Over the weekend of April 7-10, Arena Stage will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its Allen Lee Hughes Fellows Program with an alumni homecoming celebration. Named for the Arena Stage-affiliated, nationally acclaimed lighting designer, the Allen Lee Hughes Fellows Program is an apprenticeship program that provides training opportunities for up to 10 individuals of color in the professional not-for-profit resident theatre. The fellowships are meant to "break the cycle of exclusion and disengagement among our young people that keeps them from considering theatre as a realistic career option," according to Arena Stage’s founding director, Zelda Fichandler.

Hughes started his career at Arena Stage in 1969 as an electrician and soon evolved to designer. Hughes went on to create exciting designs, including his Tony Award-nominated lighting design of the landmark production K2.

For the anniversary weekend, alumni will attend the opening night of The Piano Lesson (a production that marks Hughes’ 61st lighting design at Arena Stage); participate in an August Wilson symposium at Howard University; and take part in events and discussions with the current class of ALH Fellows throughout the weekend.

Arena Stage’s apprenticeship program was established as part of the theatre’s cultural diversity program in 1990. Since its inception a total of 116 men and women of color have been provided a high standard of training in the areas of arts administration, artistic, community engagement, and technical production. Originally envisioned as a time-limited project, the Fellows Program has become a permanent fixture in Arena’s annual programming.

"Graduates" from the Fellowship Program have gone to work in significant positions across the country in theatres such as Berkley Rep, The Public Theatre, Lincoln Center, Old Globe Theatre, and Arena Stage. Other alumni have become freelance directors or designers, dramaturgs, book publishers, film and television professionals and or have started their own production companies. Distinguished alumni of the program include: Desirée Urquhartm Arena Stage associate executive director; Kevin Lawson, lighting designer for the MTV Video Music Awards 2000-04, Super Bowl Halftime Show 2003-04; Lisandra Ramos-Grullon of Lincoln Center Directors Lab; Connie Yun, assistant lighting designer for Seattle Opera; and Mervin Antonio, director of New Play Development at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

The original advisory board included theatre professionals of color, such as Martha Hayes, Texas State Arts Commission; Jorge Huerta, UCSD; Eric Hayashi, Asian American Theatre Company; Benny Sato Ambush, Oakland Ensemble Theatre; the late Ossie Davis, actor/director/playwright; Ruby Dee, actor/director/playwright; Vera Katz, Howard University; and Hughes.

For more information about the Anniversary weekend or the August Wilson workshop, contact Dr. Sandra G. Shannon, 202-806-5443 or sshannon@howard.edu.