Celebrating the members of the League of Professional Theatre Women

Archive for the category “Dramaturg”

Susan Jonas

Susan Jonas, member of the League of Professional Theatre Womendramaturg & producer
New York, New York USA

The production that changed my life was NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. I was 23 and I wept when it was over because I felt sure that I had seen the best show I would ever see. In the decades since I have seen thousands of shows, certainly some as great, but nothing has rivaled that experience. NN was a revelation. It articulated dramatically what was truly theatrical—the imagination of the actors, director and adaptors, and brought to life Peter Brook’s THE EMPTY STAGE. The brilliant acting challenged American naturalism with transformation, alienation and powerful emotion. The book, THE MAKING OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, details the process used to adapt the novel; the actors were directly involved. I think it made me fall in love with adaptation, dramaturgy, what we now call “devised theatre,” and a less hierarchical production process in which the director’s vision is not solely privileged, but the actors and all members of the team contribute substantially. Rehearsal is exceptionally improvisational and responsive, and the level of engagement is total. Of course this takes a lot of time, the lack of which, here,  is the single most damning aspect of our art.

My best escapes? Work – exercising my brain and imagination to create. That’s the best escape from feeling the inevitability of mortality. My best escape from the daily grind is reading. I have always loved books, in theory and in my bookcases; Kindle me not. Reading is almost as necessary to me as air. If I had to pick a favorite novel, I’d be lost. Perhaps I fell in love with NICHOLAS NICKLEBY and adaptation because they bring together my husband and my mistress, theatre and literature.

And dogs. So clear about their needs and their state of mind, so lavishly appreciative. I watch my dog prance down the street, happy from the simple pleasure of being out in the world.  Dogs remind me to have joy in simple things; to wag my tail.

What I dream of is seeing our goal of 50/50 in 2020 realized, and knowing I was part of the movement that made it happen.

Susan Jonas has held  leadership positions at several theatres, and worked as a:  producer; administrator; director; dramaturg and adaptor; in fundraising and grant-making; teaching in higher education; editing books and writing about theatre; curating many panels symposia.  Susan’s scholarly passion is the restoration of women to the history and canon of theatre.

Maxine Kern

Maxine Kern, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenDramaturg
New York, New York USA

I find my inspiration in nature, in lively-minded theater and the arts. I find my inspiration in the streets of New York, “rain or shine.”

My favorite play has remained The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco. In it the Fireman runs into the smug living room of a middle class English family named the Smiths, “looking for a fire.” He announces his desire to find a fire and his intention to “teach you how to live!” It also has a maid who deciphers for the audience the mysteries of who “The Smiths and their guests The Martins” really are, announcing that “My real name is Sherlock Holmes!” Theater of the Absurd was funny in the 60’s when I first worked with it, today it is the nature of it all.

I dream of having all the time I ever need to do playwriting and to have theaters wanting to produce my plays: lovely small theaters and large theaters galore.

My best escape is finding time without end to write, to be in the woods or at the beach, to be with children, grandchildren, my lover Avi, sharing our best food, stories and dreams. I’ve always been a Dramamama, only now it’s called a Dramaturg. I’m the virtual daughter of Gertrude Stein.

Maxine Kern is Resident Dramaturg for DiverseCity Theater and The Negro Ensemble Theater. Her dramaturgy includes As it is in Heaven by Arlene Hutton, 3 Graces Theatre; Savannah Black and Blue by Raymond Jones, NEC; The Book of Lambert by Leslie Lee, La MaMa, For the Time Being by W.H. Auden, Affinity Theatre, CSC and Symphony Space.

Anne Phelan

Anne Phelan, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenPlaywright/Dramaturg
Brooklyn, New York USA

What production changed my life?
When I was 6 or 7, my parents took me to see a touring company at John Carroll, the local Jesuit university. I’m not sure what theatre it was; probably not The Acting Company, maybe Catholic University still toured then. And sadly, no idea whom the director and designers were, either.

It was a production of King Lear set near the North Pole. I didn’t understand much of the story other than there was a king, and people argued with him. All the actors were in Inuit dress; I distinctly remember the mukluks, and a dog-less dogsled. The set was a series of flats shaped like eight-foot high gothic windows: the frames were black, and where the glass would normally be were pieces of parchment. The parchment and the scrim were lit with shifting colored lights, to look like the aurora borealis. I had seen the northern lights — when I lived in Cleveland, they were visible some nights in August. So to me, that stage looked incredibly familiar and mysterious at the same time. And I wanted to know how to get there.

Two-time Edward F. Albee Foundation Fellow, Anne Phelan has been a guest at The Juilliard School, Playwright-in-Residence at the William Inge Theatre Festival, and her plays have been produced throughout the U.S. Four of her plays are in Smith & Kraus’ “Best Ten-Minute Plays.” Member, The Dramatists Guild.

Amy Stoller

Amy Stoller, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenDialect Design/Coaching, Dramaturgy
New York, New York USA; global via Skype

Where do you look for inspiration? I don’t look for it; I let it sneak up on me.

What’s your favorite book / movie / line from a play / cocktail? I never have only one favorite of anything!

Book: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Pride and Prejudice

Movie: Casablanca; Some Like it Hot

Line: “We’re actors! We’re the opposite of people!” (Although I probably quote “Sometimes there’s God so quickly” and “Are we all met?” more often); also pretty much anything from Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, The Cocoanuts, and any other early Marx Bros. film

Cocktail: Never mind the cocktails, bring on the champagne!

What play or production changed your life? All my firsts. In the audience: the original production of My Fair Lady (first Broadway show); Peter Brook’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (first Shakespeare on stage). On stage: The Crucible. As a dialect designer: An Ideal Husband.

Is there anything you still dream of doing? Dialect design for Broadway. Breaking into feature film. Directing the first revival of a virtually unknown seventeenth century comedy by a woman (yes, I have one in mind).

What is your best escape? Reading.

Amy Stoller. Resident Dialect Designer/Coach (and occasional dramaturge) at the Mint. Other New York and regional includes world premiers by Athol Fugard, Paula Vogel, Anna Deavere Smith. Television: children’s animation to documentaries. Current/Recent: Let Me Down Easy, Rutherford and Son, A Moon for the Misbegotten. Officer, Voice and Speech Trainers Association.

Ludovica Villar-Hauser

Ludovica Villar-HauserDirector / Dramaturg
New York, New York USA

I grew up in England. My primary school Head Mistress insisted I have Speech and Drama lessons, when she heard me speaking English with a Spanish-German accent! It was during these lessons that I grew to love “words”; “drama”, “storytelling” and the relationship between an audience and the stage.

Art, music and books were a big part of my early life, but in an attempt to “fit in” I chose to turn my back on them all as “uncool”. And with a foreign name, even bigger and odder than I was, in a country where being English was so important, I desperately wanted to fit in. I hadn’t the wisdom to know that my immigrant parents had created an environment — with their art, music and books — best suited to fostering the imagination of an intense, very serious little girl. Nor did I realize at the time that much of the drama I would one day put on stage would be heavily informed by the drama I grew up with. When I produced and directed O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night in London’s West End at the age of 23, the first thing my mother asked was why had I put our family’s emotional life on stage!

My life has taken many detours. I have owned and operated a business and a downtown theatre; produced, directed and dramaturged; been VP of Programming and Chair of the International Committee for the League of Professional Theatre Women and founded Works by Women. I very much look forward to focusing on my great love — directing complex and challenging theatre — and on seeing more and more women take their rightful place in our industry — creating theatre and being recognized and compensated financially for their contributions. Check out Works by Women and help spread the word! (no charge to join and producers’ support of the initiative is reflected in our ticket prices!)

Currently working on a Broadway-bound production of Otho Eskin’s DUET about two glorious women of the theatre: Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse (a three-hander). Interested Producers —

Ludovica Villar-Hauser. West End: Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night; Gregory Murphy’s The Countess, NY and West End; Bold Girls by Rona Munro, Duet by Otho Eskin; Leaves of Glass by Philip Ridley; A Short Wake by Derek Murphy; As It Is In Heaven by Arlene Hutton. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Michele Volansky (PhD)

Dr. Michele Volansky, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenDramaturg, Academic
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

I find inspiration everywhere and I think it has something to do with the fact that I am the product of two teachers.  My incredible parents taught us to examine, from all angles, everything that we see.  Our Sunday afternoons were spent at the Philadelphia International Airport, where we would sit and watch planes take off and land and make up stories about the people that walked (or hustled or ran or strolled) by us.  As a result, I feel as though my life in theater and academics is a logical extension of that experience; a natural curiosity about other people inspires me every day. My belief in the role that theater plays in helping us understand not only ourselves, but also those profoundly different, serves as a guiding principle for nearly everything I do.  When I think about “things I still want to do,” I am stymied because I am so unbelievably lucky to get to play every day and get paid for it.  I would love to travel more, to meet more, different people and continue to watch those airplanes – maybe a third career as a some kind of tour guide?

Dr. Michele Volansky is an Associate Professor and Chair of Drama at Washington College. In addition to her role as Associate Artist for PlayPenn New Play Development Conference, she has served on the artistic staffs at Actors Theatre of Louisville (1992-95), Steppenwolf Theatre Company (1995-2000) and Philadelphia Theatre Company (2000-2004).

Roberta Levitow

Roberta Levitow, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenDirector, Dramaturg, Teacher, Writer
Santa Monica, California USA

In 2001, I was invited to lead an “East African Theatre Workshop” in Kenya and Tanzania, working with many of the region’s top-level artists. That workshop began a life-changing journey. I found myself suddenly drawn to work outside U.S. borders.

In 2003, I accepted a Fulbright teaching residency at Chinese University of Hong Kong, followed by an invitation as an Honoree at the 2003 Cairo International Festival of Experimental Theatre, featuring performance from throughout the Arab world. Surrounded by artists working in refugee camps, with trauma victims, in war zones, across disputed boundaries, and under severe censorship and repression, my definitions of what theatre or drama could be were expanding and forcing me to re-envision my role as an artist.

Back in New York in 2004, I felt an urgency to create a mechanism to support theatre artists committed to international artistic exchange. My colleagues and I co-founded a group called Theatre Without Borders. We hosted our first public gathering at New Dramatists in 2005 and set up a website. TWB is a grassroots volunteer virtual community using artist-to-artist engagement and the arts as our language of communication across borders. In the past seven years, TWB has played a significant role in discussions about U.S. theatre in a global context and the role of artists in conflict regions throughout the world. This year we mark our six-year collaboration with the Peacebuilding and the Arts Project at Brandeis University with the publication of the Acting Together Project anthology and documentary.

Working with the Sundance Institute Theatre Program, I have helped to create and implement Sundance Institute East Africa, working to promote exposure and exchange between U.S. and East African artists. I’ve also designed and produced international exchange with artists in Romania, an Iran-Israel-U.S. theatre collaboration and a recent Iraq-Pakistan Exchange Project, in collaboration with Golden Thread Productions in San Francisco.

Over the past decade I have turned my focus almost exclusively to international theatre exchange. At the same time, I can increasingly see how these journeys amplify and enrich my commitment to my own country and culture.

Roberta Levitow has directed in NYC, LA, and nationally. Currently Artistic Associate with Sundance Institute East Africa; co-founder and co-director of Theatre Without Borders; a co-founder of The Acting Together Project with Peacebuilding and the Arts at Brandeis University. Fulbright grants in Hong Kong, Romania and Uganda.

Helen E. Richardson

Helen E. Richardson, member of the League of Professional Theatre WomenDirector, Playwright, Dramaturg, Maskwork, Educator

Where do you look for inspiration?  Nature, people, music, philosophy, the Théâtre du Soleil.

What’s your favorite book / movie / line from a play / pop culture guilty pleasure / cocktail?  Life of Pi by Yann Martell/ Andrei Rublev by Tarkovsky or Fanny and Alexander by Bergman/”Mine would, sir, were I human.” Ariel,
The Tempest/MI-5/sparkling cranberry.

What play or production changed your life? 1789 by the Théâtre du Soleil

Is there anything you still dream of doing? Yes, creating a US civic theatre.

I feel most like myself when I listen to music.

What is your best escape? The ocean.

What’s the one thing nobody knows about you? ????

Helen E. Richardson Currently: Artistic Director, Global Theatre Ensemble, Associate Professor of Theatre, Brooklyn College, Formerly Artistic Director of the Stalhouderij Theatre Company, Amsterdam, an award winning international actor ensemble creating new works. Recently: Co-created performance highlighting international sex trade for the UN. Training: Théâtre du Soleil and Peter Brook Company.

Anne Hamilton

Anne Hamilton, member of the League of the Professional Theatre WomenDramaturg, Playwright, Educator
Quakertown, Pennsylvania USA

I once asked Judith Malina what she does when she’s not working, and she answered, “I work”. I feel like I take the same approach to life, because I seek out beauty, inspiration, and truth everywhere.

However, to take my mind off of writing, dramaturging and editing, I like to make up new recipes. One of my newest creations this year was a Red Velvet Gingerbread tree sculpture, in which I stacked heart and flower-shaped cookies to make a tree reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’ artwork. Things like that give me great delight.

When my mind is puzzling over a dramaturgical problem, I like to visit the ocean. I particularly enjoy going to Coney Island and watching the beluga whales at the aquarium and laughing at the antics of the otters.

The production which changed my life was GUYS AND DOLLS at St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen, NJ. When I was a teenager, we would always see the musicals at my brother’s high school, which had a fine arts department. I fell in love with the first musical I saw there. In the “Luck Be A Lady” number, they used black lights. When the costumes and dice glowed in the light during the song and dance number, I fell in love with the theatre. And that was it for me. I’ve been in it ever since.

One of my favorite lines from a play is, “More life” from ANGELS IN AMERICA. I’ve made artwork with the phrase and placed it prominently in my home. I also write my own poetry on the walls of my home, in places appropriate for the content of the poem.

I would like to make a writer’s retreat for my friends in the city to escape to. It is beautiful here in Bucks County and I find it to be very conducive to writing and expanding my thoughts. I’ve already made the invitation to several of my friends in the League and I hope that they take me up on the offer soon.

Anne Hamilton is the Founder of Hamilton Dramaturgy, an international consultancy based in New York City’s professional scene, and located in Bucks County, PA. Anne also write plays, poetry and children’s literature, and give workshops in script development. (

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