AMERICAN THEATER | Lileana Blain-Cruz and Teo Castellanos among 2021 Doris Duke artists

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Lileana Blain-Cruz and Teo Castellanos.

NEW YORK CITY: The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) announced the Doris Duke 2021 artists, including two laureates in the field of theater. This year’s seven winners will receive a total of $ 275,000, intended to invest in their artistic potential and to celebrate their contributions in the fields of contemporary dance, jazz and theater. The award consists of $ 250,000 in unrestricted funding that recipients can use in any way they determine who will best support their ability to create and thrive, while the additional $ 25,000 is used to encourage savings. for retirement.

This year’s winners include Lileana Blain-Cruz and Teo Castellanos in the theater field. They are joined by Cynthia Oliver and Dormeshia in the field of contemporary dance and Kris Davis, Danilo Pérez and Wayne Shorter in the field of jazz.

“We are delighted to recognize this year’s cohort of outstanding artists with this support,” said Maurine Knighton, director of the arts program at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, in a statement. “Knowing that these performing artists excel in their forms, we recognize that they deserve funding that they trust to best determine how to invest in their own future. These awards are meant to give artists the freedom to create the way artists are meant to create: freely, organically, and without restrictions. “

In an interview with American theaterDirector Blain-Cruz said he wants an organization to offer financial support that does not tie it to a specific artistic endeavor. Instead, the open structure of the award shows him that the organization understands a fundamental truth: when artists can take care of themselves, their work will flourish.

“Basically I broke down in tears – it was just a relief,” Blain-Cruz said of when she was told she would receive the award. “There is so much about this pandemic that leads you to existential questions: what does it all mean? what are we doing? What do we do? Why do we do it? What does it mean to be alive? How do we live as people? So I was deeply moved, because one of the things that they kept emphasizing is that it’s up to you to live. “

Indeed, Blain-Cruz said, the limitless nature of the prize allows artists to break free from the pressures of productivity. An award like this allows artists like her to follow life’s twists and turns to unexpected places that may end up informing them and their art in ways they never could have imagined.

For the future, this award gives Blain-Cruz even more the opportunity to focus on two upcoming productions. She is the director of Dreaming Zenzile, by Grammy nominee Somi Kakoma, which is based on the life of South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba. The Repertory Theater of St. Louis kicked off its 2021-22 season with the production, produced alongside Octopus Theatricals, National Black Theater, McCarter Theater Center, Emerson Arts, Apollo Theater and New York Theater Workshop. She will also lead Iphigénie: a new opera, composed by 2021 artist Doris Duke, Wayne Shorter, with a libretto by Esperanza Spalding. Presented at the Kennedy Center later this year, and also showcasing works by 2021 Doris Duke artist Danilo Pérez, the new opera combines classical and jazz while using myth to subvert the misogynistic and militaristic narratives imposed on female characters.

Blain-Cruz said having Shorter and Pérez on this latest project felt like the universe was telling him to keep working. She added that it was amazing to be able to really feel connected to artists from other disciplines.

The actor, writer and director Castellanos also said American theater he had a feeling of happiness receiving this award. After a 30-year career in creating designed works, he said he recently mentioned to his wife that now would be the perfect time to receive such an award. That award has, Castellanos said, made an uncertain future a little more certain as he considers the potential for a downturn as he draws closer to the final years of his career. He added that he was especially grateful for the recognition after years of working with and building up underserved communities.

“It was definitely a highlight of his career,” said Castellanos, who said his first reaction was a combination of shock and exhilaration. “Recognition of the work I have done in these communities – I feel totally honored. “

Castellanos’ plays and solo works, including his award-winning work NE 2nd Avenue, have toured the United States, Europe, South America, China and the Caribbean over the years. In 2003, Castellanos founded the dance and theater company Teo Castellanos D-Projects, and his most recent solo show, Third Trinity, was directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney, with whom Castellanos has had a working and friendly relationship for more than two decades. Looking at his work with disadvantaged communities, Castellanos highlighted the creation of works in prisons and his work as artistic director and playwright for Fight the hippies, an ensemble of Puerto Rican military veteran performing artists in Miami. While Castellanos himself isn’t a veteran, the Puerto Rican director formed the company during a creative writing workshop for veterans in 2015.

Castellanos said that this kind of unrestricted award not only gives him a sense of freedom but recognition, as if the organization recognizes his contributions to the field and is now working to support him as a human being and an artist.

“I am really grateful that this award exists,” added Blain-Cruz. “The importance of this award in continuing to support artistic risk-taking and having the freedom to venture into the unknown seems absolutely more crucial as the world already feels so dangerous and precarious due to this global chaos. “

Lileana Blain-Cruz.

Lileana blain-cruz is a director from New York and Miami and a recent recipient of a Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award and an Obie Award for Marys Seacole at LCT3. Recent projects include Anatomy of a suicide at the Atlantic Theater Company, Fefu and his friends at the Theater for a new audience, Girls at the Yale Repertory Theater, Faust at the Omaha Opera, and The house that won’t hold at the New York Theater Workshop. She won an Obie Award for her directing of The Death of the Last Black Man Around the World AKA The Negro Book of the Dead at the Signature Theater.

Other projects include that of Lucas Hnath Red speedo at NYTW, Alice Birch’s Revolt. She said. To revolt again at Soho Rep, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s War at LCT3 and Yale Rep, Henry IV Part 1 and A lot of noise for nothing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The bluest eye à la Guthrie, Really at MTC, Salome at JACK, Christina Anderson’s Hollow roots, which premiered at the Under the Radar Festival at the Public Theater, a new translation of The Bakkhai at the Fisher Center of Performing Arts at Bard College, and A guide to kinship and maybe magic, a collaboration with choreographer Isabel Lewis and playwright Jacobs-Jenkins at Dance New Amsterdam.

She was a member of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, an Allen Lee Hughes executive member at Arena Stage, and is currently Usual Suspect of New York Theater Workshop. She received a United States Artist Fellowship in 2018 and the Joséphine Abady Prize from the League of Professional Theater Women. She received her BA from Princeton and her MA in Directing from the Yale School of Drama, where she received both the Julian Milton Kaufman Memorial Prize and the Pierre-Andre Salim Prize for her leadership and directing. In addition to Dreaming about Zenzille and Iphigenethat is to say, upcoming projects include Listeners, a new opera by Missy Mazzoli, to be premiered at Opera Norway and Opera Philadelphia.

Teo Castellanos. (Photo by George Schiavone)

Teo Castellanos is an actor, writer and director who works in theater, film and television. His award-winning solo exhibition NE 2nd Avenue toured extensively for a decade and won the 2003 Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. His most recent personal exhibition, Third Trinity, was directed by Oscar winner and MacArthur Fellow Tarell Alvin McCraney, with whom Castellanos has had a working and friendly relationship for over 20 years.

In addition to writing drama, his acting credits include the role of Elegba in Tarell Alvin McCraney The size of the brothers (Miami) and Santos in the Hittite Empire Fish skeletons (London). He has received several awards and grants, including from the NEA, NEFA, MAP Fund, NPN, Knight Arts Challenge, Knight Foundation People’s Choice Award, and Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs. He also won the Florida State Individual Artist Fellowship in 2005 and 2013. He was a 2015 Sundance Institute Screenwriters Intensive Fellow 2015 and is a member of SAG / AFTRA and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

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