The RTST was delighted to run its Sir Peter Hall Director Award 2018 with Royal & Derngate in Northampton. The winner was Nancy Medina and the official runner-up was Josh Seymour.

Nancy and Josh were selected from 70 longlisted candidates by a panel comprising of: chair James Dacre (Artistic Director of Royal & Derngate), and judges Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE (Artistic Director of the Young Vic); multi-Tony and Olivier Award-winning director Sir Trevor Nunn CBE; Olivier Award-nominees Tanya Moodie and Samantha Bond; four-time Olivier Award-winner Paule Constable (Associate, National Theatre); and Richard Twyman (Artistic Director of English Touring Theatre).

Nancy won the opportunity to direct the regional premiere of Two Trains Running, by August Wilson, on the Royal Stage at Royal & Derngate in a co-production between Royal & Derngate and English Touring Theatre. The play was produced as part of Royal & Derngate’s “Made in Northampton” programme in 2019. It opened on 31 August 2019 at Royal & Derngate and after a two-week run, it went on tour. The production received four-star reviews from The Stage, The Observer and The Guardian. The RTST made a grant of £50,000 to Royal & Derngate that was applied towards the costs of the production and tour.

Winner Nancy Medina and runner-up Josh Seymour

Winner, Nancy Medina said: “I feel privileged and ecstatic to have been named the RTST’s Sir Peter Hall Director Award Winner for 2018.  To get to the next step in my career, through the generous help of RTST, Royal & Derngate, and English Touring Theatre, is truly a dream come true. I cannot thank the RTST panel enough for making the process feel supportive and nurturing. I am thrilled to be directing August Wilson’s Two Trains Running for Royal & Derngate and ETT. It is about time that Wilson’s beautiful and poetic characters gain a wider audience across the UK.”

Chairman of the RTST, Sir Geoffrey Cass, said: “The 2018 RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award had 8 finalists of the very highest quality, selected from a strong field of 70 candidates.  Directing workshops – held over two full days, in which the finalists had to direct actors, observed by our immensely experienced panel of judges, and then be interviewed by the panel – constituted a thorough and exacting test of their directing skills. The winner’s prize is the unique opportunity to direct a production that will premiere on the stage of the Royal in Northampton and go on a main-stage national tour with English Touring Theatre. The RTST’s collaboration with Royal & Derngate and English Touring Theatre is admirably fulfilling the RTST’s twin primary charitable objectives of encouraging emerging theatre professionals and promoting British regional theatre”.

Deputy Chairman, Mark Hawes, said: “As a result of our RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award, we are happy and proud both to have created a gateway for Nancy’s entry into the mid-scale regional theatre scene and to be providing meaningful financial and promotional support to the hotspot of regional theatre-producing excellence that is Royal & Derngate.

Royal & Derngate Artistic Director, James Dacre, and English Touring Theatre Artistic Director, Richard Twyman, said: “It has been inspiring to watch how Nancy and Josh showcased their industrious and sophisticated approach to conceiving and rehearsing a production and their magnetic ability to bring those around them in a rehearsal room closer to the material, throughout this competitive process. The panel were deeply impressed by both candidates’ innate understanding of narrative and the demands of producing on the mid-scale. We’d like to thank all the shortlisted candidates who took so much pleasure and pride in their work during a demanding weekend of workshops and interviews and we are thrilled to have met so many exceptional artists. We look forward to collaborating with Nancy to enable her work to be seen on the mid-scale and on tour for the first time.”

2018 RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award Ceremony at the Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe

Nancy Medina was presented with a trophy to mark her winning of the RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award at a celebration attended by many leading theatre practitioners at the Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe on 18 November 2018. Following speeches by James Dacre of Royal & Derngate and Richard Twyman of English Touring Theatre, the trophy was presented to Nancy by Sir Trevor Nunn, Sir Geoffrey Cass and Mark Hawes. Nancy made a very moving acceptance speech which is quoted in full below.

Musical entertainment was kindly provided by opera singer Nadine Benjamin, then starring in Porgy & Bess and about to star in La Bohème, both with English National Opera. Nadine was accompanied on the piano by Nicole Panizza.

Nancy Medina’s acceptance speech

“In her 2016 Emmy acceptance speech Viola Davis quoted Harriet Tubman and then went on to say ‘the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity’. In this industry, as in many others, if you are not of a certain class, education, gender or race the hurdles to overcome can feel insurmountable. It may be difficult for some to understand that it is not only about gaining equality but of practising equity. It is about giving an individual what they need to level the playing field. For me, it is an opportunity. I cannot thank the RTST enough for granting me the Sir Peter Hall Director’s award and giving me the opportunity to progress in my career.

This award and the work of the RTST is extremely valuable. Unlike other awards, the RTST has no barriers to age. Someone like myself, over 30 and in the business for some time, can still access opportunity.

I want to thank all those involved in reading the many applications, the panel of Judges, James Dacre, Richard Twyman, Sir Trevor Nunn, Paule Constable, Samantha Bond and Kwame Kwei Armah. I thank you for your belief and confidence in my abilities and more importantly in supporting my potential.

I am thrilled to embark on this adventure with the RTST, Royal and Derngate and English Touring Theatre. I am privileged to now announce that for my first venture into mid scale work and touring I will be directing Two Trains Running by August Wilson.”

Nadine Banjamin – before singing Summertime from Porgy & Bess and Musetta’s song from La Bohème – addressed the audience with an impromptu eloquent and heartfelt endorsement of Nancy’s sentiments about the importance of opportunities for women of colour; this added to the ‘emotional charge’ of this joyous occasion.

Photos – left: Trevor Nunn, Nancy Medina, Mark Hawes & Geoffrey Cass. Centre: Nadine Banjamin & Nancy Medina. Last: Ian McKellen, Nancy Medina & Zoe Wanamaker.

The After-story

In 2019, Nancy directed Inua Ellam’s new play The Half God of Rainfall for Kiln Theatre, which won ‘Best production of a play’ at the Black British Theatre Awards 2019, and Caryl Phillips’ Strange Fruit for Bush Theatre. Runner-up Josh reprised his role as Associate Director in the National Theatre’s celebrated production of Follies when it returned to the Olivier in February 2019. In 2022, she became the Artistic Director at Bristol Old Vic. You can find out more about Nancy and Josh’s careers, and what they got up to after the Award in our Winners and Runner-Ups page.

How the RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award 2018 Worked

The RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award Scheme opened for entries on 16 April 2018 and closed for entries on Monday, 4 June 2018.

Candidates were invited to pitch their ideas for directing a production that will bring together a diverse range of exciting practitioners to create an imaginative, surprising and popular production for the widest possible audiences in Northamptonshire and elsewhere in the UK.  Candidates could choose a classic or modern play (in English or otherwise), or an adaptation of a novel or film. The candidate’s ideas for their chosen play had to demonstrate their artistic potential and the potential of their production to cultivate large audiences.  As part of the Entry Form, candidates were asked to write letters to (i) (jointly) the Artistic Directors at Royal & Derngate and English Touring Theatre (ii) their chosen set and costume designer and (iii) a lead actor in their Production.

In the case of a proposed adaptation of a novel, film or non-English language play, a candidate had to specify an ideal choice of writer to undertake the adaptation.  The candidate had to give reasons for their choice of writer, and how they would like the writer to approach the adaptation.

The written entries were considered by the RTST with the assistance of Royal & Derngate with a view to producing a Long-list of up to 20 entries.  The Long-list was submitted for consideration by a Selection Panel comprising: chair James Dacre (Artistic Director of Royal & Derngate), and judges Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE (Artistic Director of the Young Vic); multi-Tony and Olivier Award-winning director Sir Trevor Nunn CBE; Olivier Award-nominees Tanya Moodie and Samantha Bond; four-time Olivier Award-winner Paule Constable (Associate, National Theatre); and Richard Twyman (Artistic Director of English Touring Theatre).

The Selection Panel selected a Short-list of eight candidates.

Short-listed candidates were invited to workshops on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 July 2018, at which they were required to demonstrate their directorial skills by directing actors in a text-based scene of a play. Candidates were notified of the particular scene by the RTST in advance of the workshop.  The Selection Panel observed and judged the workshops.

On the second day of the workshops, up to four finalists were selected for interview, this being the final stage in the selection process.

The Selection Panel choose the ultimate Award winner and runner-up.

Although there is only be one Award winner and one official runner-up, the Scheme is designed to provide a positive professional experience for all the candidates (up to eight) who are selected on the basis of their written entries to participate in the workshop stage of the selection process.  They all received constructive feedback from the Selection Panel after the winner of the Award was announced.