Ron OJ Parson to Receive SDCF's Zelda Fichandler Award

Ron OJ Parson, a Chicago-based director, will receive an unrestricted award of $5,000 from SDCF. Lili-Anne Brown has been named the finalist.

By: Nov. 21, 2022
Ron OJ Parson to Receive SDCF's Zelda Fichandler Award

Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF), the not-for-profit foundation of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), announced the recipient and finalist for its annual Zelda Fichandler Award. The Fichandler Award recognizes directors and choreographers who have demonstrated great accomplishment to date with singular creativity and deep investment in a particular community or region, and is named for Zelda Fichandler, the founding artistic director of Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The award is presented annually, with a focus each year on a different region; all of nominees for this year's Fichandler Award were directors and choreographers from the Central United States.

The 2022 Zelda Fichandler Award will be presented to Ron OJ Parson, a Chicago-based director. He will receive an unrestricted award of $5,000 from SDCF. Lili-Anne Brown has been named the finalist. Both artists will be recognized in a virtual ceremony open to the public in the winter of 2023.

The selection committee for the Fichandler Award was chaired by director D. Lynn Meyers, who was joined on the committee by directors Steven John Dietz and Marcela Lorca.

"What great joy it brings me to share the committee's decision to honor Ron OJ Parson and finalist Lili-Anne Brown," said Meyers. "Ron OJ Parson has worked brilliantly as a stage director. He has also changed the industry with his careful, thoughtful work in his community, which goes beyond Chicago to reach every part of this region. He is truly deserving and a great pioneer walking in Zelda Fichandler' s shoes. He has opened the door for so many artists along his path and continues to break new ground in growing the future of our work. And how exciting to celebrate Lili-Anne Brown for all that she has done already with anticipation of all that is to come!"

Ron OJ Parson

is a native of Buffalo, New York, and a graduate of the University of Michigan's Professional Theatre Program. Parson is a Resident Director at the Tony Award-winning Court Theatre at the University of Chicago on Chicago's South Side. He is also the co-founder and former Artistic Director of Onyx Theatre Ensemble of Chicago.

He is a TimeLine Theatre Company Member where his credits include Too Heavy for Your Pocket, To Catch a Fish, Paradise Blue, Sunset Baby, A Raisin in the Sun, and most recently Trouble in Mind. Since moving to Chicago from New York in 1994, he has worked as both an actor and director. His Chicago credits include work with Urban Gateways, Chicago Theatre Company, Victory Gardens, Goodman, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago Dramatists, Black Ensemble Theatre, Congo Square Theatre Company, Northlight Theatre, Urban Theatre Company, City Lit Theater, ETA Creative Arts, and Writers Theatre.

Regionally, Parson has worked with Studio Arena Theatre, Alliance Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Repertory, South Coast Repertory, Pasadena Playhouse, Geva Theatre, Virginia Stage, Wilshire Theatre, The Mechanic Theatre, CenterStage, St. Louis Black Repertory, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, Signature Theatre (New York), Kansas City Rep, Portland Stage, Indiana Repertory Theatre, American Players

Theatre, and Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, among others. In Canada, he directed the world premiere of Palmer Park by Joanna McClelland Glass at the Stratford Festival in Stratford Ontario.

Parson has directed over 30 August Wilson productions, nine at Court Theatre, and at theatres across the country. He is co-founder of Passport Programs, a former arts-in-education program, and the creator of the spotlight reading series at Court Theatre, developed to introduce young and old to the plays of the Black theatre movement and beyond. He is a member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and SDC.

Lili-Anne Brown

was named as a finalist for the Award.

Lili-Anne Brown, a Chicago South Side native, works as a director, actor and educator, and has performed in, directed and produced many award-winning shows in Chicago and nationally. Recent directing credits include: Joe Turner's Come and Gone (Huntington Theatre), School Girls, or The African Mean Girls Play and the world premieres of Ike Holter's I Hate It Here and Lottery Day (Goodman Theatre); Ain't No Mo' (Woolly Mammoth and Baltimore CenterStage), The Color Purple (The Muny), Once on This Island (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Acoustic Rooster...(Kennedy Center), Put Your House in Order (La Jolla Playhouse), Cullud Wattah (Victory Gardens). She is the former Artistic Director of Bailiwick Chicago, where she focused programming on Chicago-premiere musicals and new play development with resident playwrights. She is a member of SDC, AEA, and SAG-AFTRA, and represented by William Morris Endeavor. {}

To read about the 2022 Zelda Fichandler Awardee and Finalist, please visit our website:

Established in 2009, the Zelda Fichandler Award is SDCF's first award devoted to regional theatre. With this award, SDCF acknowledges the profound impact directors and choreographers of regional theatre have on the field, transforming the national arts landscape with their unique, creative work and deep investment in local communities. The Fichandler Award is given regionally on a rotating basis. In 2021, the award focused on artists who have made, and who will continue to make, a significant contribution to their community through extraordinary work in theatre in the Central region of the United States, defined by SDCF as Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Zelda Fichandler (1924-2016) dedicated her early career to the establishment of America's regional theatre movement. In 1950, she founded Washington D.C.'s Arena Stage and in 1968 she produced The Great White Hope, which became the first production to transfer from a regional theatre to Broadway, winning the Tony and the Pulitzer Prize, and launching the careers of James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander. Her production of Inherit the Wind toured Soviet St. Petersburg and Moscow; Arena Stage was the first American theatre company sponsored by the State Department to do so. Like many other regional theatres afterward, Arena Stage cultivated an evolving resident company over the decades that included some of America's best actors: Robert Prosky, Frances Sternhagen, George Grizzard, Philip Bosco, Ned Beatty, Roy Scheider, Robert Foxworth, Jane Alexander, James Earl Jones, Melinda Dillon, Dianne Wiest, Max Wright, Marilyn Caskey, Harriet Harris, and Tom Hewitt. In 1975 it was the first regional theatre to be recognized by the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League with the Regional Theatre Tony Award for outstanding achievement. When Ms. Fichandler retired as producing artistic director of Arena Stage in 1990, she had achieved the longest tenure of any non-commercial producer in the annals of theatre in the U.S. Before her passing in July of 2016, Ms. Fichandler was chair emeritus of New York University's acclaimed Graduate Acting Program where she personally taught, guided, and inspired more than 500 acting students. Her honors include SDCF's "Mr. Abbott" Award, The Acting Company's John Houseman Award, the Margo Jones Award, and the National Medal of Arts, and in 1999 she became the first artistic leader outside of New York to be inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

Founded in 1965, Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF) celebrates, develops, and supports professional stage directors and choreographers throughout every phase of their careers. SDCF works to build a theatrical community that reflects the cultural, racial, and gender diversity of our nation by creating opportunities for artists of all backgrounds to bring their full, authentic selves to their work as creative leaders in the theatre. SDCF's goals are to provide opportunities to practice the crafts of directing and choreography; to gather and disseminate craft and career information; to promote the profession to emerging talent; to provide opportunities for exchange of knowledge among directors and choreographers; to increase the awareness of the value of directors' and choreographers' work; and to convene around issues affecting theatre artists.

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