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 theater. The $5,000 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.
Prior to his appointment as OSF’s artistic director in 2006, Rauch completed a 20-year journey as cofounder and artistic director of Cornerstone Theater Company, where he directed more than 40 productions, most of them in collaboration with diverse communities across the nation. Rauch has also directed at Lincoln Center, the Mark Taper Forum, the Guthrie, Arena Stage, Seattle Rep, Pasadena Playhouse, Long Wharf, Portland Center Stage, and Great Lakes Theater Festival, and he is an Associate Artist of South Coast Rep and Yale Rep.
For the Fichandler Award, a peer review committee selected Rauch from 26 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,” Selection Committee Chairman Sheldon Epps said in a press release. “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.”
The committee noted Rauch’s transformation of the arts landscape in Los Angeles through his establishment and leadership of Cornerstone Theater Company and his success in creating community and expanding diversity, both dramaturgically and among the company of artists, at OSF, one of the nation’s most visible theaters and, seemingly, the polar opposite of the smaller, nimble Cornerstone.
Upon hearing of his receiving this award, Rauch said, “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 Rauch: 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.
In establishing this award, named after Fichandler, a founder of the American regional theater movement, SDCF recognizes the profound impact of the founders of regional theater and honors their legacy. This award is given annually within rotating regions of the United States. 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 theater, and the Joe A. Callaway Award for excellence in direction and choreography, to be presented in New York next November. The three awards are the only awards given to theater 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.
Zelda Fichandler dedicated her early career to the establishment of America’s regional theater movement. In 1950, she founded Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and in 1968 she produced The Great White Hope, which became the first production to transfer from a regional theater 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 theater company sponsored by the State Department to do so. Like many other regional theaters afterward, Arena Stage cultivated an evolving but resident company over the decades that included some of America’s best actors. In 1975, it was the first regional theater to be recognized by the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League with the Regional Theatre Tony Award for outstanding achievement. When Fichandler retired as producing artistic director of Arena Stage in 1990, she had achieved the longest tenure of any noncommercial producer in American theater. She is chair emeritus of New York University’s 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 fosters, promotes, and develops 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 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.
November 7, 2012