Charles Newell, who has served as artistic director of Chicago’s Court Theatre since 1994 — where he has directed more than 40 innovative productions that have included everything from fresh takes on classic plays and musicals, to the work of such contemporary masters as Tom Stoppard and Tony Kushner — has been named the winner of the 2013 Zelda Fichandler Award by the Stage Director and Choreographers Foundation.
The award recognizes an outstanding director or choreographer “who is transforming the regional arts landscape through singular creativity and artistry in theater.” And it heralds both “accomplishment to date and promise for the future, artistic vision, and deep commitment to a region outside of New York. ” The award also carries an unrestricted grant of $5000 to the individual recipient. Newell will be presented with the award on Nov. 4 at a reception at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
In a prepared statement, Newell, who has fostered the growth of African American artists and audiences in his Hyde Park neighborhood and beyond, said: “To receive The Zelda Fichandler Award from SDCF means the world to me. My very first theater-going memories are of my mother taking me to Zelda‘s Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The daring theater she created and produced, the singular artists she championed, the impact her art made on her community: These all have been a beacon of inspiration to me. For twenty years, I have been fortunate to build a life in the theater here in Chicago, seeking to follow Zelda‘s example. I am very proud to be a member of this most vibrant theater community, and am constantly inspired by our artists and patrons.”
Newell went on to say: “I am thankful for the unwavering support and platform that the University of Chicago provides us at Court Theatre, and for the fabulous community in which I work and have raised a family, Chicago’s South Side. As any artistic director knows, their work is the result of a dedicated staff and generous board, and I am no exception. I am particularly grateful to [director] Ron OJ Parson for nominating me, and to my fellow directors and choreographers who have selected me for this honor. “
Newell made his Chicago directing debut in 1993 with “The Triumph of Love,” which went on to receive the Jeff Award for best production of the season. Other notable productions include: “Man of La Mancha,” “Caroline, or Change,” “Porgy & Bess,” “Three Tall Women,” “The Year of Magical Thinking,” “Arcadia,” “The Invention of Love” and “An Iliad.” The latter show, a searingly modern one-man turn based on the Homer epic about war, was first mounted in 2011 and will be remounted (Nov. 13-Dec. 8) at Court, with actor Timothy Edward Kane reprising his remarkable performance.
Zelda Fichandler dediated her early career to the establishment of America’s regional theater movement. In 1950 she founded Washington, D.C.- Arena Stage, and in 1968 she produced “The Great White Hope,” which became the first production to transfer from a regional theater to Broadway, where it received both a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize, and launched the careers of both James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander.