The Crane Directing Fellowship, inaugurated for the 2021-2022 season, was created explicitly to advance the careers of BIPOC stage directors by
creating early-career opportunities to gain hands-on experience assisting and directing main stage productions.
“As the opera industry continues to work toward greater equity and diversity, we at Opera Columbus knew that our greatest potential for
impact was to create direct opportunities to support and train BIPOC stage directors. This fellowship provides a paid opportunity for these
artists to gain direct experience working on mainstage productions”
– Julia Noulin-Mérat, General Director + CEO of Opera Columbus
ABOUT CRANE GROUP
Focused on building companies and growing investments, Crane Group is a private, family-owned holding and management company based in Columbus, Ohio. Crane Group partners with businesses and investors that demonstrate sustainable growth and an exciting vision for the future. The investment philosophy is centered around providing patient capital and adopting a long-term approach.
2022-23 Crane Directing Fellow
Brandon Shaw McKnight
Brandon Shaw McKnight passionately believes that art has the power to inspire,‘reflect, educate, and empower. Well-versed in multiple genres of the performing arts, they most recently served as the assistant director for Le Nozze di Figaro, Annapolis Opera and Dreamgirls, Morgan State University. In 2019, Shaw McKnight produced and directed a staged version of Handel’s Messiah, which they have since performed annually.
An exceptional artist who can be found on and behind the stage, Shaw McKnight has been a part of productions on Broadway, Jazz at Lincoln Center with Teatro Nuovo, The Kennedy Center, Toledo Opera, Annapolis Opera, Opera Baltimore and in Italy. They are often seen performing in his hometown of Baltimore, MD.
Shaw McKnight has been a young artist with programs such as La Musica Lirica, New York City Lyric Opera Theatre, and Utopia Arts. Their love of opera began as a student at Morgan State University.
In addition to joining Opera Columbus as the Crane Directing Fellow, Shaw McKnight is currently a directing resident artist with Opera North.
PAST CRANE DIRECTING FELLOWS
In the 2022-23 season, Opera Columbus welcomed Crane Directing Fellow Sarah Dahnke to the team. Dahnke worked closely with our 2022-23 directors on La Cenerentola, Maria de Buenos Aires, and Rigoletto. She will return for Opera Columbus’ 2023-24 Season to direct Carmen.
Sarah Dahnke is a choreographer, dance artist and arts educator deeply committed to empowering communities to use movement to reclaim narratives stripped away by colonialism. She’s a MAP Fund awardee, an NEA Our Town-funded resident artist, and a former awardee of fellowships from Gibney’s Moving Toward Justice, Target Margin Institute, New Victory LabWorks, and Culture Push. Dahnke has received commissions from PEN America and A Studio in the Woods and has been in residence at Abrons Arts Center and Brooklyn Studios for Dance. As a practitioner, Dahnke specializes in devised performance and site-specific dance film. Her dance film work has been screened through the Dance Films Association, Tiny Dance Film Festival, DanceBarn Collective, BRIC, and Movies By Movers. Dahnke is the artistic director of Dances for Solidarity, a project that co-creates choreography with people who are incarcerated in solitary confinement and creates live performances as advocacy toward prison abolition.
Opera Columbus launched its inaugural Crane Directing Fellowship in the 2021-22 season during the celebration of its 40th Anniversary. The Directing Fellowship, designed specifically to create early career opportunities for BIPOC stage directors welcomed Luther Lewis III, a multidisciplinary artist, singer, teacher, and director. Lewis’ residency included assistant directing for the 2021-2022 season’s mainstage productions of Tosca and Fellow Travelers, staging OC’s touring education productions with the OCCU Resident Artists, and closing the season as the stage director for Vanqui. Following the Opera Columbus residency, Lewis joined Opera Saratoga as the assistant director for Sweeney Todd. Lewis continues his artistic development, beginning a new directing residency at Lyric Opera of Chicago’s, Ryan Opera Center as part of the 2022-2023 Ensemble.
NOT READY FOR THE DIRECTING FELLOWSHIP, BUT STILL WANT TO GET INVOLVED?
Opera Columbus’ Directing Observership Program seeks to create opportunities for BIPOC artists who are
embarking on a path to become professional directors. Observers will experience the full staging process of an
Opera Columbus production, from production meetings to tech rehearsals. One Observership position will be available for
each season. Successful applicants will be provided with housing and local transportation (bus pass and bikeshare access)
in Columbus for the on-site portion of their Observership.
Each season, Opera Columbus will welcome one Directing Observer. Working closely with a mainstage production director and the
Crane Directing Fellow, the Observer will have the opportunity to experience the full rehearsal and production process for one of
Opera Columbus’ shows. In addition to observing the rehearsal and production process, each Observer will have the opportunity to participate
in 1:1 conversations with the production Director, Crane Directing Fellow, Stage Manager, and Opera Columbus senior staff. The Directing
Observer will be provided with local housing and transportation via partnerships with COTA (Columbus’ bus system) and CoGoBikeshare.