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Doris Duke Artist Awards

Lileana Blain-Cruz

New York

Lileana Blain-Cruz, a 2021 Doris Duke Artist in the theater category, is a prolific director who has achieved multiple accolades for her thematically diverse and structurally complex work.

In 2020, Blain-Cruz was named resident director of Lincoln Center Theater, where she started as a member of its Directors Lab and most recently directed Jackie Sibblies Drury’s “Marys Seacole,” for which she received an Obie Award in 2019. Her other productions with Lincoln Center include “WAR” and “Pipeline,” for which the New Yorker praised her ability to “draw us into the playwright’s world and make us understand how a character is fallible and thus worthy of our respect.” Blain-Cruz will make her Broadway debut next year with “The Skin of Our Teeth” at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater. She is currently working on a new operatic work titled “Iphigenia,” with fellow 2021 Doris Duke Artist Wayne Shorter and jazz artist Esperanza Spalding. 

Blain-Cruz won an Obie Award in 2017 for directing the “The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA The Negro Book of the Dead” at Signature Theatre, a play that explores and explodes archetypes of Black America and hums with the heartbeat of improvisational jazz. Her staging was described as “hypnotic” by the New York Times. She has directed two plays by Alice Birch: “Revolt. She Said, Revolt Again.” at Soho Repertory Theatre and “Anatomy of a Suicide” at Atlantic Theater Company. On the heels of these productions, The New York Times noted that “Blain-Cruz allows female characters to exist in all their complex humanity, without sanding down or slicing off any of the unlikable or unreconcilable bits” and likened the feeling of her plays to that of a “ritual or invocation.” 

Blain-Cruz has also directed many other works to great acclaim, including “Fefu and Her Friends” at Theatre for a New Audience, “Girls” at Yale Repertory Theatre, “Faust” at Opera Omaha and “The House That Will Not Stand” at New York Theatre Workshop. 

Blain-Cruz is a recent awardee of a 2018 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award, a 2018 United States Artist Fellowship, a New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellowship and the Josephine Abady Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University and her Master of Fine Arts in directing from the Yale School of Drama, where she also received the Julian Milton Kaufman Memorial Prize and the Pierre-Andre Salim Prize. 

Meet the Other 2021 Doris Duke Artists