The award comes with a $5,000 prize. Camille A. Brown will present the award during a yet to be announced virtual ceremony open to the public.
“Kamilah Forbes is an exemplary director and a revolutionary thought leader whose career in both Washington, D.C., and New York City has had a tremendous impact on the East Coast region and beyond,” said selection committee chair Bill Rauch in a statement. “While my fellow panelists and I recognize that it’s unusual to give regional recognition to someone who currently works primarily on the island of Manahatta, Kamilah’s artistic and civic leadership inspired us to reframe our understanding of regional theatre.”
Rauch continued, “Her genre-defining work at both the Hip Hop Theater Festival (originating in Washington, D.C.) and the iconic Apollo Theater (serving the community of Harlem) exemplifies Zelda Fichandler’s spirit of forging field-changing paths outside the mainstream, disrupting and expanding dominant culture while inspiring future generations.”
The annual award, established in 2009 and honoring Arena Stage founder Zelda Fichandler, typically recognizes directors and choreographers transforming the national arts landscape through their investment in a community outside of the New York City area. This year the award was focused on the eastern region of the United States.
“I am incredibly honored by this award and recognition,” said Forbes in a statement. “This has provided even more motivation to continue to deepen and further continue on my mission in my work.”
Finalists for this year’s award were Carol Dunne, Seema Sueko, and Pirronne Yousefzadeh. This year’s selection committee consisted of Rauch, Benny Sato Ambush, Lydia Fort, and Ty Defoe.
A Howard University alum, Forbes has won awards for both directing and producing, including a Peabody Award, the 2019 NBTF Larry Leon Hamlin Producer Award, and an NAACP Image Award. Forbes’ directing credits include By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, written by Lynn Nottage, at Signature Theatre in New York; Blood Quilt, written by Katori Hall, at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.
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Including Detroit ’67, written by Dominique Morrisseau, at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company in Atlanta; and Sunset Baby, also written by Morrisseau, at Labyrinth Theater Company in New York. She has worked closely with Kenny Leon on The Wiz Live, and the Broadway productions of A Raisin in the Sun, Mountaintop, and Stick Fly.
Forbes has produced several works for television, most notably the seventh season of the Peabody Award-winning series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry on HBO. Forbes’ most recent projects include directing the world premiere, tour, and theatrical adaption of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ New York Times best-selling novel Between the World and Me. In addition to her work at the Apollo Theater, Forbes is set to direct the Broadway premiere of the musical Soul Train alongside Questlove, Dominique Morrisseau, and Camille A. Brown.