About the Zelda Fichandler Award

Zelda + Thomas Fichandler during the construction of the Kreeger Theatre in 1970 c/o Arena Stage
Zelda + Thomas Fichandler during the construction of the Kreeger Theatre in 1970 c/o Arena Stage

Named for a giant of the regional theatre movement, the Zelda Fichandler Award recognizes directors and choreographers who are in the center of their creative lives; who demonstrate great accomplishment to-date and promise for the future; and who have made prominent achievements in the field with singular creativity and artistry, and deep investment in a particular place outside of the New York City arena.  The Award is not to honor lifetime achievement the goal of the Fichandler Award is to encourage those artists who have made a commitment to creating theatre in the regions.

Established in 2009, the Zelda Fichandler Award is SDCF’s first award devoted to the regional theatre.   With this award, SDCF acknowledges the profound impact the founders of regional theatre have had on the field, honoring their legacy through the recognition of the extraordinary individuals who are transforming the national arts landscape with their unique and creative work in the American regional theatre.

The Fichandler Award is given regionally on a rotating basis and comes with an unrestricted award of $5000. The 2017 Fichandler Award will be awarded to a director or choreographer in the Eastern region.

The Fichandler Award serves as a complement to the “Mr. Abbott” Award presented in recognition of lifetime achievement in theatre, and the Joe A. Callaway Award for excellence in direction and choreography.  The three awards are the only awards given to theatre directors and choreographers by their peers.

About Zelda

Zelda Fichandler (1924 -2016) 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.  Before her passing in July of 2016, Ms. Fichandler was 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.  Her honors include the SDC Foundation’s “Mr. 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.

Award Eligibility

The nominee must have made and be continuing to make a unique and exceptional contribution to theatre in the selected region. Artistic staff and freelance directors/choreographers are eligible.

The nominee must work and live primarily in the year’s selected region.

The nominee must be a Full SDC Member in good standing or SDC Associate Member in good standing by the nomination deadline.

Note that this is not an award for lifetime achievement; this award heralds both accomplishment to date and promise for the future.

To nominate an artist for the Fichandler Award, please visit this page.

Past Recipients

Western Region

Jonathan Moscone of California Shakespeare Theater in Orinda, California (2009)

Bill Rauch of Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon (2012)

Tim Dang of East West Players in Los Angeles, CA (2015)

Central Region

Michael Halberstam of Writer’s Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois (2010)

Charles Newell of Court Theatre in Chicago, Illinois (2013)

Lisa Portes of Chicago, Illinois (2016)

Eastern Region

Blanka Zizka of The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2011)

Joseph Haj of PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, NC (2014)