DCTA 2023 Staff Favorites: Outstanding Creative Components (Professional)

These designers, directors, and playwrights made an indelible impression on our writers this year. Did we overlook a favorite of yours? Let us know in a comment!

Much of the work of theater designers is done before a show opens. Sets are conceived and built, costumes sewn with care. Even directors, whose vision for a production determines its look and feel, largely step aside once the curtain rises. But the work of designers, choreographers, playwrights, and directors takes a play from blank canvas to a whole new world, inducing wows and sighs when done right.

Today we celebrate some of the designers, choreographers, directors, and playwrights who caught our writers’ attention this year. As always, this list is subjective and there is sure to be fabulous work that didn’t make our list. Share your favorites in the comments and join us in a big high five to all the artists who created art this year. You truly make our community a better place.

Designers and Directors

(Includes set, sound, lighting, projection, and costume designers and choreographers and music directors)

Agreste (Drylands) at Spooky Action Theater
Colin K. Bills, lighting design
Danilo Gambini, direction
Danielle Preston, costume design
Giorgos Tsappas, scenic design
Aria Velz, sound design

Angel Number Nine at Rorschach Theatre
Nadir Bey, set design
Kylos Brannon, video design
Ashlynne Ludwig, costume design
Marianne Meadows, lighting design
Ian Vespermann, sound design

Angels in America at Arena Stage
Maruti Evans, set design
János Szász, direction

Arms and the Man at Washington Stage Guild
Cheryl Yancey, costume design

As You Like It at Shakespeare Theatre Company
Carmen Alatorre, costume design

The cast of ‘As You Like It.’ Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography..

Ben Butler at Washington Stage Guild 
Megan Holden, scenic design

Chinese Lady at Everyman Theatre
Emma Deane, lighting design
Meghan Raham, scenic design

Evita at Shakespeare Theatre Company (in association with the American Repertory Theater)
Sammi Cannold, direction
Bradley King, lighting design
Emily Maltby and Valeria Solomonoff, choreography
Jason Sherwood, scenic design
Alejo Vietti, costume design

Fela! at Olney Theatre Center (co-production with Round House Theatre)
Matt Rowe, sound design

Ghost/Writer at Rep Stage
Andrew R. Cohen, scenic design

Hubba Hubba at Baltimore Theatre Project
Alex and Olmsted, puppets

Incendiary at Woolly Mammoth Theatre
Andrew Boyce, scenic design

Ink at Round House Theatre (co-production with Olney Theatre Center)
Tony Cisek, scenic design
Minjoo Kim, lighting design
Jason Loewith, direction
Matthew M. Nielson, sound design and composer
Debra Kim Sivigny, costume design
Mike Tutaj, projections design

Chris Genebach (Ray Mills), Ryan Rilette (Frank Nicklin), Maboud Ebrahimzadeh (Brian McConnell), Cody Nickell (Larry Lamb), Michael Glenn (Bernard Shrimsley), Sophia Early (Diana), Zion Jang (Beverley Goodway), and Kate Eastwood Norris (Joyce Hopkirk) in ‘Ink.’ Photo by Margot Schulman Photography.

Fiddler on the Roof at Olney Theatre Center
Max Doolittle, lighting design

Fitting In at Arts on the Horizon
Emily Erickson (original music composition) and navi (music production)

Fun Home at Studio Theatre
David Muse, direction

Harvey at Everyman Theatre
Daniel Ettinger and Emily Lotz, set design

Here There Are Blueberries at Shakespeare Theatre Company
David Lander and David Bengali, lighting and projection design

How the Light Gets In at 1st Stage
Kathryn Kawecki, set design
Helen Garcia-Alton, lighting design

On the set of ‘How the Light Gets In’ (from left): Joel Ashur as Tommy Z, Tonya Beckman as Ellen, Jacob Yeh as Haruki Sakamoto, and Madeleine Regina as Kat Lane. Photo by Cameron Whitman Photography.

King Lear at Shakespeare Theatre Company
Simon Godwin, direction

Kinky Boots at Olney Theatre Center
Jeanne Vallee, choreography
Milagros Ponce de León, set design

Last Match at 1st Stage
Jessica Alexandra Cancino, set design

Monarch at Creative Cauldron
Daniel Primo, projection design

My Mama and the Full-Scale Invasion at Woolly Mammoth Theatre
Misha Kachman, set design
Venus Gulbranson, lighting design
Kelly Colburn, projection design
Michael Kiley, sound design

Holly Twyford as Mama and Suli Holum as Daughter in ‘My Mama and the Full-Scale Invasion.’ Photo by Misha Kachman.

Never in Our Image – ACT III – Gun Transformation Opera presented by CulturalDC at Source Theatre
Stephanie Mercedes, creation and direction

Orlando at Constellation Theatre  
Sarah Beth Hall, scenic design
Kitt Crescenzo, costume design
Venus Gulbranson, lighting design

Out of the Vinyard at Joe’s Movement Emporium
Luis Garcia, projection design

Pacific Overtures at Signature Theatre
Ethan Heard, direction

POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive at Arena Stage
Margot Bordelon, direction

SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! at Ford’s Theatre
Sheilah V. Walker, music direction

Snow Maiden at Synetic Theater
Irina Tsikurishvili, direction

Sonnets for an Old Century at Spooky Action Theater
Elizabeth Dinkova, direction

Strong Wind at Scena Theatre
Roger Doyle and Andrew Bellware, music
Andrew Bellware, sound design

Swept Away at Arena Stage
Rachel Hauck, set design
Michael Mayer, direction

The Cake at Prologue Theatre in association with NextStop Theatre
Jason Tamborini, set design
Aria Velz, direction

‘The Cake’ set. Design by Jason Tamborini. Photo by DJ Corey Photography.

The Honey Trap at Solas Nua
Matt Torney, direction

The Jungle at Shakespeare Theatre Company (co-production with Woolly Mammoth Theatre)
Miriam Buether, set design
Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, direction
Catherine Kodicek, costume design
Jon Clark, lighting design
Paul Arditti, sound design
John Pfumojena, composer
Tristan Shepherd and Duncan McLean, video design

The Mortification of Fovea Munson at The Kennedy Center
Justin Huertas, music and lyrics
Steven Tran, arrangements and orchestrations

The School for Lies at Constellation Theatre
Frank Labovitz, costume design
Sarah Reed, scenic design
Brittany Shemuga, lighting design

Ría Simpkins (Eliante), Dylan Arredondo (Philinte), Gwen Grastorf (Arsinoë), Matthew Pauli (Dubois), Natalie Cutcher (Célimène), Drew Kopas (Frank), Jamil Joseph (Clitander), Ryan Sellers (Acaste), and Jacob Yeh (Oronte) in ‘The School for Lies.’ Photo by DJ Corey Photography.

The Tell-Tale Heart at Synetic Theatre
Erik Teague, costume design
Paata Tsikurishvili, direction

The Winter’s Tale at Folger Shakespeare Theatre
Tamilla Woodard, direction


(Sorry, Shakespeare, this category is only for recently written plays and plays making their regional or national debut in the DC region)

  • Bob Bartlett, Love and Vinyl, self-produced at KA-CHUNK!! Records
  • Dane Figueroa Edidi, Ghost/Writer at Rep Stage
  • Morgan Gould, Jennifer, Who Is Leaving at Round House Theatre
  • Chisa Hutchinson, Redeemed at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival
  • Joan Kane, Almost 13 at the Capital Fringe Festival
  • E. M. Lewis, How the Light Gets In at 1st Stage,
  • John Logan, Swept Away at Arena Stage
  • Patrick Lord and Megan Thrift, Fitting In at Arts on the Horizon
  • Donja R. Love, one in two at Mosaic Theater
  • Dominique Morriseau, Confederates at Mosaic Theater
  • Leo McGann, The Honey Trap at Solas Nua
  • Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, The Jungle at Shakespeare Theatre Company (with Woolly Mammoth Theatre)
  • Asa Ogawa, The Nosebleed at Woolly Mammoth Theatre
  • Psalmayene 24, Monumental Travesties at Mosaic Theater
  • Jenny Rachel Weiner, The Chameleon at Theater J
  • Lauren Yee, Cambodian Rock Band at Arena Stage

DCTA 2023 Staff Favorites: Outstanding Professional Productions
DCTA 2023 Staff Favorites: Outstanding Professional Performances


  1. Hello – I’m curious as to why no individual artists for I and You at Compass Rose Theater – actors, designers, director – were listed as staff picks when the production was? I thought maybe it was an oversight?

  2. So glad to see James Morrison recognized for light design! He’s amazingly talented!

    In addition to the direction for King Lear, I was really impressed by the sets. They weren’t always the most scene-stealing, but I thought they were very effective at establishing a sense of place throughout the show. The part where Cordelia reunites with Lear and he’s in a hospital bed in a medic tent totally reframed that scene for me.

    Another show with a set that really impressed me was Into the Woods at Signature Theatre. That was one of the most fun, whimsical sets I’ve seen in recent years, doubly impressive because Signature is such a small space.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here