New Directions is a commission program uniquely designed to offer development lab time for leading directors in our field with the resources to develop projects for possible future productions at Seattle Rep and beyond.
New Directions provides the opportunity to start new collaborations, strengthen our bonds with freelance directors we admire, and fully recognize the capacity of directors as generative artists.
Meet the Directors
Donald Byrd has been the Artistic Director of Spectrum Dance Theater since December 2002. Formerly, he was Artistic Director of Donald Byrd/The Group, a critically acclaimed contemporary dance company, founded in Los Angeles and later based in New York, that toured both nationally and internationally. His career has been long and complex, and his choreographic and theatrical interests are broad. The New York Times describes him as “a choreographer with multiple personalities … an unabashed eclectic.” He is a Tony-nominated (The Color Purple) and Bessie Award-winning (The Minstrel Show) choreographer.
Mr. Byrd has frequently been referred to as a "citizen artist," a descriptive that perfectly aligns with an important component of Spectrum Dance Theater’s mission and Mr. Byrd’s personal beliefs – “dance as an art form and as a social/civic instrument.”
Throughout the 40+ years of his choreographic career, Mr. Byrd has created over 100 works for his companies as well as works for many leading classical and contemporary companies. This list includes Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, The Joffrey Ballet, The Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco), Dance Theater of Harlem, and many others. He has worked extensively in theater and opera, both in America and abroad, including Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera, The Israeli Opera, New York City Opera, The New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, Intiman Theatre, and Baltimore Center Stage.
Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki
Currently the Head of Directing and Playwriting at the University of Washington School of Drama, Valerie also serves as the Founding Artistic Director for The Hansberry Project, a professional African American theater lab. She has worked with theaters across the country including: Guthrie Theater, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Intiman Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, The Mark Taper Forum, New York Theatre Workshop, Tacoma Actors Guild, Southern Repertory Theatre, Capitol Repertory Theatre, among others. Awards: 2016: Seattle Times Footlight Award (Best in Show); 2014: Stranger Genius Award in Performance and the Crosscut Courage Award for Culture; 2012: Gypsy Rose Lee Award for Excellence in Direction; 2001: Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s (SDCF) Gielgud Directing Fellowship; 1997-1999: NEA/TCG Career Development Fellowship for Directors.
New York credits include Is God Is (Soho Rep); Underground Railroad Game (Ars Nova), Master (The Foundry); Blue Ridge and The Great Leap (Atlantic Theatre Company). Her work was cited in the NYT as "Best Of" in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Most recently, Magar was Stage Director on Phillip Youman's November (co-produced by The Shed and Tribeca Films). Regional credits include A.R.T. (Boston), Seattle Rep, Guthrie Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Alley Theatre. Internationally, her work has appeared at the Hamburg Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Soho Theatre, and Malthouse Theatre (Melbourne). Magar has also developed work with The Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, and Theatre for a New Audience. Upcoming work includes Capsule (Under The Radar/Public Theater), Help (The Shed), Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 (The Signature Theatre) and A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction (Baltimore Center Stage). SDC Breakout Award 2019, Obie Award 2018. MFA: Brown University.
In Collaboration with John Douglas Thompson
Carey Perloff is a director, writer, producer, and educator who recently completed an acclaimed 25-year tenure as Artistic Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco (1992-2018). The youngest person ever chosen to lead a LORT theater, Perloff inherited an earthquake-destroyed theater, a huge deficit, a struggling MFA program, and a need to completely re-imagine the future of A.C.T. In addition to rebuilding the Geary Theater, reanimating ACT’s educational programs, and creating decades of vigorous, culturally diverse programming that has seen ACT’s audiences grow and its work presented around the country, Perloff oversaw the creation of ACT’s second stage, The Strand, a multi-venue performance space that provides a home for new artists, new work, new audiences, and the many aspects of A.C.T.’s training programs. Her highly acclaimed book Beautiful Chaos: A Life in the Theater (City Lights Press, 2015) explores many of the ideas and issues that emerged during her tenure at A.C.T. and shares the journey of a woman in a leadership field often dominated by men. Beautiful Chaos was selected as the One City One Book “Big Read” by the San Francisco Public Library and was featured in programs and discussions across the Bay Area and around the country throughout 2016.
Perloff is also an award-winning playwright. Her most recent play, Bastiano or The Art of Rivalry, was written on a Writing Residency at the Bogliasco Foundation and has been workshopped at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival and Williamstown Theater Festival. Her play Kinship premiered at the Théâtre de Paris in October 2014 in a production starring Isabelle Adjani and Niels Schneider, and was produced at the Williamstown Theater Festival in 2015, starring Cynthia Nixon and directed by Jo Bonney. The Fit (workshopped at New York Stage and Film, WTF, and Kansas City Rep) premiered at San Francisco Playhouse in May 2019. Higher was developed at New York Stage and Film, won the 2011 Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation Theatre Visions Fund Award, was developed at the La Jolla Playhouse’s DNA series and received its world premiere in February 2012 in San Francisco. Waiting for the Flood was developed at A.C.T., New York Stage and Film, and Roundabout Theatre. Luminescence Dating, which won the Bay Area Theater Critics’ Best Original Script in 2007, premiered in New York at The Ensemble Studio Theatre, was coproduced by A.C.T. and Magic Theatre, and is published by Dramatists Play Service. The Colossus of Rhodes was workshopped at the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, premiered at Lucille Lortel’s White Barn Theatre, and was produced at A.C.T. in 2003.
A longtime collaborator of Tom Stoppard’s, Perloff staged the New York premiere of Indian Ink at Roundabout Theatre Company (nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award for Best Revival) before bringing the show to A.C.T. She has collaborated with Stoppard on the West Coast premiere of The Hard Problem and the American premieres of Indian Ink and The Invention of Love, as well as Arcadia (twice), Rock 'n Roll, Travesties, The Real Thing, and Night and Day. Perloff is also a notable interpreter of Harold Pinter’s work; productions include The Birthday Party (with Judith Ivey), The Homecoming, Old Times, Celebration, and The Room (American Premiere), Mountain Language (American Premiere, CSC), and The Collection (Center Theater Group). Perloff’s dance background has led to several movement-theater collaborations including Tosca Café (created with choreographer Val Caniparoli, A.C.T. and Canadian tour) and Fatherville (created with Basil Twist, Stephen Buescher, and Darron L. West) for The Strand.
Perloff’s most recent directorial triumph has been A Thousand Splendid Suns, a world premiere commissioned by Perloff, co-produced with Theater Calgary, and adapted by Ursula Rami Sarna from the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseni. Suns has played to sold-out houses at A.C.T., The Old Globe, Seattle Rep, the Arts Club Vancouver, the Grand Theater (London, Ontario), and Arena Stage, and will play Toronto’s Canadian Stage in 2021. Most recently, Perloff directed the Ghosts at Williamstown with Uma Thurman, Private Lives at the Stratford Festival (starring Geraint Wynn-Davies and Lucy Peacock), Merchant of Venice at the Shakespeare Company, Calgary (starring Seana McKenna as Shylock), Pale Sister by Colm Toibin at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, the West Coast premiere of 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winner Martyna Majok’s Queens at La Jolla Playhouse. Recent A.C.T. productions also include Hamlet (with John Douglas Thompson), Testament (with Seana Mackenna), Underneath the Lintel (with David Strathairn), Elektra (coproduced by the Getty Villa in Malibu), Beckett’s Endgame and Play (with Bill Irwin), Scorched, Racine’s Phedre, and Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman at the Stratford Festival. Known for directing innovative productions of classics and championing new writing for the theater, Perloff has also directed for A.C.T. José Rivera’s Boleros for the Disenchanted; the world premieres of Philip Kan Gotanda’s After the War (A.C.T. commission), David Lang/Mac Wellman’s opera The Difficulty of Crossing a Field (with Julia Migenes); her own adaptation (with Paul Walsh) of A Christmas Carol; A.C.T.-commissioned translations/ adaptations of Hecuba, The Misanthrope, Enrico IV, Mary Stuart, Uncle Vanya, A Mother, and The Voysey Inheritance (adapted by David Mamet); the world premiere of Leslie Ayvazian’s Singer's Boy; and major revivals of 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, The Government Inspector, Happy End (including a critically lauded cast album recording), A Doll's House, Waiting for Godot, The Three Sisters, The Threepenny Opera, The Rose Tattoo, Antigone, Creditors, Home, The Tempest. Perloff’s work for A.C.T. also includes Marie Ndiaye’s Hilda, the world premieres of Marc Blitzstein’s No for an Answer, and the West Coast premiere of her own play The Colossus of Rhodes (Susan Smith Blackburn Award finalist).
Before joining A.C.T., Perloff was artistic director of Classic Stage Company in New York, where she directed the world premiere of Ezra Pound’s Elektra, the American premiere of Pinter’s Mountain Language, the American premiere of Tony Harrison’s Phaedra Brittanica, and many classic works. Under Perloff’s leadership, CSC won numerous OBIE Awards, including the 1988 OBIE for Artistic Excellence. In 1993, she directed the world premiere of Steve Reich and Beryl Korot’s opera The Cave at the Vienna Festival and Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Perloff has collaborated with some of the finest actors in America including Olympia Dukakis, John Douglas Thompson, BD Wong, David Strathairn, Uma Thurman, Anika Noni Rose, Peter Reigert, Joe Morton, Wendell Pierce, Seana Mackenna, Marco Barricelli, Firdous Bamji, Judith Ivey, Art Malik, Bill Irwin, and many more. She has developed relationships with great international artists such as Robert Wilson, Peter Brook, Robert Lepage, Kim Collier, and Morris Panych, introducing Bay Area artists to imaginative and experimental work from around the world.
A recipient of France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the National Corporate Theatre Fund’s 2007 Artistic Achievement Award, Perloff received a B.A. Phi Beta Kappa in Classics and Comparative Literature from Stanford University and was a Fulbright Fellow at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. She received an Honorary Doctorate from University of San Francisco in 2017 and an Honorary MFA from A.C.T. in 2018. She was on the faculty of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University for seven years, and taught and directed in the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program for twenty-five years. Perloff is on the board of the Hermitage Artist Retreat in Sarasota, Florida and lectures on arts and culture around the country, including at the Aspen Ideas Festival and at TedX San Francisco. She is married to attorney Anthony Giles and has two children, Alexandra and Nicholas (aka Wingtip).
John Douglas Thompson
In Collaboration with Carey Perloff
John Douglas Thompson has been hailed by The New York Times “as one of the most compelling classical stage actors of his generation” and in The New Yorker, Thompson [is] “regarded by some people as the best classical actor in America.”
John most recently appeared on Broadway with Glenda Jackson in King Lear in the role of Kent. Prior to that he co-starred in the Broadway revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical Carousel. He also starred in the Huntington Theatre Company’s Man in the Ring (Elliot Norton and IRNE Awards). He also appeared in the titular role of the American Conservatory Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and he costarred in the highly publicized Public Theater’s Shakespeare In The Park production of Julius Caesar in the role of Cassius.
He received rave reviews for his role as Becker in August Wilson’s Broadway play Jitney, for which he received a Tony Award nomination. Thompson’s other credits include The Father and A Doll’s House at Theater For A New Audience, and Troilus & Cressida at The Public. Other Broadway credits include A Time To Kill, Cyrano de Bergerac with Kevin Kline, and Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington.
John’s Off-Broadway credits include: The Iceman Cometh with Nathan Lane (Obie and Drama Desk Awards); Tamburlaine (Obie and Drama Desk Awards); Satchmo at the Waldorf (Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Award, and the NAACP Theatre Awards) at the Westside Theater, ACT, Wallis Center for the Performing Arts, Long Wharf Theater; King Lear at The Public Theater; Macbeth (title role); Othello (Obie Award, Lucille Lortel Award) at Theatre for a New Audience; The Forest with Dianne Wiest; The Emperor Jones at The Irish Repertory Theatre (Lucille Lortel, Drama League, and Drama Desk nominations); and Hedda Gabler at New York Theatre Workshop. Regional credits include: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at Mark Taper Forum (Ovation Award); Antony and Cleopatra with Kate Mulgrew; Red Velvet, Othello, Richard III, and Mother Courage at Shakespeare & Co.; Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (Barrymore Award); and productions at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Trinity Repertory Company, American Repertory Theater, and Yale Repertory Theatre.
Television credits include: "For Life," "Mare Of Easttown," "The Gilded Age," "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," "Bull," "Person Of Interest," "Madam Secretary," "Law & Order," "Law & Order: SVU," and "Conviction."
Film credits include: 21 Bridges with Chadwick Boseman, 355 with Jessica Chastain, Let Them All Talk with Meryl Streep, Wolves, The Bourne Legacy, Glass Chin, Michael Clayton, Midway, and Malcolm X.
Taibi Magar Knows Just What Needs to ChangeREAD
"The pandemic pause has prompted a prizewinning cohort to ask hard questions about salaries, working in other media, and choosing collaboration over 'scarcity.'" Read on as The New York Times interviews four leading directors in the American theater, including New Directions commissionee Taibi Magar (Familiar, 2018).
Connect Black Theaters, Nurture Black PlaywrightsREAD
Commissionee Valerie Curtis-Newton's The Hansberry Project has partnered with True Colors Theatre Company in Atlanta, Georgia to launch The Drinking Gourd: Black Writers at Work, a "new play program that will create a network of Black theaters linked in the shared goal to co-commission, co-develop, and co-premiere the work of Black artists across the country" (True Colors). Hear from Curtis-Newton in a feature in The Seattle Times.
Donald Byrd: Dance/USA 2021 Honor Award RecipientREAD
"What I’m really interested in is trying to be relevant. It just so happens that some issues that I find relevant can also be topical." Read more from commissionee Donald Byrd in an interview with Dance/USA. It was announced in March 2021 that Byrd was the organization's 2021 Honor Award Recipient.
Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki