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
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.
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 from UC Irvine. Since 1969, she has reconstructed over 40 dances, predominately choreographed by the modern dance pioneers. Her performance background includes companies of Betty Jones, Ethel Winter, and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet prior to joining the Martha Graham Dance Company. Then, as a principal with the Martha Graham Company (1973-78,1980), she originated roles in dances with guest artists, Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn, performed on Broadway, toured internationally and performed in four Dance In America broadcasts.
As the co-founder and director of the American Repertory Dance Company, Homsey toured the company to Kennedy Center, American Dance Festival, DanceAspen, New Orleans Center for the Arts, Hawaii Theater, and UCLA Live among others. She was a lecturer at UC Irvine for six years, and a guest artist/speaker at numerous conservatories and dance departments around the country. For 25+ years, she has served as a panelist for organizations including NEA Dance Panel, California Arts Council, New England Foundation for the Arts, United States Artists, Dance Heritage Coalition Research Group, and the UCLA National Dance/Media Project Leadership Group. Her articles have been published in the Dance/USA Journal, and in the books Ballet History Shockwaves, Envisioning Dance on Film, and she was Issue Editor on the topic of "Perspective on the Healthy Dancer" for the international journal, Choreography and Dance. Currently, Ms. Homsey’s seminar, “The Professional Plan for Dance,” prepares undergraduates and MFA candidates with exit strategy tools to transition into the professional workforce.
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.
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.