Zelda Fichandler

Dominant Voice in Regional Theatre

Zelda Fichandler has been honored with the creation of the award named after her. She was a dominant voice in regional theatre whose company was mixed race. Fichandler started three theatres and excelled in a variety of subjects.

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Zelda Fichandler was a dominant voice in the regional theatre movement in the 1950’s. Her work includes oeping a stage with a mixed-race resident company during “a time when the National Theatre closed its doors rather than integrate” (Glabraith). Arena Stage was planned and built with a classmate, starting from an abandoned movie house to its permanent home as two parts-the Arena and the Kreeger (Fichandler). Fichandler’s company was the first to have toured the Soviet Union and “Arena won the first regional Tony Award” (Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance: Zelda Fichandler).

Childhood

Fichandler was born in Boston and was raised in Washington, D.C. since she was four. She was Helga in Helga and the White Peacock when she was eight and when she was eleven she won an essay contest in the Washington Star on how she wanted “’to be different people.’ It wasn’t really to be famous or rich, I said, but it was to show people ‘what other people could be like’” (Fichandler). Her father died without ever seeing the Arena and Fichandler says that “I don’t think he knew that I was going to land in theatre.”

Schooling

Zelda went to Cornell where she excelled in piano and learned Russian. She made money translating Russian to English. She read Chekhov and took classes about Soviet civilization. It was a class when Edward Mangum said to her, “Do you all know that the professional theatre in America consists of [ten] blocks on Broadway and nothing more? Touring shows, a lot of community theatre, nonprofessional. How does this sound to you? How does this seem to you” (Fichandler).

Profession

In Washington they found an abandoned movie house that the converted into a 247-seat arena. Mangum and Fichandler had to raise $15,000 dollars to renovate the old movie house. “There was this economic  fallacy which we bought into—that it would be cheaper because it didn’t have flats and drops” (Fichandler).

They started planning their permanent location while they were in their second “home” called the Old Vat by their costume designer, Jane  planning their permanent location while they were in their second “home” called the Old Vat by their costume designer, Jane Stanhope. She had just been to England and seen the Old Vic and so name it the “Old Vat” because it was a “brewery and there were all these beer-making kettles lying around” (Fichandler). Mangum was intrigued with the arena stage because he saw Margo Jones’. “[I]t  was the intimacy of the form that caught his imagination” (Fichandler).  The Old Vat sat 500 people and was not air-conditioned. They were there for five years (Fichandler).

In October of ’61 the Arena was built and in 1970 the Kreeger joined it. “I prefer the Arena. I think I can do anything in there and it invites a more expressionistic, a more poetic discovery of the play” (Fichandler). In 1973 the company toured the Soviet Union.  She realized that “you can’t do everything in the Arena” because of one of the plays she saw there (Fichandler). “So the Kreeger serves its purpose,” Zelda Fichandler says. “It allowed us also to do plays where only 500 people a night need come, instead of 832, so maybe we could do our riskier plays in there” (Fichandler). In 1990 she stepped down from the Arena to be the “director of New York University’s graduate acting programme” (Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance: Zelda Fichandler).

The Arena won a Tony in 1976. In 1968 her production of The Great White Hope was “the first regional theatre to transfer a show to Broadway” (Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance: Zelda Fichandler).

The Fichandler Award

The Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation and Stage Directors and Choreographers Society created the Zelda Fichandler Award.  It was established “to recognize an outstanding director or choreographer who is making a unique and exceptional contribution to the theatre through work in the regional arena” (Stage Directors and Choreographers). The first recipient  was “Jonathan Moscone of California Shakespeare Theater in Orinda, California” (Stage Directors and Choreographers).

Conclusion

Zelda Fichandler’s accomplishments as a director and a woman is best described by the woman herself. “I get asked quite a bit why women excel at running theatres. I don’t think that’s so much the case [anymore]. In the beginning of the movement, maybe, but I think there are more men than women now. Perhaps ‘we girls’ started our own because men wouldn’t hire us, didn’t trust us as leaders, or to manage money” (Fichandler). “As the director/producing director of Arena, Mrs. Fichandler has directed more than 50 plays herself” (Sweeney). These include The Crucible by Arthur Miller, The Seagull by Chekhov, and A Doll House which was written by Henrik Ibsen (Sweeney).

 

 

 

Works Cited

Faculty Directory. n.d. November 2012. <http://gradacting.tisch.nyu.edu/object/FichandlerZ.html&gt;.

Fichandler, Zelda. Zelda Fichandler is the founder and long-time producing director of Washingon, D.C.’s Arena Stage. She currently heads the graduate school of acting at New york University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She served as TCG president from 1993 to 1995. 2001. November 2012. <http://www.tcg.org/publications/at/2001/zelda.cfm&gt;.

Glabraith, Susan. Zelda Fichandler galvanizes artist directors at the Zelda Fichandler Awards. 31 10 2011. November 2012. <http://dctheatrezcene.com/2011/10/31/zelda-fichandler-galvinates-artistic-directorss-at-the-zelda-fichandler-awards/&gt;.

Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance: Zelda Fichandler. n.d. November 2012. <http://www.answers.com/topic.zelda-fichandler#ixzz2CFPvc9B4&gt;.

Stage Directors and Choreographers. 2012. Novemaber 2012. <http://www.sdcweb.org/foundation/fichandler-award/&gt;.

Sweeney, Louise. Zelda Fichandler Looks for `Main Event’ In Each Play She Directs. 4 April 1990. Article. 26 November 2012.

 

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About blackwinterrosethorn

I am an artist and a writer whose living in Virginia. I go to Hollins University and I am a double minor in Creative Writing and Music. I've been writing for about eleven or twelve years. I've been singing forever and I have been drawing and painting for four or five years. I am open to doing commissions and collaborative pieces. View all posts by blackwinterrosethorn

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