Career Development Program for Theatre Directors

There will not be a round of the NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Theatre Directors during this fiscal year. To be notified when more information on the next round is available, please contact Jessica Lewis, artistic programs project coordinator.


The program offers six exceptionally talented, early-career theatre directors the opportunity to spend six months over a two-year period expanding their artistic boundaries and increasing their knowledge of the field. Each experience is hand-tailored, matching recipients’ goals to appropriate and challenging assignments.

A successful program will include a majority of the following:

Travel and research;

Advanced study such as directing or acting workshops;

Cross-disciplinary forays such as language study or work with a dramaturg or designer;

Observing companies and/or artists of distinction in their rehearsal or planning process;

Prolonged residencies, often working as an assistant;

Developing a new piece with a designated mentor in the final months of the program.

Under the program, recipient directors will receive $25,000, which represents six stipend payments of $3,900 and a final payment of $1,600. These stipends cannot be used to underwrite fees for directing jobs, unless those assignments are related to the goals the recipient articulates in their application and interview.

In addition, each recipient will receive:

Up to $2,000 to support ongoing life needs such as health insurance, child care or elder care and up to $1,500 in supplementary travel.

Applicants of diverse backgrounds representing the full spectrum of theatrical activity, including those who have worked in non-traditional venues, are encouraged to apply to this program. No applicant will be discriminated against on the basis of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, color or national origin.

There is a large time commitment expected of each recipient selected. Recipients will be required to complete six months of activity within a two-year period, beginning October 1, 2009, and ending September 30, 2011, and will be asked to treat all activities within the program as professional engagements. It is assumed that the selected recipients will arrange their schedules in order to accommodate the Career Development Program.

TCG understands that advance scheduling of large blocks of time can prove extremely challenging for freelance directors, so the program activity need not be consecutive and the TCG staff will work with each recipient to match placements and develop a timeline for completing the program. However, potential recipients should be prepared and able to relocate during the program period, if necessary. And while they may accept work outside the program, they may not maintain salaried positions while completing program activities.

2009-2011 Recipients


Gisela Cardenas is a director based in New York City interested in working with classics and adaptations from a contemporary perspective. She has an M.A in Performance Studies (NYU) and an M.F.A in Directing (Columbia University). Past credits: Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” (Riverside Church Theater), Garcia Lorca's “Don Perlimplin” (Repertorio Espanol); Aeschylus “Agamemnon” (Drama Desk Nomination 2006/Directing); "Antigone" adapted by Jose Watanabe ("Sibiu International Theater Festival—Romania), New York Revival of Kander & Ebb's “Kiss of The Spider Woman” (Vortex Theater Company). Part 1 of "An Oresteia" (Classic Stage Company). Awards: Princes Grace Theater Fellowship (2007), 2008 Phil Killian Directing Fellow (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), 2008-10 Women's Project Director’s Lab and recipient of the 2008 Josephine Abady Award (League of Professional Theatre Women).


Lear deBessonet is a New York based director whose recent work includes a re-imagination of the musical OLIVER! at NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing, a country-blues adaptation of Brecht’s Saint Joan of the Stockyards at PS122, and transfigures, produced Off-Broadway by Women’s Project.  Most recently, her site-specific Quixote premiered in Philadelphia and she directed Lucy Thurber’s Monstrosity for 13P.  Ms. deBessonet has worked in Kazakhstan and Serbia, and assisted Martha Clarke, Anne Bogart, and Bartlett Sher.  She was named one of Time Out New York’s 25 People to Watch, and received the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Presidential Award for Artistic Excellence.    


Nelson T. Eusebio III is the artistic director and co-founder of Creative Destruction, a theatre company dedicated to the creation of political, diverse drama. Recent directing credits:Obama Drama: A Political Theatrical Spectacular!(Creative Destruction),God, Sex and Blue Water(Living Image Arts),365 Days/365 Plays (Ma-Yi/The Public Theatre),Finding Ways(Pan Asian Rep). Nelson was a resident director at Ensemble Studio Theatre, is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and the Rhodopi International Theatre Collective.He has a B.A. in Drama from UC Irvine and an M.F.A. in Directing from the Yale School of Drama.


Michael Goldfried is a New York City-based director whose work includes Novel and Gardening Leave (SPF); Shangri La (Queens Theater in the Park); Charles Ludlam’s Stage Blood (KGB); and recent work with the Drama League including Kahn and Kant (DirectorFest), Mama’s Boy (New Directors/New Works) and 365 Plays. He has adapted and directed numerous comedies including Twelfth Night, Tartuffe, The Imaginary Invalid and The Rover. New play development at The Public; Youngblood and Ars Nova. Alum of the Drama League Director's Project & Lincoln Center Director's Lab. Directing faculty at SVA. Assisted: Oskar Eustis, Les Waters, Jerry Zaks, Peter DuBois. MFA: Brown University/Trinity Rep Consortium.


Laura Kepley is a Resident Director and served as Artistic Associate for four seasons at Trinity Repertory Company directing The Clean House, Laura Schellhardt’s Shapeshifter and co-creating  (with Deborah Salem Smith) and directing the docudramas Boots on the Ground and Some Things Are Private. Other work includes George Brant’s shop talk (Drama League’s DIRECTORFEST) The K of D (Kennedy Center and USF/Orlando Shakespeare Festival), Falling Up (Perishable Theatre), and Elephant’s Graveyard (The University of Texas–Austin). Ms. Kepley received her MFA from the Brown University/Trinity Rep Consortium.  She is a Drama League Fellow and a member of WordBRIDGE Playwright’s Lab Company.


Jerry Ruiz grew up on the US/Mexico border and is inspired by theatre artists’ ability to bring people together by traversing cultural chasms and aspires to build strong and memorable bridges between diverse audiences in his own work. He has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard and an M.F.A in Directing (UC San Diego). Credits include: "Enfrascada" by Tanya Saracho for Clubbed Thumb, "Love Goes to Press" for the Mint Theater, "Sangre" by Mando Alvarado for NYC Parks Summerstage, “26 Miles” by Quiara Hudes, “Kiss Bessemer Goodbye”, “Rear Exit” by Mando Alvarado (INTAR), “The King is Dead” by Caroline V. McGraw, “Election Day” by Josh Tobiessen, “The Near East” by Alex Lewin, and “Rattlers” by Johnna Adams. Regional credits include “Waiting for the Hearse” at Mixed Blood in Minneapolis , “Twelfth Night” for Chalk Rep in Los Angeles and “Blood Wedding”. Jerry is a Resident Director at Repertorio Espanol. He was a Van Lier Directing Fellow at Second Stage Theater from 2007-2009, member of Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, 2008-2009, Resident Assistant Director on La Boheme (dir. Baz Luhrmann) from 2002-2004 and part of Lincoln Center Director's Lab, 2002.


José Zayas is originally from Puerto Rico. He holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University. Zayas is Co-founder and Artistic Director of The Immediate Theater Company. Projects include: "The House of the Spirits" by Caridad Svich (Repertorio Espanol, 7 HOLA awards), “Okay” by Taylor Mac (Ensemble Studio Theatre), "Nowhere on the Border" by Carlos Lacamara (5 ACE awards), "Madre: El Drama Padre" by Enrique Jardiel Poncela (2 ACE Awards), "Southern Promises" (PS122) and “Strom Thurmond is Not a Racist/Cleansed” (Brick Theater) by Thomas Bradshaw. Drama League Fellow, Lincoln Center Director's Lab, Soho Rep Writer/Director's Lab, Mellon Foundation Residency.


Director recipients were chosen by a national independent selection panel that included Ilesa Duncan, director, youth and community programs, Chicago Dramatists; Cynthia Levin, producing artistic director, Unicorn Theatre; Terrence Nolen, producing artistic director, Arden Theatre Company, Jay Scheib, director, Jose Luis Valenzuela, artistic director, The New LATC; and Moya Vazquez, Trustee, Intiman Theatre.


Preliminary panelists included Cynthia Levin, producing artistic director, Unicorn Theatre, Jeremy Cohen, associate artistic director, Hartford Stage; Rajendra R. Maharaj, director; and Tina Packer, artistic director, Shakespeare and Company.


The National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is a public agency dedicated to supporting the excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.


With additional support from The Ford Foundation.

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than half a century it has been a resource for innovative people and institutions worldwide, guided by its goals of strengthening democratic values, reducing poverty and injustice, promoting international cooperation and advancing human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and Russia.