jakub | January 25, 2024

AMERICAN THEATRE | Melia Bensussen Named National Playwrights Conference Artistic Director


Melia Bensussen. (Photo by the Defining Studios.)

WATERFORD, CONN.: The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center has named Melia Bensussen the artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference. Bensussen was the program’s guest artistic director last summer.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to have Melia join us as the Artistic Director of the National Playwrights Conference, our foundational program,” Tom Viertel, the chairman of the O’Neill’s board of trustees, said in a statement. “Her times with us as a director and as the guest artistic director last summer have always been joyous, smart, and thoroughly productive. As we come back from the enormous challenges of the last few years, I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather have leading this vital program.”

Bensussen currently serves as the artistic director of Hartford Stage and will serve in both roles simultaneously. She was named artistic director of Hartford Stage in 2019 and has also directed productions at the Huntington Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Baltimore Center Stage, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Humana Festival, Playwrights Horizons, Cincinnati Playhouse, and many more companies across the country. She was nominated for a Barrymore Award for directing Hearts at People’s Light in 2000 and won a 1999 Obie Award for directing Turn of the Screw at Primary Stages. She has also won two Princess Grace Awards for directing, including the Statue Award for Sustained Excellence in Directing.

Bensussen is a graduate of Brown University and served as the chair of the performing arts department at Emerson College for over a decade. She is a member of the arts advisory council of the Princess Grace Foundation. A native of Mexico City, Bensussen translated Langston Hughes’ English translation of Federico García Lorca’s Blood Wedding back into Spanish for publication by Theatre Communications Group. Her essay on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is featured in the anthology Jews, Theatre, and Performance in an Intercultural Context, published by Brill Publishing.

“I am grateful to the O’Neill for entrusting me with such an important charge in leading the National Playwrights Conference,” Bensussen said in a statement. “We are at a pivotal moment in our industry, and the galvanizing power of NPC will be extraordinarily important in elevating new and emerging writers and to growing the field through their work. This program is deeply essential to the future of the American Theatre, and I am honored to steward it through its next iteration.”

The National Playwrights Conference has been the gold standard of new-play development since 1964, and will celebrate its 60th anniversary this summer. Benussen succeeds Wendy C. Goldberg, who stepped down in 2022 after 18 years as artistic director.

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is the country’s preeminent organization dedicated to the development of new works and new voices for the American theatre. It has been home to over 1,000 new stage works and emerging artists and runs the National Critics Institute, the National Music Theater Conference, the National Puppetry Conference, and other programs.

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