Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation has announced that Elena Velasco will receive the 2023 Barbara Whitman Award. The honor and its unrestricted $10,000 cash prize go to a female, trans, or non-binary early-career director for their unique vision.
In a statement, Velasco said, “For first and second generation artists of migrant communities, performance has urgency—it is inherently activist as it counters xenophobic narratives through belonging, resilient joy, y orgulla cultural." She continued, "I became a director because I believe that theatre can shift power by challenging and re-centering the narrative to move our society towards greater intersection and equity through radical representation. My energy and spirit remain devoted to stories and languages that are not often heard, particularly from Spanish-speaking communities where my identity is rooted. It is my hope that the diversity and complexity of Latinidad can be celebrated, from its rich syncretically spiritual stories to viajes que cambiaron la vida."
The award, originally created in 2021, is named for theatre producer Barbara Whitman. Velasco primarily works in Washington, D.C. and the Greater Boston area. Her directing and choreography credits include Central Square Theater, Convergence Theatre, GALA Hispanic, 1st Stage, NextStop Theatre, Synetic Theater, Adventure Theatre, Keegan Theatre, and Kennedy Center’s New Visions New Voices Festival. She is also a long-time company member of Synetic Theater, and co-founded the Washington, D.C.-based nomadic performance collective Convergence Theatre for which she also serves as Artistic Director.
Velasco was selected via multi-round committee process which involved Whitman, Christopher Burney, Jade King Carroll, Elizabeth Carter, Luis Castro, Sheryl Keller, Dan Knechtges, Tara Moses, Leigh Silverman, Sharon Ott, Tamilla Woodard, and 2022 Barbara Whitman Awardee NJ Agwuna.
Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation has also announced its finalists for the award who will all receive a $1,000 unrestricted cash prize. This year's finalists include Carlton V. Bell, Kimille Howard, Sarah Hughes, SB Tennent, and Emma Rosa Went.