award for outstanding achievement.  When Ms. Fichandler retired as producing artistic director of Arena Stage in 1990, she had achieved the longest tenure of any non-commercial producer in the annals of the American theater.  Ms. Fichandler is Chair Emeritus of New York University’s acclaimed graduate acting program where she personally taught, guided, and inspired more than 500 acting students, including Marcia Gay Harden, Rainn Wilson, Billy Crudup, Debra Messing, Peter Krause, and Michael C. Hall.  She has received the George Abbott Award, The Acting Company's John Houseman Award, the Margo Jones Award, and the National Medal of Arts, and in 1999 she became the first artistic leader outside of New York to be inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

Founded in 1965, Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation exists to foster, promote and develop the craft and creativity of stage directors and choreographers.  SDCF’s goals are to provide opportunities to practice the crafts of directing and choreography; to gather and disseminate craft and career information; to promote the profession to emerging talent; to provide opportunities for exchange of knowledge among directors and choreographers; and to increase the awareness of the value of directors’ and choreographers’ work.

Stage Directors and Choreographers Society is a national theatrical labor union whose mission is to foster a national community of professional stage Directors and Choreographers by protecting the rights, health and livelihoods of all of its members; to facilitate the exchange of ideas, information and opportunities, while educating the current and future generations about the role of Directors and Choreographers and providing effective administration, negotiations and contractual support.