The Arts Advisory Board (AAB) is a voluntary board whose role is to oversee the Princess Grace Awards program. Members are experts and leaders in their artistic fields, and they work alongside the PGF-USA staff to develop funding that is responsive to the needs of the artistic community.
Melia Bensussen, Arts Advisory Board Chair
Linda Blackaby, Film Chair
Woo Jung Cho
Bonnie Oda Homsey, Dance Chair
Ted Rawlins, Theater Chair
Heléne Alexopoulos Warrick
Chairs for each the disciplines supported by the Princess Grace Awards – theater, dance, and film – are integral members of the AAB. Chairs build diverse adjudication panels of highly knowledgeable, credentialed, nationally recognized peers in the fields who are committed to the future of the performing arts. Each year the panel composition changes, and includes both repeat and new members as well as at least one Princess Grace Award winner.
A recipient of an OBIE Award for Outstanding Direction, Bensussen lives in Boston where she has directed at the Huntington Theatre, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, and Actors Shakespeare Project. Around the country she has directed at Baltimore Centerstage, Hartford Stage Company… Read full bio.
Blackaby is an independent media arts curator, executive, and community engagement consultant working primarily with film exhibition programs, festivals, filmmakers and organizations. She is currently festival programming consultant for CAAMFest (formerly San Francisco International Asian American… Read full bio.
Homsey is Director of Los Angeles Dance Foundation, charged with promoting the distinguished dance legacies, particularly those cultivated in California. She was in the freshman class at the Juilliard School when the institution relocated to Lincoln Center, obtained a B.A. from University of Hawaii, and MFA in dance… Read full bio.
The recipient of a Senatorial Scholarship in mathematics at age 16, Ted Rawlins graduated with honors from the University of Maryland. At 19, he changed the focus of his undergraduate studies slightly from math and physics to theater production, and entered the MFA Theater Program at Catholic University in … Read full bio.
Panels have included the following experts and leaders in their artistic fields, and we thank them for their service. Panelists review written material in advance of the panel meetings, and then come together to review the work samples and discuss the nominees. While each panelist brings their own experience and aesthetic to the table, decisions are made by consensus.
Trudi Biggs McCanna
Mary de Liagre
Meredith Lynsey Scade
Darron L West
Carmen de Lavallade
Jawole Willa Jo Zoller
Mary Lea Bandy
Woo Jung Cho
Chi hui Yang
A recipient of an OBIE Award for Outstanding Direction, Bensussen lives in Boston where she has directed at the Huntington Theatre, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, and Actors Shakespeare Project. Around the country she has directed at Baltimore Centerstage, Hartford Stage Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, La Jolla Playhouse, the New York Shakespeare Festival, Primary Stages, the Long Wharf, Actors Theatre of Louisville, People's Light and Theatre (Barrymore for Best Direction), San Jose Rep, and many others.
Her direction of new works has taken her to New York Stage and Film, Sundance, Midwest Playlabs, and the O’Neill Theatre Festival, where she most recently directed a workshop of The War Department, a new musical commissioned by the American Repertory Theatre (ART), by Jim and Ruth Bauer. Other collaborations with playwrights include work with Catherine Filloux, Motti Lerner, Carey Perloff, Mat Smart, Ken Urban, Masha Obolensky, Jeffrey Hatcher, Laura Maria Censabella, Lee Blessing, Richard Dresser, Willy Holtzman, Eduardo Machado, Edwin Sanchez, and Y York. Her play The Bluebeard Project, co-authored with playwright Masha Obolensky, was part of the Huntington New Works and is currently in development. Simultaneously, she is working with playwright Melinda Lopez on a new version of Lorca’s Yerma commissioned by the American Conservatory Theatre (ACT).
Raised in Mexico City by her Mexican father and New York-born mother, Bensussen is fluent in Spanish and has translated and adapted a variety of works, including her edition of the Langston Hughes translation of Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding. Her essay on The Merchant of Venice (The Traveling Pound of Flesh) was recently published in Jews, Theatre, Performance in an Intercultural Context by Brill Publishing. She is featured in Women Stage Directors Speak by Rebecca Daniels (McFarland and Co.), and in Nancy Taylor’s Women Direct Shakespeare (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press).
A past recipient of a Princess Grace Fellowship, she was awarded the Foundation’s top honor, the Statue Award (for Sustained Excellence in Directing). In 2017 Melia became the Chair of the Princess Grace Foundation-USA’s Arts Advisory Board. A graduate of Brown University, Melia is Chair of the Performing Arts Department at Emerson College in Boston. In January 2018, Melia was announced as the new Artistic Director of Hartford Stage, the first woman to helm the theater in its history.
Blackaby is an independent media arts curator, executive, and community engagement consultant working primarily with film exhibition programs, festivals, filmmakers and organizations. She is currently festival programming consultant for CAAMFest (formerly San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival), senior program consultant to the Washington, DC International Film Festival, and programming consultant with Lunafest. She previously served as the Director of Programming for the San Francisco Film Society and the San Francisco International Film Festival. The Festival, active since 1957, showcases cinema from around the world. Linda’s programming highlighted contemporary trends in international film and video production with an emphasis on work that has not yet secured U.S. distribution.
From 1975-1997 Blackaby was founder and director of the Neighborhood Film/Video Project, a media arts center which specialized public exhibition and service programs for area media artists and founding director of the successful Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema (1992-1997). Before becoming director of programming for the San Francisco Film Society/San Francisco International Film Festival (2001-2009), Blackaby was program consultant and program director for the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (1997-2002), and programmer for several other US festivals.
Previously Blackaby served on numerous media arts and community boards and panels including the Pennsylvania and New York State Councils on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as regional and national fellowship and grants panels for public and private entities. She has been a guest curator for two of The Learning Channel’s “The Independents” series and for the Mid-America Arts Council. She is the co-author of In Focus: A Guide to Using Films, published by New York Zoetrope.
Born in Hawaii, Bonnie Oda Homsey is a dancer, artistic director, producer, actor, curator, board member, paralegal, and arts funder. The founding Director of Los Angeles Dance Foundation, she directed its performance entity American Repertory Dance Company’s reconstructions of 40+ masterworks spanning 100 years of modern dance. With the Martha Graham Company, Bonnie performed on Broadway, toured domestically and internationally, originated roles in dances with Rudolph Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn, and featured in ‘Dance in America’ and ‘Life from Wolftrap.’ Since 2000, she is Chair of Dance for The Princess Grace Foundation USA. Her curatorial exhibitions of Barbara Morgan’s iconic dance photographs were seen at Langson Library at UC Irvine, and Olin Library at Washington University. An advocate for dance legacy, she partnered with the Dance Heritage Coalition in Washington D.C. to create the Dance Collections Database (DCDb), the first free online database matching institutions with artists. Her Dance Treasures Project successfully matched three personal archives, including the Willard and Barbara Morgan Archive, with Southern California libraries. Publications include The Evolving State of Dance in Los Angeles (2014), and Matrix of the Artist, Archivist’s Duet, Historical Dance Residencies as Cultural Protein for Dance USA, and as Issue Editor for the international journal, Choreography and Dance. She co-produced the 2016 Dance Assembly and facilitated the 2013 Dance Summit, presented by The Center for Cultural Innovation. Panelist service extends to NEA, New England Foundation for the Arts, California Arts Council, and United States Artists. She joined the inaugural freshman class when The Juilliard School relocated to Lincoln Center, later receiving a B.A. from University of Hawaii, and M.F.A. from University of California, Irvine where she was honored as the Chancellor’s Fellowship recipient. Currently, she teaches management and entrepreneurship as Special Faculty at California Institute for the Arts, and Adjunct Assistant Professor at USC/Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. Her Board of Director service includes Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation, Board of Overseers for Barnsdall Art Park, Arts Advisory Board for LA Area Dance Alliance, and founding Board Member of The Fountain Theater. Bonnie has received two Lester Horton Awards, and a nomination for Outstanding Young Woman of America.
The recipient of a Senatorial Scholarship in mathematics at age 16, Ted Rawlins graduated with honors from the University of Maryland. At 19, he changed the focus of his undergraduate studies slightly from math and physics to theater production, and entered the MFA Theater Program at Catholic University in Washington, DC. In 1987, Ted inadvertently started his theatre career as co-founder of the American Stage Company in Northern New Jersey, where he developed and produced over twenty new shows. Notable premieres produced by American Stage that went on to Off-Broadway, and national prominence, include Other People's Money, Forever Plaid, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Christofer’s Breaking Up, starring Matthew Modine and Allison Janney. American Stage became the first Northern New Jersey performing arts organization to receive the “Governor's Award for Outstanding Achievement" and was soon after designated a "Distinguished Arts Organization" by the NJ State Council on the Arts.
In 1992, Ted became Executive Director of the Harms Plaza Theatre, promoting over 300 concerts featuring internationally renowned classical artists and celebrated popular stars. Under his leadership, the theatre’s operating budget increased by over 250%, and the theatre became Northern New Jersey’s leading arts center and the second largest and most successful performing arts center in the state of New Jersey.
In 1998, Ted moved to Los Angeles to partner with Gigi Pritzker, running the historic Coronet Theatre, one of Los Angeles' landmark cultural institutions. During that time Relevant Theatricals was created to develop new work for the stage. Relevant's stage projects include: Snapshots, with book by David Stern and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz; a new stage adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; and Cumberland Blues, a stage production featuring the music of the Grateful Dead. Ted is proud to be one of the originators and lead producers of the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet, which was nominated for three Tony Awards (including Best Musical). Ted is equally proud to serve as Theater Chair of the Princess Grace Foundation-USA and is a member of The Broadway League of American theatres.