Melia Bensussen is an Obie Award-winning director and artistic leader who has directed extensively at leading theaters across the U.S., as well as Puerto Rico, Asia, and Europe. Raised in Mexico City, Bensussen is fluent in Spanish and has translated and adapted a variety of texts, including her edition of the Langston Hughes translation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding. Her acclaimed work with new plays has taken her to the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, New York Stage and Film, and other new play programs across the country. A graduate of Brown University, Bensussen currently serves as the chair of the arts advisory board for the Princess Grace Foundation and for the past 11 years has chaired the performing arts department at Emerson College. She also serves on the executive board of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). meliabensussen.com
Howard’s first book, Another Day’s Begun: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the 21st Century was published in January 2021 by Methuen Drama.
Since 2011, he has become an influential advocate for high school theatre, notably taking an active role in content challenges by school administrations in numerous communities nationally, and he writes extensively about intellectual and creative freedom in academic, community and professional theatre. He was named one of the “Top 40 Free Speech Defenders of 2014” by the National Coalition Against Censorship and he received the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund 2015 “Defender” Award for his work on artists rights and theatrical censorship.
Howard was executive director of the American Theatre Wing from 2003 to 2011. During that time, his varied responsibilities included serving as executive producer and occasional moderator of the television program “Working in the Theatre”; creating and hosting the audio program “Downstage Center”; incorporating SpringboardNYC, the Theatre Intern Group and The Jonathan Larson Grants into ATW’s programming; leading ATW’s utilization of the web and social media for distribution of and communication about its programs; conceiving the book “The Play That Changed My Life”; and serving on the Tony Awards Management and Administration Committees. In addition, he was instrumental in the development of ATW’s National Theatre Company Grants program, and secured the organization’s first-ever funding from The Shubert Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts.
Immediately prior to joining ATW, he spent three years as Executive Director of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford CT, overseeing the Center’s educational and developmental programs, shepherding more than $1 million worth of physical plant upgrades, and re-branding The O’Neill through a coordinated communications initiative. Works developed during his tenure include August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, Lee Blessing’s Thief River and the musical Avenue Q. Sherman was Managing Director of Geva Theater in Rochester (1998-2000), where he completed a $6 million capital campaign and opened the company’s 135-seat Nextstage. He was the first General Manager of Goodspeed Musicals (1994-1998), working on 24 new and classic musicals, including the U.S. Premiere of Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s By Jeeves. As Public Relations Director of Hartford Stage (1985-1993), he represented 50 shows, from Mark Lamos’ productions of Hamlet and Peer Gynt with Richard Thomas to Marvin’s Room, Other People’s Money, and Our Country’s Good, the latter three prior to New York runs.
Howard has taught and/or guest lectured at the Yale School of Drama, Columbia University, Princeton University, North Carolina School of the Arts, Emerson College, Brooklyn College, Hartt School of Music, SUNY Purchase and University of Connecticut; was a corporation member of The Neighborhood Playhouse; on the National Board of Advisors of The Actors Fund; and was a board member of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. He served for several years as an on-site evaluator for the National Endowment for the Arts.
He has moderated artist conversations for public audiences for more than 30 years, having begun by leading post-performance discussions with such noted figures as Athol Fugard and JoAnne Akalaitis at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia. During his tenure at the American Theatre Wing, he was executive producer of the company’s long running television program “Working in the Theatre,” hosting 30 panel conversations among the more than 80 shows he produced, and as creator of the audio program “Downstage Center,” he interviewed 325 theatre luminaries in a seven-year span. More recently, he has moderated talks for, among others, BroadwayCon 2016, 2017 & 2018, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Mark Twain House and Museum, Writers Guild of America East, 59 E 59 Theatres and The Broadway League.
In addition to consulting for arts organizations on management and communications, he currently writes a weekly column on U.S. theatre for The Stage in London and writes monthly for Stage Directions magazine. He has contributed articles to American Theatre Magazine, National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal‘s “Speakeasy” blog, the Los Angeles Times‘ “Culture Monster” blog, The Guardian‘s “Guardian Culture Professionals” site, and HowlRound, the journal of the Center for Theatre Commons at Emerson College.
Howard is a native of New Haven CT, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and resides in Manhattan.