DCMetroTheaterArts Reviewer and Columnist Sydney-Chanele Dawkins Passes Away at Age 47

Sydney-Chanele Dawkins, beloved DCMetroTheaterArts writer and columnist, lost her battle with breast cancer last evening. She was only 47 years-old.

Sydney-Chanele Dawkins.
Sydney-Chanele Dawkins.

The DCMetroTheaterArts family mourns her passing and offers our condolences to her husband Aaron and her parents and sibings, who were by her side when she passed away.

Sydney-Chanele championed the work of local female playwrights and artists in her in depth interviews in her column The Playwright’s Playground.

In her own words:

The Playwright’s Playground is a monthly in-depth conversation with local female playwrights and artists in the D.C. theatre community. Female theatre artists make up more than 50 percent of those involved in the theatre, yet the number of female playwrights being produced is dramatically lower. In this continuing Column, I will also interview and introduce DCMTA readers to the many talented playwrights in the DMV area to learn about their writing process, their inspirations, and their motivations.

In her column Cinema Speak with Sydney-Chanele she interviewed film directors and reviewed AFI Docs and other film festivals.

 Cinema Speak with Sydney-Chanele is a new column that embraces the landscape of film, filmmakers, and film festivals. This will be a canvas where film reviews, and in-depth interviews into the filmmaking process will be shared, and the world of cinephiles will be celebrated. A dedicated space to cinema outside the mainstream, the emphasis of Cinema Speak with Sydney-Chanele will be foreign cinema, independent films, documentaries and the filmmakers who make them.


Husband Aaron and Sydney-Chanele Dawkins.
Husband Aaron and Sydney-Chanele Dawkins.

Sydney-Chanele Dawkins was an award-winning feature filmmaker, film curator, film festival producer and a theater/film critic and arts writer. She also served as an impassioned advocate for the Arts as Chair of the Alexandria Commission for the Arts in Alexandria, VA.

Fearless. Tenacious. Passionate. Loyal. These characteristics best described Sydney-Chanele’s approach to life, her enthusiasm for live theater and the arts, and her cinephile obsession with world cinema. Her successful first film, Modern Love is Automatic premiered at SXSW in Austin, Texas, and made its European debut at the Edinburgh Film Festival. She recently completed her third film, the animated – The Wonderful Woes of Marsh – which is rounding the film festival circuit.

In 2013, Sydney-Chanele produced the box office hit, Neil Simon’s Rumors for the McLean Community Players at Alden Theater. Her next producing effort came in 2014 with Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky for Port City Playhouse.

Programmer for Cinema Art Bethesda and Co Chair of the Film Program for Artomatic, Sydney-Chanele was the past Festival Director of the Alexandria Film Festival, the Reel Independent Film Festival, and Female Shorts & Video Showcase. She was active in leadership and programming positions with DC Metro area Film Festivals including: Filmfest DC, DC Shorts, the Washington Jewish Film Festival, Arabian Sights Film festival, and AFI Docs.

Sydney-Chanele Dawkins was ‘the soul’ of DCMetroTheaterArts. She will be sorely missed, but her legacy and her interviews, reviews, and articles will live on forever.

Rest in Peace Sister!

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.


  1. I will remember Sydney-Chanele Dawkins, a friend and colleague at DC Theater Arts, for her wonderful writing, her astute critical eye, and her beautiful soul. I enjoyed enormously our conversations about shows we had both seen (we chatted on and on, for instance, about the final scene between two black characters in a new play by a white playwright). I was looking forward to collaborating with her on something for DCMTA…and then suddenly about a year ago her voice on the site fell silent. It returned briefly in March when another of her always illuminating interviews with playwrights appeared, and I emailed her a note to tell her how happy I was to see her byline again. She ended her touching reply with this inspiring sentence: “Enjoy the beauty falling from the sky outdoors.” I knew she was referring to more than weather. I cannot say how sad I am that she is gone.

    • Beautiful tribute from you John and Joel. She touched a lot of lifes in her short, but very full and enriched life. I wish I had met her. I’m grateful she encourage Joel to start this site as it has enchanced my life beautfully!!! Thank you Sydney-Chanele!

  2. Very nice tribute, Joel. She and her insightful articles will be sorely missed. I very much enjoyed talking to her about the various shows we’d both seen when I’d run into her at press openings around town, both when I wrote for DCMTA and when I moved on to write for other sites. She had a beautiful spirit and was very passionate about the theatre.

  3. I cannot express how sad I am that this lovely and vibrant woman has been taken from us. I admired her talent and enjoyed her bright spirit.

    I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to know her and her work. What creativity, originality, and drive!

    She accomplished so much and was loved by so many. I wish I had gotten to know her better.

  4. I met Sydney-Chanele Dawkins in September 2014 and immediately felt like I’d made a new friend. She was a luminous woman and writer. She will be greatly missed.

  5. I am devastated to hear this news. Sydney-Chanele and I were empaneled as judges for TheatreWashington at the same time and she was the first person I met when we attended that first meeting. We bonded quickly and often were each other’s “plus one” on judging assignments. We often coordinated our schedules and ‘dish the dirt’ when we ran into each other around town at various theatres. Her intelligence, enthusiasm, knowledge, and insight into the productions we saw were evident as we debated pros and cons.

    I’ll miss those sessions with you girl…and hanging with you at judging meetings.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, Aaron, and your family.

  6. Very sad and disturbing to learn of Sydney’s death. She was co-producer on my first feature length movie and helped me immensely throughout. I met her at the locally renown Video Vault video store in Alexandria and the relationship naturally grew from there. It seems as if she affected so many of us in a positive way, and it is a deep pity that she has been taken from us all so soon!

    Godspeed to you Sydney through our tears …


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