One to Watch: Director NJ Agwuna Earns 2022 Barbara Whitman Award
The Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, or SDCF, has announced its 2nd annual recipient of the Barbara Whitman Award. This prestigious award was established in 2022 and recognizes a female, trans, or non-binary early career director, according to the SDCF website. The Barbara Whitman Award amounts to an unrestricted 10 thousand dollars.
About Director NJ Agwuna
This year’s esteemed and qualified winner is NJ Agwuna.
Based in central Maryland, freelance director of the stage and screen NJ Agwuna “believes that theatre shows us our history, illuminating things we have forgotten,” as stated on her personal artistic website. She is a 2018 graduate of Columbia University School of the Arts, NY.
“Championed by the immigrant, black, and queer communities that shaped me,” NJ Agwuna, on being selected for this award. “I have [been working] hard to be heard in artistic spaces. My mission as a director has been to elevate stories from these communities so they can reach beyond our general scope and we can share our experiences outside of tragedy.”
Director Names to Remember When They’re Famous
Selections for the Barbara Whitman Award are rigorous and highly competitive. Agwuna was in good company during this multi-round process. The following directors received recognition as the award’s 2022 finalists: Sanaz Ghajar, Kimille Howard, Bianca Laverne Jones, and Hannah Wolf.
In its inaugural year, the 2021 Barbara Whitman Award recognized director Sharifa Yasmin as its first recipient. On her selection, Yasmin states that she became a director “to change what stories are being told to uplift voices that are so often silenced, to tell myself and my communities that we are here and we deserve to be heard.”
SDCF is Highly Selective
According to SCDF, to be eligible to receive this award, a nominee must have directed three non-collegiate/academic environment productions. A nominee must not have worked on a LORT-D level production nor in NYC theater spaces with more than 99 seats. There is no age requirement, but the nominee must not be in undergraduate or graduate school. Additionally, SDCF strongly encourages BIPOC directors for nominations. For full details on nominations and eligibility, visit the Barbara Whitman Award page on SDCF.
The Barbara Whitman Award is young in its inception. However, it is clear that deserving and exciting directors receive this esteemed award. NJ Agwuna, Sharifa Yasmin, and the finalist directors are definitely on the road to seeing their names in lights.