Celeste Den. (Photograph by Peter Konerko)
Hometowns: Taipei, Taiwan, and Miami
Present residence: Echo Park, Los Angeles
Recognized for: Den performed in the 2017 Broadway revival of David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly, directed by Julie Taymor, the world premiere of Jung Chang’s Wild Swans at Cambridge, Mass.’s American Repertory Theater and the Younger Vic in London, and the world premiere of Zoe Kazan’s Trudy and Max in Love at Costa Mesa, Calif.’s South Coast Repertory in 2014. Additionally that yr, she was a member of the Oregon Shakespeare Pageant’s appearing firm.
What’s subsequent: Den is writing a set of autobiographical tales about rising up as an undocumented immigrant within the U.S., and she or he plans on creating the collection right into a solo performance piece.
What makes her special: “Celeste is fantastic in the room,” says director Leigh Silverman. The 2 worked collectively on productions of David Henry Hwang’s Chinglish at California’s Berkeley Repertory Theatre and South Coast Rep, as well as at the 2013 Hong Kong Arts Pageant. “She is a funny, emotionally grounded, and totally connected performer.”
Mutual empathy: “I’ve always been drawn to theatre as a place where people from all walks of life come together to build something greater than ourselves,” says Den, whose sense of belonging within the theatre has solely deepened over time. “I believe in its alchemy to create empathy in both the creators and the audience. It’s why I’ve always been most excited by true ensemble work by companies like SITI or Wooster Group or Rude Mechs. It’s the one style of work I wish I got to do more of.”
Christie Vela. (Photograph by Cameron Cobb)
Career: Director, actor, and theatremaker
Hometown: Laredo, Texas
Current residence: Dallas
Recognized for: Vela is the affiliate inventive director of Theatre Three in Dallas. She can also be a founding member of the Diane and Hal Brierley Resident Appearing Firm at Dallas Theater Middle, where she most lately helmed the regional premiere of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Gloria as well as Tanya Saracho’s Fade. She additionally appeared in Selina Fillinger’s The Armor Performs: Cinched and Strapped at Theatre Three in June.
What’s next: She’ll direct Lynn Nottage’s Sweat at Trinity Rep next season and a new play by Blake Hackler, What We Have been, at Dallas’s Second Thought Theatre. She’ll then direct a brand new adaptation of Dracula by Michael Federico at Theatre Three.
What makes her special: “I always turn to Christie when we choose to tackle particularly delicate and difficult plays,” says Alex Organ, inventive director of Second Thought Theatre, where Vela has additionally directed such productions as Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men and Alice Birch’s Revolt, She Stated. Revolt Again. “Christie’s success comes from her fearless and deeply curious approach to the work,” Organ continues. “Quite simply, she elevates every project she touches and sets a high bar for the rest of us.”
Lively engagement: “Theatre should be an event: It’s a verb, not a noun,” says Vela, who believes an viewers’s engagement in a play or musical should final from the moment they depart their house to return to the theatre until the morning after. “It should make you laugh loudly and joyfully and then punch you in the gut with a big ‘truth fist.’ It should be terrifying and beautiful and imperfect.”
Clay Martin. (Photograph by Andy Still)
Career: Inventive director
Hometown: Born in Austin, raised in Raleigh, N.C.
Present residence: Providence, R.I.
Recognized for: Via a TCG Leadership U[niversity] Grant, Martin developed Spectrum Theatre Ensemble, a neurodiverse theatre company based mostly in Windfall, and led the production of The Lodge Performs at STE in association with Trinity Rep. He also established the BurkTech Gamers, a program just like STE, at Texas Tech College.
What’s next: Martin is creating a neurodiverse play with STE’s playwright-in-residence, Jeremy J. Kamps, and different company members; next step is a reading at Brown University. Martin can also be launching STE’s first full season.
What makes him special: When Mark Charney, head of Texas Tech’s Faculty of Theatre and Dance, persuaded Martin to do his MFA there, he didn’t know the varsity was in for some learning too. On the college’s middle for studies in autism, Charney says, Martin “blazed the trail, fostering relationships with the students, teaching classes, sharing theatre exercises, and teaching us how to reach students very different than those we were accustomed to. Clay has a tendency to want to share his knowledge with the world, and he speaks the language of generosity, a rare trait in someone so young.”
Blended artistry: “I believe in the idea of hybrid artists, professionals whose work is not limited to the stage, but who can use the stage to help give others in society a voice, a place to gather and collaborate,” says Martin. “Those are the people I want to work with and who feed my soul as an artist.”
Career: Hair and makeup designer
Hometowns: Houston and Dallas
Current residence: Brooklyn
Recognized for: Nealey was a supervisor and assistant designer on the 2017 Broadway stagings of Sweat and As soon as on This Island, and more just lately labored on Matilda at SaGaJi Theatre in Colorado Springs, Colo., Cadillac Crew at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Conn., and Fireflies at Yale Cabaret. She’s additionally worked with Cape Worry Regional Theatre in Fayetteville, N.C., on the company’s run of Memphis, with the Public Theater of New York City’s Cellular Unit manufacturing of The Tempest in Might, and with Dallas Opera and Dallas Music Hall.
What’s next: Nealey is presently on the hair crew for The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.
What makes her particular: “Earon brings a depth and understanding of hair and makeup design that rivals seasoned professionals,” says Harold Steward, interim government director of the Theater Offensive. “Designing with wisdom and spirit, she epitomizes the rigor of creativity.”
A spot at the desk: “The biggest thing that keeps me going are my two angels, my grandmothers,” says Nealey. “They were Black women from the South, and they broke through so many obstacles. I feel it’s my duty to keep going and pushing, because I know what I am doing is something they never imagined. I want to create a space for women of color and queer women to always be accepted at the table. For us to be the rule and not the exception. I want kids to not see positions in theatre as gender-related, but as a job that anyone can do as long as they love it.”
Jonathan Payne. (Photograph by Joey Shares for the Dramatist)
Hometown: Los Angeles
Present house: New York City
Recognized for: Payne was the 2018 Page One playwright on the Playwrights Realm, the place his play The Revolving Cycles Really and Steadily Roll’d was introduced final fall. His different works for the stage embrace Opal Root, Poor Edward, and The Briar Patch.
What’s next: Payne’s play A Human Being, Of a Type might be performed this summer time at Massachusetts’s Williamstown Theatre Pageant. The production, starring Andre Braugher, runs June 26-July 7.
What makes him special: “Everyone loves the guy. And for good reason,” says playwright Madhuri Shekar, who was Payne’s classmate in the Juilliard playwriting program. “He is kind, gentle, patient, wickedly funny, and a huge comic book nerd, which makes him the most delightful person to be around.” Shekar accordingly describes Payne’s writing as a mirrored image of his character: “It is deep, slyly funny, multi-layered, and always surprising,” she says. “His work is both magical and deeply grounded. He is incredibly thoughtful about history, and the way in which we tell and retell historical narratives, particularly Black historical narratives in the U.S. He challenges your expectations at every turn, and he uses humor to disarm, then devastate you.”
Writing unheard stories: Along with being a playwright, Payne has a day job in human providers. “The stories I hear from time to time are all from people on the fringes of society, who are unheard and underrepresented,” he says. “Whenever I feel hopeless as a playwright or frustrated with the business of art, I am reminded of why I write and engage with the stories I do. It is the people I support who keep me going.”
Pearl Rea. (Photograph by Justin Ayd)
Career: Manufacturing supervisor
Hometown: Fort Smith, Ark.
Current residence: Minneapolis
Recognized for: Rea, manufacturing supervisor on the Walker Art Middle, worked on Merce Cunningham’s Ocean there and for its premiere at a working rock quarry in central Minnesota. Her credits stage managing and/or lighting embrace Paul Taylor’s American Trendy Dance: The 50-State Tour and the Shapiro and Smith Dance Firm’s Notes From a Séance in Minneapolis.
What’s next: The Walker’s annual summer time rock pageant, Rock the Garden, at Minneapolis Sculpture Backyard.
What makes her particular: “Pearl is that rare creative collaborator who can make almost anything happen with grace, humor, and constant care of the process,” says Bonnie Schock, government director of the Sheldon Theatre in Pink Wing, Minn. “Pearl builds spaces that are inclusive, creative, and sparking with good energy. As a woman in design, production management, and stage and tour management, she has succeeded against the odds in a field that too often ignores women.”
Working ladies: Rea says initially she deliberate to be a performer (“I cornered the market on old ladies, town drunks, and old-lady town drunks”), however in school she “discovered there was so much more to theatre then just being onstage.” Of her work with the Walker, Rea says, “Our team’s current focus is crew diversity. In the last five years, since this became a priority, our gender diversity is hovering right at 50 percent male/female for our technical crews. We continue to improve the ethnic diversity of our team.”