Round 12

Exceptional Merit:

ESTEBAN ANDRES CRUZ, 16th Street Theater, Chicago, IL

Esteban Cruz will empower audiences in his hometowns of Berwyn and Cicero – predominantly Latinx neighborhoods near the west side of Chicago – by collaborating with 16th Street Theater to create a new solo play: A Cross-Eyed, Queer Mexi-Rican's History of America. With original songs, standards, and ballet folklórico, Esteban will recount the mutual histories of Mexican-Americans/Chicanos and Puerto Ricans, perform at 16th Street Theater, and tour to audiences of adults and students in bilingual presentations. The fellowship includes training in dance, Spanish language, and solo writing in Chicago and teaching local high school students. Esteban is the first Latinx artist 16th Street Theater has worked with who grew up right in the community they serve and it is the mutual goal of 16th Street and Esteban to engage students with theatre in a way that both entertains and draws from their rich cultural histories. Through a partnership with 16th Street Theater, which offers affordable tickets to its community, Esteban is fulfilling his career goal of reaching people who can't afford theatre and giving marginalized communities the experience of seeing a reflection of themselves on stage. Esteban has worked with 16th St Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre, The Factory Theater, Victory Gardens Theatre, The Hypocrites and won a Joseph Jefferson Award, Best Actor, for Jesus Hopped the A Train.

CELESTE DEN, South Coast Rep, Costa Mesa, CA

Celeste Den's fellowship will focus on developing skills as a self-generating theatre artist. She will train with the SITI company to refine her physicality and learn the Lecoq technique for physicalizing original narratives so she can develop a solo piece utilizing stories from her own experience as an undocumented immigrant as well as stories from the Asian and Latinx undocumented communities in Los Angeles and Orange County. South Coast Rep’s (SCR) community in Orange County is vibrantly diverse and includes large Latinx and Asian American communities. Celeste's project provides the opportunity for SCR to join national and local conversations about immigration and American inclusiveness. Her project is tailor-made to address the stated objective of SCR's recently adopted long-range plan – to "face outward" - and put into action their priority to do more work that's rooted in community and reflective of Orange County's great cultural diversity. This will be the first time their theatre has undertaken a project centered on an actor's creation of a solo show using a community-based process. Celeste received her BFA in Theatre from the University of Florida and her MFA in Acting from California Institute of the Arts. She has worked with South Coast Rep, Goodman Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, American Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Center Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Center for New Performance, LA Women's Shakespeare, East West Players and Playwrights’ Arena. Celeste is currently making her Broadway debut in Julie Taymor's production of the Tony Award winning play M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang.

AUTUMN NESS, Children's Theatre Company, Minneapolis, MN

Autumn Ness will develop a solo pre-school production based in Dadaist sound poetry, with a focus on theatre for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autumn’s vision is to create work that re-imagines the concept of audience inclusion and increases access to an underserved group of children and educate herself on how to conquer barriers in theatre for special needs children, through research and studies in the world of autism spectrum disorder. Her goal is to study how to best serve this crucial audience through: research and training with Tim Webb and Oily Cart Theatre in London, attendance at the Big Umbrella Festival in New York (the first festival specifically for audiences with ASD), interviews with experts in the field of child autism, in-school workshops with special education classrooms, and family interviews. Additionally, she will take a workshop in the art of wordless sound poetry and improvisational composition with Jaap Blonk in the Netherlands. She hopes to discover what an artist can bring to the complex world of childhood neurological disorders from the perspective of a woman, a mother, a member of an ASD family, and an artist with 17 years of youth theatre experience. During her career at Children's Theatre, she has workshopped, developed, and performed in over 60 productions, collaborating with internationally renowned teams to create new works and world premieres.

SARITA OCÓN, PlayMakers Repertory, Chapel Hill, NC

Sarita is dedicated to deepening her artistic practice and process as both the Actor and the Activist. With this fellowship, Sarita will have the opportunity to perform in two mainstage productions at PlayMakers -- the range of which will showcase and explore both Sarita’s specific Latinx identity and her formidable skills as an actress, in the world premiere Leaving Eden and a new adaptation of Brecht’s Galileo. The fellowship will support Sarita’s interest to develop new models of community engagement in and around these productions. In 2016, the National Immigration Forum reported North Carolina's Latinx population nearly doubled between 2000 to 2010, from 4.7 to 8.4 percent, ranking the accelerated growth as the sixth fastest in the nation. Sarita and PlayMakers want to build and strengthen community partnerships with the growing Latinx and immigrant populations; expanding outreach programming to include civic panels, dialogues, and workshops, centered around the current immigration debate and how recent state policies are impacting Latinx communities of North Carolina. Sarita will create a "Flor y Canto" series, showcasing new young voices of University of NC, Chapel Hill's Latinx community, a majority of whom are first and second generation college students. Following the production of Leaving Eden, community programming will continue with PlayMakers presentation of Brian Quijada's critically acclaimed solo show Where did we sit on the bus?, exploring what it means to be Latino in America. Sarita has performed with Arizona Theatre Company, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, BRAVA Theater Center, California Shakespeare Theater, Gala Hispanic Theatre, Golden Thread Productions, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, San Francisco International Arts Festival, San Francisco Playhouse, ShadowLight Productions, Teatro Visión and Ubuntu Theater Project.

Distinguished Achievement:

SHAWN HAMILTON, Alley Theatre, Houston, TX

Shawn Hamilton will engage with residents of several historically black neighborhoods of Houston as well as local musicians as he researches the city’s jazz history. The Fox Fellowship will give Shawn both the time and resources to study with skilled artisans and develop skills, both musically and theatrically, as he creates a new theatre piece for musicians and actors. Shawn’s research will include talking with members of the current music scene, older residents with connections to the past and music scholars and historians. The intended outcome is to create a piece about Houston for Houstonians, telling a story the Alley Theatre has yet to tell to an audience that would not necessarily have engaged with the material otherwise. Shawn has worked with the Alley Theater, Guthrie Theater, Stages Repertory Theater, Main Street Theater, Baltimore Center Stage, Park Square Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, Trinity Repertory Theater, Yale Repertory Theatre, Dallas Theater Center, Penumbra Theatre, Ordway Center and Ten Thousand Things Theater.

PHILLIP LUNA, Su Teatro, Denver, CO

Phillip Luna’s goal is to build a bridge and find parallels between the Group Theatre acting techniques he has practiced for over thirty years and the styles of acting utilized in the Teatro Chicano Movement (Teatro for short) and carpas, tent shows. He wants to empower actors to embrace Teatro and excel in communicating to the audience and community. He will study with master teachers in Mexico and the U.S., then develop a way of bridging the forms between Method and Meisner acting techniques and Teatro. Su Teatro is the third oldest Chicano theatre company in the United States - their commitment to their community began over 40 years ago and they are still dedicated to serving that community. Su Teatro views their relationship with Phillip as integral to the long-term health of the organization especially regarding the conversation of the eventual inter-generational transition of leadership. His influence is considered key to bridging Su Teatro’s community activism and their artistic vision as an artist-activist-based theatre with artistic traditions and methodologies. Su Teatro will host workshops and create opportunities for actors to work with Phillip and learn Teatro methodologies. Phillip has worked with Spotlight Theatre, Su Teatro, The Betsy Stage, Spark Theatre, Crossroads Theatre, Aurora Fox, Mercury Theatre, El Centro Su Teatro, Denver Civic Theatre, Industrial Arts Theatre and The Avenue Theatre.


Nicky Paraiso will create a new collaborative dance-theatre work, now my hand is ready for my heart: intimate histories, an evening-length work exploring how a generation of artists deal with aging, individually and collectively, with a cast of esteemed choreographer/performers. This piece is a reflection on his life's work as a performer in New York City - Nicky has been with La MaMa ETC for 40 out of their 56 years and this piece is a reflection on the aging of the artists that are part of their rich community. Nicky will undergo dance, movement, physical training to prepare for performances. He will direct and perform in the work, incorporating his working process as an actor, composing music and text as well. Nicky will engage the downtown experimental dance community and will invite both the theatre and dance communities to view work in progress showings and share in the feedback and development of this work with the hopes of building communication between and among these communities. His goal is to see whether barriers in communication between the theatre and dance communities can be breached and overcome, even in small, incremental ways, and, additionally, open up inter-generational dialogue between artists of totally different fields and disciplines. Nicky has worked and developed work at La MaMa, Dublin Theatre Festival, Singapore Initiation Performance Festival, Trinity College/Hartford CT, Muhlenberg College, Ma-Yi Theatre Company, National Asian American Theatre Company, Asian-American Writers’ Workshop, Dance Theater Workshop, Dixon Place, HERE, Artists Space, The New Museum, BACA Downtown, Performance Space 122, among others.