Raymond O. Caldwell to receive Zelda Fichandler Award

Presented by the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, the award recognizes accomplishment with singular creativity and deep investment in a particular community.

Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF), the not-for-profit foundation of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), announces the recipient and finalists for its annual Zelda Fichandler Award. The Fichandler Award recognizes directors and choreographers who have demonstrated great accomplishment to date with singular creativity and deep investment in a particular community or region, and is named for Zelda Fichandler, the founding artistic director of Arena Stage in Washington, DC. The award is presented annually, with a focus each year on a different region; all of nominees for this year’s Fichandler Award were directors and choreographers from the Eastern United States.

Raymond O. Caldwell. Photo by  C. Stanley Photography.

The 2023 Zelda Fichandler Award will be presented to Raymond O. Caldwell, Producing Artistic Director of DC’s Theater Alliance. He will receive an unrestricted award of $5,000 from SDCF. May Adrales and Tinashe Kajese-Bolden have been named as finalists. All artists will be recognized in a virtual ceremony open to the public in Spring 2024.

The selection committee for the 2023 Fichandler Award was chaired by director Vivienne Benesch, who was joined on the committee by directors and choreographers Elena Araoz, Karma Shively-Camp, and Christopher Windom.

“Among an incredible pool of nominated directors and choreographers and their impressive, impactful careers, the committee is thrilled to shine a light on Raymond O. Caldwell as the 2023 Zelda Fichandler Award winner and May Adrales and Tinashe Kajese-Bolden as finalists,” said committee chair Benesch. “While each has already accomplished great things as artists and community builders, we felt this recognition — at this moment — would serve as a propelling and meaningful endorsement of all they have yet to make happen. Zelda was one of Raymond’s first mentors when he arrived in Washington, DC in 2009. She would be so proud of the transformative work he is doing both in their shared hometown and around the world. As one of his nominators wrote, ‘DC theatre is more intentional, more innovative, and more connected because of his presence and leadership.’ I can’t wait to follow and support Raymond, May, and Tinashe’s brilliant work and their continued contributions to our field at large.”

To read about the 2023 Zelda Fichandler Awardee and Finalists, please visit SDCF’s website: https://sdcfoundation.org/2023-zelda-fichandler-award-recipient-and-finalist/

About Raymond O. Caldwell
Born in Wiesbaden, Germany and raised all over the world, Raymond O. Caldwell (he/him/his) is an award-winning director and producer who has been leading Washington, DC’s Theater Alliance as Producing Artistic Director since 2018. Regionally he has directed for Signature Theatre, Round House, Imagination Stage, Mosaic Theater, The Kennedy Center, National Players/OTC, Solas Nua, CulturalDC, African Continuum, and the Hegira. Prior to leading Theater Alliance, he was a faculty member and resident director in Howard University’s Department of Theatre Arts for six years, and spent six seasons as the Community Engagement Partnership Manager at Arena Stage. He is committed to using theatre as a tool to transform communities, and has partnered and worked with artists, activists, non-profits and NGOs throughout the world. In October 2022—in partnership with the US Department of State and Contact Base (a cultural NGO based in West Bengal) — he developed a play (A GLOBAL I.D.E.A) with 23 artists and activists from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and the US that explored what Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility mean on the global stage. He has done similar work throughout the US, India, Ukraine, and Croatia. MFA, Acting/New Play Development: The Ohio State University; BFA, Acting: University of Florida.

May Adrales and Tinashe Kajese-Bolden have been named as finalists.

May Adrales is a director, artistic leader, educator and mother; she has directed over 30 world premieres. Recent work: Manhattan Theatre Club (Poor Yella Rednecks, Golden Shield, Vietgone); Second Stage (Letters of Suresh, Somebody’s Daughter) and Huntington Theatre (The Heart Sellers). Her work has been seen at Signature Theatre, LCT3, The Public Theater, WP, New York Theatre Workshop, Atlantic Theater Company, The Alley, South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Rep, Two River Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, Syracuse Stage, Milwaukee Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse, Pioneer Theatre Company, The Old Globe, Williamstown Theatre, and Portland Center Stage. Awards: Ammerman; TCG’s Alan Schneider and Next Generation Grantee, SDCF Denham award. She has received residencies at the Drama League, Van Lier, WP, SoHo Rep and NYTW.  She’s held leadership positions at Milwaukee Rep, TCG, The Playwrights Center, The Public Theater, and The Lark. MFA, Yale School of Drama. She is currently the Director of the Theatre Program at Fordham University.

Tinashe Kajese-Bolden is an artistic leader who plants her deep passion for service at the intersection of artistic innovation and collective empowerment. Originally from Zimbabwe, Kajese-Bolden combines her commitment to great art, deep education and community advancement with an agile enthusiasm and unflappable, calm energy to inspire new possibilities. Kajese-Bolden honed her directing and producing skills as a freelance director working in regional houses across the country and as the inaugural BOLD Women’s Leadership Associate Artistic Director at the Alliance Theatre. As a director and actor, she fosters deep ongoing collaborations with playwrights, and has mounted many innovative and critically acclaimed productions that merge elegant, theatrical designs with complicated human stories. Tinashe is a Princess Grace Award 2019 Winner for Directing, and Map Fund Award recipient to develop her devised new work ALL SMILES centering the experience of children on the Autism Spectrum. As a director and actor, she has worked On + Off Broadway as well as recurring roles on TV/Film Strays (currently in theaters) Guardians of the Galaxy: Xmas Special, Suicide Squad, Marvel’s Hawkeye, CW’s Valor, Dynasty, HBO’s Henrietta Lacks, Ava Duvernay’s Cherish the Day among others. Upcoming directing projects at the Alliance Theater include the World Premiere of Furlough’s Paradise and the new musical “The Preachers Wife” inspired by the motion picture film starring Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington and a new Opera “Forsyth Is Flooding” premiering at the Atlanta Opera. She proudly serves on the ARTS-ATL Artist Advisory Council “My mission is the pursuit of what connects our different communities and how we create art that liberates us to imagine a more inclusive future.”

Established in 2009, the Zelda Fichandler Award is SDCF’s first award devoted to regional theater. With this award, SDCF acknowledges the profound impact directors and choreographers of regional theater have on the field, transforming the national arts landscape with their unique, creative work and deep investment in local communities.
The Fichandler Award is given regionally on a rotating basis.

Zelda Fichandler (1924-2016) dedicated her early career to the establishment of America’s regional theater movement. In 1950, she founded Washington DC’s Arena Stage and in 1968 she produced The Great White Hope, which became the first production to transfer from a regional theater to Broadway, winning the Tony and the Pulitzer Prize, and launching the careers of James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander. Her production of Inherit the Wind toured Soviet St. Petersburg and Moscow; Arena Stage was the first American theater company sponsored by the State Department to do so. Like many other regional theaters afterward, Arena Stage cultivated an evolving resident company over the decades that included some of America’s best actors: Robert Prosky, Frances Sternhagen, George Grizzard, Philip Bosco, Ned Beatty, Roy Scheider, Robert Foxworth, Jane Alexander, James Earl Jones, Melinda Dillon, Dianne Wiest, Max Wright, Marilyn Caskey, Harriet Harris, and Tom Hewitt. In 1975 it was the first regional theater to be recognized by the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League with the Regional Theatre Tony Award for
outstanding achievement. When Ms. Fichandler retired as producing artistic director of Arena Stage in 1990, she had achieved the longest tenure of any non-commercial producer in the annals of theater in the U.S. Before her passing in July of 2016, Ms. Fichandler was chair emeritus of New York University’s acclaimed Graduate Acting Program where she personally taught, guided, and inspired more than 500 acting students. Her honors include SDCF’s “Mr. Abbott” Award, The Acting Company’s John Houseman Award, the Margo Jones Award, and the National Medal of Arts, and in 1999 she became the first artistic leader outside of New York to be inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

Founded in 1965, Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF) celebrates, develops, and supports professional stage directors and choreographers throughout every phase of their careers. SDCF works to build a theatrical community that reflects the cultural, racial, and gender diversity of our nation by creating opportunities for artists of all backgrounds to bring their full, authentic selves to their work as creative leaders in the theater. SDCF’s goals are to provide opportunities to practice the crafts of directing and choreography; to gather and disseminate craft and career information; to promote the profession to emerging talent; to provide opportunities for exchange of knowledge among directors and choreographers; to increase the awareness of the value of directors’ and choreographers’ work; and to convene around issues affecting theater artists.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here