Zelda Fichandler

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Zelda Fichandler (née Diamond; September 18, 1924 – July 29, 2016) was an American stage producer, director and educator.[1]

Zelda Fichandler came from a family that immigrated from Russia when she was an infant. Her father, Harry Diamond was a brilliant scientists. In fact, her father created the proximity fuse for the atom bomb. When she started out working she was pursuing sciences as well until the day that she spilled hydrochloric acid down her shirt and burned herself; she, decided to pursue acting instead.[2]

At age 4, she moved from Boston area to Washington D.C. as her father accepted a job at the National Bureau of Standards. Aged 8, she performed as Helga in Helga and the White Peacock at the Rose Robison Cowen’s Studio for Children's Theatre.[3][4]

Zelda Diamond's husband, Thomas C. Fichandler (August 9, 1915 – March 16, 1997),[5] along with Edward Mangum,[6] a statistician and economist and friend to both Zelda and Thomas, cofounded the Arena Stage theatre in 1950 in Washington.[3] It was the city's first integrated theater,[5] she hired actors and performers regardless of race or color. Which in the 1950s was a huge statement as this was the peak of segregation being a normality.

The first location for the Arena was at the Hippodrome, at Ninth Street and New York Avenue NW in a tiny former art-film cinema.[7] The first production the company staged, was Oliver Goldsmith’s eighteenth-century comedy, “She stoops to Conquer”. Her first play started out as simply a play for the sake and admiration for the arts, turned to more influential and statement making topics – such as racism – as they gained a reputation. A list of her earlier premiers that got her to that point include: She Stoops to Conquer (1950), The Great White Hope (1967), Indians (1969), Moonchildren (1971), Tintypes (1979).  As time passed, the company developed a dedicated audience and it quickly outgrew its initial space. As audiences grew, the theatre moved to "The Old Vat Theatre" which the company created in an abandoned distillery on the Potomac riverside. Then they eventually went to a larger theatre complex to get even more room in order to house the company. Harry Weese, FAIA and legendary designer of Washington, D.C.'s Metro System and stations designed the purpose built theater complex on Maine Avenue in 1961 and added to in 1972.[8] Zelda Fichandler served as Arena's artistic director from the theatre's inception until her retirement at the end of the 1990–91 season.

During that time, Arena Stage became known as one of America's premier regional theatres.[9] In 1961, she was able to direct Howard Sackler’s interracial drama “The Great White Hope,” which starred then-newcomers James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander. It was the first play to start as a regional theatre production, then transfer to Broadway.[10] The Broadway performance won The Tony Award and the Best Pulitzer Prize for drama. The Arena Theatre Company in 1976 also won the Tony for Outstanding Regional Theatre. In 1973, the Arena became the first regional Theatre to be chosen by the US Department of state to perform in the Soviet Union. She showed her production of Inherit the Wind, a play beginning with a man who is thrown into jail for teaching evolution.

Fichandler directed numerous plays at Arena Stage including Death of a Salesman, Uncle Vanya, A Doll's House and Six Characters in Search of an Author. Several of her Arena Stage productions toured internationally, including Inherit the Wind and The Crucible.[11]

From 1984 until 2009 Fichandler was chair of the graduate acting program and Master Teacher of Acting and Directing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.[12] From 1991–94, she was artistic director of The Acting Company.[13] "Fichandler’s directing is characterized by intensive study and preparation. She all but psychoanalysis the character she is studying and physically describes the emotions of the characters onstage with the utmost clarity. That is why she was so remarked for her ability to bring the actors to that level of excellence in her productions." [8]

Her honors and awards include the Common Wealth Award for distinguished service in the dramatic arts (1985); the Helen Hayes Award for directing The Crucible (1988); and the National Medal of Arts in 1996. She was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1999, the first artistic leader outside of New York to be so honored.[3] In 2002, Zelda delivered The Americans for the Arts 15th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the Kennedy Center.[14]

Fichandler died in her home on July 29, 2016, in Washington, D.C., due to complications from congestive heart failure. She was 91 years old.[15]

Quote[edit]

"There is a hunger to see the human presence acted out. As long as that need remains, people will find a way to do theater."[16]

References[edit]

2. List, Murray D., and Zelda Fichandler. "An Interview With Zelda Fichandler." Group 3, no. 4 (1979): 236-54. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41717969.

8. Bartow, Arthur. The Director's Voice : Twenty-One Interviews. New York : Theatre Communications Group. 2012. eBook.

7. Marks, Peter. ZELDA FICHANDLER: [FINAL Edition] The Washington Post; Washington, D.C. [Washington, D.C] 11 Sep 2005: N.07. http://search.proquest.com/docview/409888684

10. Patricia Bauer. Zelda Fichandler. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. September 30, 2016. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Zelda-Fichandler February 23, 2017

1. Various Authors. Zelda Fichandler, Valiant Striver in the Arena. American Theatre. August 6, 2016. http://www.americantheatre.org/2016/08/05/zelda-fichandler-valiant-striver-in-the-arena/

  1. ^ Levey, Bob (2016-07-29). "Zelda Fichandler, Arena Stage co-founder and matriarch of regional-theater movement, dies at 91". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-07-29. 
  2. ^ http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/bmxlYmtfXzQ4MDQzNV9fQU41?sid=8e4b5d50-b3b2-49a2-b21f-9bcde866fc21@sessionmgr120&vid=0&format=EB&rid=1[dead link][full citation needed]
  3. ^ a b c fichandler, Zelda. "Zelda Fichandler profile". Autobiography. Theater Communications Group. Retrieved March 7, 2013. 
  4. ^ Kennedy, Dennis (2003). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. pp. 456–466. ISBN 0-19-860672-9. 
  5. ^ a b GUSSOW, MEL (March 19, 1997). "Thomas Fichandler, Washington Theater's Executive Director, 81". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ "arenastage /about/history/". Arenastage. Retrieved 14 December 2015. 
  7. ^ http://search.proquest.com/docview/409888684
  8. ^ Baldwin, Ian (2011-05-19). "The Architecture of Harry Weese". Places Journal (2011). doi:10.22269/110519. 
  9. ^ "Zelda Fichandler" by Peter Marks, Washington Post, page N7, September 11, 2005.
  10. ^ "Zelda Fichandler | American theatre director". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-03-23. 
  11. ^ http://www.americansforthearts.org/sites/default/files/pdf/events/hanks/Hanks2002ZeldaFichandler.pdf, Americans for the Arts website; accessed June 16, 2014.
  12. ^ Weber, Bruce (July 29, 2016). "Zelda Fichandler, a Matriarch of Regional Theater, Dies at 91". New York Times. Retrieved 2016-07-30. Print version appeared on July 30, 2016.
  13. ^ "Leadership". The Acting Company :ABOUT. Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  14. ^ http://www.americansforthearts.org/sites/default/files/pdf/events/hanks/Hanks2002ZeldaFichandler.pdf
  15. ^ Levey, Bob (July 29, 2016). "Zelda Fichandler, Arena Stage co-founder and matriarch of regional-theater movement, dies at 91". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-07-29. 
  16. ^ Quotation, thinkexist.com; accessed

External links/sources[edit]