Sarah Benson

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Sarah Benson
Soho Rep Artistic Director Sarah Benson photographed by Pavel Antonov.jpg
Born1977/1978(age 42–43) [1]
Nationality United Kingdom
Education King's College London
Alma mater Brooklyn College M.F.A., 2004 [1]
Known forTheatre director
Artistic Director of Soho Rep
MovementAvant-garde theatre production
AwardsFairview 2019 Drama Desk nomination [2] [3]
Vilcek award, 2016, Creative promise in theatre [4]
Futurity 2015, Lucille Lortel award, Best musical [5] Callaway award [6]
Blasted 2009, Obie award [7] [8] [9] Drama Desk nomination [9]
Website sohorep.org

Sarah Benson is a British director of avant-garde theatre productions based in New York. [1] [5] [10] [11] As a Director of the Soho Rep, a lower Manhattan-based theatre company with an "audacious taste in plays", [12] she is notable for her "commitment to adventurous new plays with an experimental bent". [4] She has been at the company since 2007, and during her tenure, the company has won numerous Obie awards and Drama Desk nominations. [1] [13] [14]

Contents

While Benson specializes in noncommercial work, in 2019 she directed an advertisement starring Michael C. Hall which aired in the 2019 Super Bowl entitled Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical to promote a brand of candy; Forbes described it as the "best Super Bowl ad of the year". [15] [16]

When developing a new project, Benson likes to collaborate intensively in the early stages of development with theatrical designers. [17] With actors, she is interested in character and person co-existing in performance rather than character being used exclusively as a mask. [17] Once in rehearsal she stages "really really fast" so she can start "seeing scenes on their feet". [17]

During the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, when the theatre world was particularly hard hit, Benson and the other directors of Soho Rep, Cynthia Flowers and Meropi Peponides, noticed that many creative people were abandoning the city. They embarked on a plan in September 2020 to put artists on salary. [18]

Benson has also worked with the O'Neill Playwrights Conference, the New York Stage and Film and the New Dramatists. [9] She has mentored students in the theatre programs at New York University and Yale University. [13] She lives in Brooklyn and is a member of the board of trustees of the Brooklyn College Foundation. [19]

Awards

Benson's theatrical work has earned her high plaudits from the community. [20] For her 2008 rendition of Sarah Kane's play Blasted, a piece "famous for its shock value" [21] and which played an extended acclaimed run, Benson won an Obie award and received a Drama Desk nomination. [22] Her production of An Octoroon won an Obie Award for Best New American Play in 2014. [4] Her 2019 production of Fairview received numerous accolades: it won a Pulitzer Prize for best play and Benson was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her direction. [23] [17] [3] The Vilcek Foundation described her trademarks as "invention and persistence". [4]

Beginnings

Benson grew up in rural England and her father was an engineer who built ship's wheels. [4] She had planned on an acting career but eventually moved into directing. [1] She won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in America. [4] She emigrated to the United States and got her master's degree in fine arts in 2004 from the highly rated Brooklyn College graduate theatre program. She began an internship at Soho Rep and soon ran the company's Writer/Director Lab; in 2005 she curated the Prelude Festival. [4] She was appointed as Artistic Director of Soho Rep in 2007. [4]

Reviews

New York Times drama critic Ben Brantley described Benson's Fairview as being "directed with disarming smoothness and military precision" and noted Benson's "drama of disruption". [24] He praised her direction of In the Blood, writing that it was directed with "a dangerously relaxing sense of humor". [25] He described her direction of Octoroon as having "great cunning" [26] and her direction of Blasted as being "impeccably staged". [27] Gothamist critic John Del Signore agreed with that assessment, and wrote that her "flawless production succeed(ed) in rendering's Kane's bitter world view with stunning clarity and courage". [28] Her production of Fairview was described by another critic as a "hard-hitting drama that examines race in a highly conceptual, layered structure". [23]

New Yorker critic Hilton Als wrote:

Under her directorship I have never seen a boring production—a very rare thing, indeed. Her deeply individual sensibility is not compromised by needs other than those of the work at hand, and it’s that freedom, structured around shows that I may not agree with but always learn from, that distinguishes the SoHo Rep... Benson has imbued each work with a tough, unsentimental core; she’s also made the plays into distinct visual works that help us see the words.

Hilton Als in The New Yorker , 2013 [1]

Dramatic productions

YearTitleRoleVenueWriterComments
2019FairviewDirectorSoho Rep, Berkeley Rep, Theater for a New Audience Jackie Sibblies Drury Pulitzer Prize for Drama 2019; Drama Desk nomination [23] [3]
2017In The BloodDirectorSignature Theater Suzan-Lori Parks [17]
2017SamaraDirectorA.R.T. Theater; Soho Rep production Richard Maxwell with music by Steve Earle [17]
2015FuturityDirectorAmerican Repertory Theater, Walker Arts Center, Connelly Theater; Soho Rep & Ars Nova Production César Alvarez & The LispsLucille Lortel award for 'Best Musical' Callaway Award [29] [5]
2014/5OctoroonDirectorSoho Rep, Theater for a New Audience Dion Boucicault, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Obie winner best new American play; Chris Myers, Obie winner for Performance [26] [7] [17] [14]
2013A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt DisneyDirectorSoho Rep Lucas Hnath Larry Pine, Obie winner for Performance [1] [17] [30]
2011Elective AffinitiesDirectorsite-specific David Adjmi Featured Zoe Caldwell [1] [31] [17]
2008BlastedDirectorSoho Rep Sarah Kane Drama Desk nomination, Obie Award [1] [27]

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Hilton Als (October 13, 2013). "True Grit: The unsentimental vision of SoHo Rep's director". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...After emigrating to the States, in 2002, she got her master’s degree in directing from Brooklyn College’s stellar theatre program...
  2. Greg Evans (April 17, 2019). "Bryan Cranston, Adam Driver, Jeff Daniels & Laurie Metcalf Among Broadway's Drama League Award Nominees – Complete List: OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A BROADWAY OR OFF-BROADWAY PLAY (list of nominees)". Deadline magazie. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...Fairview ... Written by Jackie Sibblies Drury ... Directed by Sarah Benson ... Soho Rep...
  3. 1 2 3 Andy Lefkowitz (June 2, 2019). "The Prom, The Ferryman & More Win 2019 Drama Desk Awards". Broadway.com. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...A full list of winners can be found below, in bold and preceded by an asterisk... Outstanding Director of a Play ... Sarah Benson, Fairview ...
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Staff writers (2016). "Sarah Benson: 2016 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Theatre". Vilcek Foundation. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ... Artistic director, Soho Rep.... Theater; directing; avant-garde ... Sarah Benson grew up in a small village in England ... Like her father, Benson is a resourceful builder, and the American theatre is benefitting from her skilled craft....
  5. 1 2 3 Playbill Staff (May 1, 2016). "FUTURITY, Guards at the Taj and Robber Bridegroom Earn Top Lucille Lortel Awards: The awards celebrate the best of Off-Broadway. Read the full list of winners here". Playbill magazine. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...FUTURITY, an avant garde musical ... was named Best Musical ... 2016 Lucille Lortel Awards, honoring outstanding achievement Off-Broadway....
  6. Robert Viagas (October 25, 2016). "Joe A. Callaway Award Winners Announced". Playbill magazine. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ... Joe A. Callaway Awards for direction and choreography Off-Broadway ... This year’s awards (for work in the 2015-2016 season) were presented to Sarah Benson for her direction of Futurity, produced by Soho Rep and Ars Nova...
  7. 1 2 Staff writers (2014). "Best New American Play (Tie) An Octoroon". Obie Awards. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...Octoroon ....
  8. Brian Parks (May 18, 2009). "The 2009 Village Voice Obie Award Winners Announced". Obie Awards. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...Special citations: Sarah Benson (director) and Louisa Thompson (set designer), BLASTED (Soho Rep)...
  9. 1 2 3 Staff writer (2021). "Sarah Benson M.F.A. '04: Artistic Director, Soho Rep". Brooklyn College Foundation. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...Sarah Benson has been the Artistic Director of Soho Rep. since 2007....received a Drama Desk nomination and an OBIE award for Sarah Kane’s Blasted....
  10. BWW News Desk (February 4, 2021). "LCT SPOTLIGHT SERIES Continues With Second Episode of LILEANA BLAIN-CRUZ IN CONVERSATION: ON DIRECTING". Broadway World. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...Sarah Benson has been the Artistic Director of Soho Rep since 2008....
  11. Michael Paulson (April 24, 2017). "With Help From City, Soho Rep Will Return to Theater It Vacated". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...Seven months after abruptly abandoning its longtime TriBeCa home, a small but prestigious Off Broadway theater said on Monday that it was moving back.... together they resolved the compliance issues ... Sarah Benson ... said she was relieved by the turnabout.
  12. Alexis Soloski (January 31, 2018). "A Safer Home for Dangerous Plays". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ... Soho Rep, a downtown company with audacious taste in plays ... 46 Walker Street, which it had rented for 25 years. A round of lease negotiations had revealed building regulations at variance with the company’s use of the space....
  13. 1 2 Bess Rowen (30 June 2013). "Interview with Sarah Benson by Bess Rowen". Howlround. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...Sarah Benson...During her time at Soho Rep, the theatre’s work has been recognized with seven OBIE awards, four Drama Desk nominations and The New York Times Outstanding Playwriting Award.....
  14. 1 2 "Obie Awards". Obie Awards. 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2021. ...Chris Myers ... Octoroon
  15. Darryn King (January 29, 2019). "Skittles Has Already Pulled Off The Best Super Bowl Ad Of The Year". Forbes magazine. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ... on Super Bowl Sunday ... the spotlight will be on a popular brand of fruit-flavored candies. That’s when “Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical” ...
  16. Alexis Soloski (January 30, 2019). "Who Needs a Super Bowl Ad? Skittles Ups the Ante With a Broadway Musical". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ... the director Sarah Benson, an artist best known for defiantly noncommercial work like “Blasted” and “Fairview.” ... found the strangeness of the piece ... “genuinely creatively exciting.” ...
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Mervyn Rothstein (May 16, 2019). "Stage Directions: Soho Rep.'s Sarah Benson Reveals Fairview Secrets, Why Her Actors Don't Wear Characters As Masks, and More: The Fairview director uncovers how Act 2 of the Pulitzer Prize–winning play was made, her directing philosophy, and more". Playbill magazine. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...Sarah Benson ... The dramaturgical work really lives in the design process for me....We tend to stage really, really fast. I learn by seeing scenes on their feet....
  18. Helen Shaw (September 25, 2020). "At Soho Rep, a Revolutionary Idea: Put the Creative People on Salary". Vulture magazine. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ... Benson and the theater’s other directors, Cynthia Flowers and Meropi Peponides ... they offered a cohort of directors, actors, designers, and playwrights a job: a true living wage ($1,250 a week) and health insurance....
  19. Staff writer (2019). "Board of Trustees". Brooklyn College Foundation. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...Sarah Benson '04...
  20. Andrew Gans (May 20, 2016). "Zachary Levi and Megan Hilty Host 82nd Annual Drama League Awards Today". Playbill. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A BROADWAY OR OFF-BROADWAY PLAY ... 10 Out Of 12 ... By Anne Washburn ... Directed by Les Waters ... Soho Rep ... Sarah Benson, Artistic Director; Cynthia Flowers, Executive Director...
  21. Patrick Healy (November 5, 2008). "Audiences Gasp at Violence; Actors Must Survive It". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...Sarah Benson at Soho Rep, where she has directed Sarah Kane’s “Blasted” ...No one was more disturbed by “Blasted” than its director, Sarah Benson, and the three cast members, yet they have found inventive ways to cope with the nightly torture sessions....
  22. Caridad Svich (October 2008). "Getting Blasted: Sarah Benson with Caridad Svich". Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...It’s been thirteen years since Sarah Kane’s Blasted premiered...I sat down with Sarah Benson in September over tea in Soho ....
  23. 1 2 3 Staff writers (2019). "The 2019 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Drama -- Fairview, by Jackie Sibblies Drury: A hard-hitting drama that examines race in a highly conceptual, layered structure, ultimately bringing audiences into the actors' community to face deep-seated prejudices". Pulitzer. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...Jackie Sibblies Drury and director Sarah Benson show us that nothing’s funnier than “family drama.”...
  24. Ben Brantley (June 17, 2018). "Review: Theater as Sabotage in the Dazzling 'Fairview'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...“Fairview,” which won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in drama...
  25. Ben Brantley (September 17, 2017). "Review: 'In the Blood' and the Singular Talent of Suzan-Lori Parks". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ... Directed with finely measured restraint and a dangerously relaxing sense of humor by Sarah Benson....
  26. 1 2 Ben Brantley (May 4, 2014). "Theater Review: Old Times There Are Not Forgotten". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...The Octoroon ... Ms. Benson and their highly resourceful design team use pretty much every weapon in the arsenals of both theatrical demolition and good old, crowd-tickling showbiz.....
  27. 1 2 Ben Brantley (October 9, 2008). "Theater Review 'Blasted': Humanity Gets Only a Bit Part". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...“Blasted.” Plays don’t come any darker or harsher than the astounding drama ... By Sarah Kane ... directed by Sarah Benson...
  28. John Del Signore (November 7, 2008). "Artistic Director Sarah Benson, Blasted at Soho Rep". Gothamist magazine. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ... Benson's flawless production succeeds in rendering's Kane's bitter world view with stunning clarity and courage....
  29. Charles Isherwood (October 20, 2015). "Review: 'Futurity,' in a Civil War Setting, Wishes for Today's Technology". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ... “Futurity,” an odd and often beguiling show written by César Alvarez. ......Directed by Sarah Benson, artistic director of Soho Rep, ....
  30. "Obie Awards". Obie Awards. 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2021. ...Larry Pine ... A Public Reading...
  31. Scott Brown (December 2, 2011). "Theater Review: Elective Affinities Is an Unsparing Night With the One Percent". Vulture magazine. Retrieved February 21, 2021. ...David Adjmi’s fast, fanged one-act Elective Affinities — a nocturne for diva, sculpture, piano and townhouse — doesn’t trip itself up with nuance...