20+ years of inspiring the future of the American Theatre
Directors Lab West is produced by an all-volunteer steering committee who are dedicated to supporting and facilitating the professional development of their colleagues.
The current Producing Steering Committee includes:
Che'Rae Adams, Ernest Figueroa, Martin Jago, Debbie McMahon, Janet Miller.
Past Producing Steering Committee members include:
Diana Wyenn (2015–2020), Douglas Clayton (2015), Cindy Marie Jenkins (2011–2014),
Jessica Bard (2009–2013), Brendon Fox (2008–2011), Kappy Kilburn (co-founder, 2000–2014),
Nick D'Abruzzo (co-founder, 2000–2009), Andrew Sachs (co-founder, 2000–2009),
and Olivia Honegger (co-founder, 2000–2001).
Producing Steering Committee (2011–present);
Directors Lab West Alumnae (2000)
Che’Rae serves as the Artistic Director of PlayPenn in Philadelphia which is a nationally known new play incubator. She has also been the Producing Artistic Director of the LA Writers Center since 2006 where she develops new work with local writers. She was the Director of Operations and Programming for the Moss Theater in Santa Monica for seven years and has been the Development Executive for Playhouse Pictures Studios, Co-Artistic Director of the Road Theatre Company, and Managing Producer for the LA Women’s Theatre Festival.
She began her career as the Assistant to the Staff Producer at The Mark Taper Forum where she worked on the writing workshop of the Pulitzer Prize winning Angels in America, Part II: Perestroika. As you can imagine, this was like a master class in new play development for her. Bitten by the new play bug, she went on to do other projects for the Taper that supported playwrights such as coordinating the Taper Lab Series and Mentor Playwright’s Series. There she worked with writers such as Luis Alfaro, Anthony Clarvoe, Han Ong, Oliver Mayer, Ellen McLaughlin, Alice Tuan and Mac Wellman. She has a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music (CCM) and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from California State University, Northridge. For almost two decades, she has produced the Directors Lab West which takes place at the Pasadena Playhouse annually.
Che’Rae has developed and directed the West Coast premiere productions of several new plays including plays by Lee Blessing, Ken Hanes, Tim Toyoma, Patricia Cardosa, John DiFusco, Jon Bastian, and Abi Morgan. She has also provided direction and/or dramaturgy for productions with Cincinnati Opera Outreach, Disney/ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop, Highways Performance Space, and Troupe Vertigo at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre. She has worked with prominent performers such as Tonya Pinkins, Lynn Redgrave, Kim Fields, and Carlos Alazraqui; as well as award winning directors and choreographers such as Vincent Paterson, Tom Hulce, Jane Jones, Bonnie Story, Kitty McNamee, and Tina Kronis; and distinguished designers such as Sara Clement, Cricket S. Myers, and Ming Cho Lee.
As the Director of Programming for The Moss Theater she worked with numerous musical organizations including Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO), Duo Del Sol, Jazz Bakery, Musical Theatre Guild, and Musicians At Play Foundation (including Seth McFarlane’s Jazz Band). As part of the Moss Theater’s Live Talks LA and Writers Bloc series, she has hosted celebrities such as John Irving, Jason Segel, Shepard Fairey, Moby, Kevin Costner, Linda Ronstadt, Diane Keaton, Maria Bello, Camyrn Manheim, Eric Bogosian, Herb Alpert, Deborah Voigt, Ann Rice, Nicholas Kristof, Amy Tan, Russell Brand, Mitch Albom, Malcolm Gladwell, and Kristoffer Kristofferson.
As a producer for Directors Lab West she has curated close to two decades of programming (workshops, panels, and master classes) at the Pasadena Playhouse. This annual event hosts fifty international midcareer directors free of charge. Highlights include Vincent Paterson, Moises Kaufman, Jason Alexander, Martin Benson, Marc Masterson, Todd London, Sheldon Epps, George Furth, Anne Cattaneo, Des McAnuff, Jessica Kubzansky, Chay Yew, Jack O’Brien and Bill Rausch. Che’Rae is also an experienced public speaker and educator, having taught acting and writing workshops at various institutions around the country such as The Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Catholic University, Miami Dade University, California State University Fullerton, UCLA Extension, Azusa Pacific University and Hussian College. She has also served on panels for Hollins University, USC, The New Playwrights Festival at the College of the Desert, and the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
Che’Rae is an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. She spent the last two years of the pandemic producing diverse online programming with HowlRound TV in response to the social inequity taking place in our society. Recently, she curated Breathe: A BIPOC Reading Series in response to George Floyd’s murder; Home: Asian Voices Reading Series to amplify Asian-American stories; and The Voices of Afghanistan project where monologues were constructed from interviews with Afghan artists in hiding.
Che’Rae has had 22 articles published online at NOHOARTSDISTRICT.COM, and self-published a workbook for writers called Writing is Hard… She is the recipient of a SDC Foundation Observership award where she shadowed James Burrows on the TV show Will and Grace. She has been nominated for a Cincinnati Enquirer Entertainment Award and Backstage West Garland Critics Citations Award. Fun fact: In 2009, Che’Rae played Gladys Presley in Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis which opened the Aria Casino in Las Vegas.
Directors Lab West Co-founder;
Lincoln Center Lab Alumnus 1998/99;
Producing Steering Committee (2000–present)
Ernest Figueroa has been a dedicated director, producer, actor and playwright in theatre, radio, film and television throughout the country. As a founding director of Directors Lab West, he has served on the Steering Committee for the past twenty years from 2000 to the present. He was a member director and presenter for the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York in 1998 and 1999. He directed the New York premiere of Dos Corazones representing the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab Festival @ HERE in New York. Figueroa served as Producer at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica for eleven years where he assisted on the programming and produced over 900 events including notable artists in the fields of opera, jazz, choral, chamber and orchestral music, multi-media, theatre and dance. He served as Artistic Director of The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood and as a Director and performer with the second longest running show in Los Angeles, the American Girl Revue. He was the Associate Artistic Director for the Sacramento Theatre Company where he also served as casting director and literary manager. Previously, he worked as the national Education Director for Plays for Living, Inc. in New York City and worked twice on the professional staff of the Pasadena Playhouse. He works as a Director and Producer with Bonnie Franklin’s outreach program, C.C.A.P. – Classic and Contemporary American Plays directing a large variety of staged-readings featuring notable actors from theater, film and TV. In 2001, he was honored as a Drama League Fellow serving as the Associate Director on Blue starring Phylicia Rashad, first working on the production at the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York, then working on the production at the Pasadena Playhouse, finally guiding the play onto the Arizona Theatre Company, Coconut Grove in Florida, and the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey starring Leslie Uggams. His award winning productions include Oleanna at the Third Street Theatre and The Effect of Gamma Rays . . . at the Alternative Repertory Theatre. He has launched two active Improv companies, “Loose Screws” in Hawaii and “Metro North Improv” in Connecticut. Figueroa won the ’96 W.A.V.E. award for his talk show “Adelante!” featuring Hispanic role models. He received his Masters of Fine Arts in Directing from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and his Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Theatre Education from McPherson College in Kansas. His professional training includes improvisation studies at the Groundlings School in Los Angeles and studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Figueroa is a Member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. Currently, as Ernest “Sparky” Figueroa, he serves as a DJ Personality for Z107.7 FM in Joshua Tree California.
Producing Steering Committee (2020–present); Associate Producer (2017-2019);
Directors Lab West Alumnae (2014)
A British theatre director and writer, Martin Jago lives in Los Angeles and works internationally. He is a respected authority on acting methods relating to Elizabethan and Jacobean texts and the author of four books on Shakespeare. Artistic Director of RAZE THE SPACE, the theatre ensemble produces cutting-edge contemporary & classical theatre with global focus and community impact epitomized by events such as RAZE's annual international ten-minute play festival at the Mark Taper Auditorium in Los Angeles. After several years as Associate Producer at Directors Lab West, Martin has recently become a full member of DLW's Steering Committee. He also teaches acting far and wide, from on-camera classes at the Actors Centre London to Shakespeare Masterclasses the Malibu Playhouse. He was educated at RWCMD and University of Oxford.
Producing Steering Committee (2022–present)
Directors Lab West Alumnae (2014)
Debbie McMahon is a theatrical director, devisor and performer, and Artistic Director of Grand Guignolers with whom she creates and directs critically acclaimed productions blending traditional physical theatre genres in new ways: melodrama, Commedia dell’Arte, clown, Grand Guignol, dance, vaudeville and puppetry in a 1920’s Parisian event-like atmosphere. The Guignolers have performed around Los Angeles, in Hollywood, at The Actors’ Gang and for Pasadena Playhouse’s Cirque-A-Palooza. Her naughty French finger puppets, Les Petits Guignolers, have their own ‘following.’
In the vein of interactive theatre, Ms. McMahon creates and runs large scale custom mystery role playing events as Dial us For Murder where guests are characters written for them with multiple intertwined plots and events. Ms. McMahon has also directed at USC, for Wicked Lit at a Pasadena Mausoleum, has been a member of the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, The Actors’ Gang and has clowned with Cirque du Soleil.
She graduated Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre, earned a BA in Philosophy and Theatre at Connecticut College, and an MA in Performance Studies at NYU. She teaches melodrama and Grand Guignol with her Guignolers, at Dell’Arte, and CSSSA and was an Associate Professor of physical theatre at USC. Ms. McMahon works with numerous theatre companies and schools as a movement and physical theatre coach and Grand Guignol advisor.
Producing Steering Committee (2015–present); Associate Producer (2014);
Directors Lab West Alumnae (2003)
Janet Miller is a producer, director, choreographer and educator. Her original choreography has been showcased Off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre in The Marvelous Wonderettes. She received a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Outstanding Choreographer for this production. Janet garnered a LA Stage Alliance Ovation nomination for her work on TMW, a BackStage West Garland, a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Choreography, a BroadwayWorld LA Award nomination for Best Choreography and was part of the team that won the Ovation Award for Best Intimate Musical in 2007. She also received a Garland and a LADCC choreography award for Winter Wonderettes. Ms. Miller was thrilled to choreograph the European Premiere of TMW for Teatro Franco Parenti in Milan, Italy. Janet has staged her award winning step touch extensively throughout the US, most notably at Northlight in Chicago, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Capital Repertory in Albany, NY, Sacramento Music Circus, Pittsburgh CLO, The Plymouth Playhouse in Minneapolis, Cabrillo Music Theatre in Thousand Oaks, CA, Moonlight Stage Productions in Vista, CA, McCoy Rigby Entertainment, and The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn, NY. Good People Theatre Company just celebrated their three-year anniversary and Janet serves as Producing Artistic Director. GPTCo has six productions under their belt thus far, A Man of No Importance, Barrymore (2x) The Fantasticks, Closer Than Ever, and Marry Me A Little. The shows have been well received in Los Angeles by both critics and spectators, garnering wonderful notices, as well as inclusion in several year-end roundups for Best Production and Best Director, and LA Weekly nominations for Best Musical Production, Best Musical Director, and Best Director-Musical for AMONI. AMONI and Barrymore were both Ovation Recommended, and Barrymore received a 2013 Ovation nomination for Best Actor. Janet was the Resident Director for Phantom Projects Theatre Group, housed at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. In 2010, she had the honor of directing Lydia R. Diamond’s adaptation of the Toni Morrison book, The Bluest Eye to critical acclaim. The following season, Phantom remounted this production at the Miles Playhouse in Santa Monica for a successful run. Also for Phantom Projects, she has helmed The Miracle Worker, The Crucible, Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) Grapes of Wrath, The Giver and The Importance of Being Earnest. Ms. Miller has worked on both coasts on such shows as Side By Side By Sondheim, South Pacific, Guys and Dolls, Kiss Me Kate, Jesus Christ Superstar, Anything Goes, Baby, The Fantasticks, Annie Get Your Gun, Dames At Sea, Charlie Brown, Urinetown, Bat Boy, The Musical, The Odd Couple, The Nerd, The Man Who Came To Dinner, The Rimers of Eldritch, and Taming of the Shrew to name a few. Her preferred style of dance is tap, which she has taught and choreographed worldwide in China and Thailand. She was one of the founding members of Golden State Theatre, the Family Theatre of La Mirada, for eighteen years, directing and choreographing over 50 original productions. Janet is the recipient of the 2003 Excellence in Art Award for Drama from the city of Torrance, where she was the Artistic Director/Resident Director at the Torrance Theatre Company for seven years, directing sixteen shows during her tenure. JM holds a B.A. in musical theatre from CSUN, and an M.A. in theatre from CSULA. She is adjunct faculty at CSUN, CSULA and Cerritos College. Ms. Miller is a proud member of SDC.