photo: Josh Renaud
Deena Selenow is a director for live performance, a leader in equity, diversity and inclusion practices, and faculty in the CalArts School of Theater. Gravitating toward highly physical and darkly comedic theatrical events, her interests are rooted in the complexities of self-identity and the cultivation of new live storytelling experiences.
Helming highly collaborative processes with diverse and visionary artists, Deena leads in the direction of new ideas, creative options and, ultimately, towards action. Her life’s work is not to provide answers, but to propose questions. Through strategic questioning of both form and content, Deena’s work aspires to create new vantage points for seeing and moving through the world. She cultivates community through the creation and presentation of theatrical events, with the audience experience at its core.
Deena’s accomplishments include a combination of directing, choreographing and curating theater, opera, concerts, puppetry, and site-specific happenings in Los Angeles and New York with organizations including REDCAT, La Jolla Playhouse WoW Festival/Chalk Rep, East West Players, Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center, PRELUDE Festival, LACMA, The Skirball Cultural Center, The Hammer Museum, Highways Performance Space, LA LGBT Center, IAMA Theatre Company, Ammunition Theatre, Company of Angels, Machine Project, Watts Village Theater Company/LATC, Dixon Place, New York Theatre Workshop’s 4th Street Theatre, and chashama. She was a recipient of the 2006 Baryshnikov Art Center Multi-Disciplinary Artist Fellowship, the 2009/2010 New York Theatre Workshop Emerging Artist of Color Directing Fellowship, and was a participant in the 2013 Walt Disney Imagineering/CalArts Educational Initiative. In 2014 Deena was chosen by Theatre Communications Group (TCG) to participate in the inaugural cohort of the SPARK Leadership Program, a branch of the TCG Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Institute, funded by American Express, The Joyce Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Over the course of ten months, she received extensive leadership training at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in Greensborough NC, personalized CCL executive leadership coaching, and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Facilitator Training with the EDI Institute. At the 2015 TCG National Conference, Deena led executive leaders from the leading American regional theaters in skills-building sessions, affinity groups and round table discussions centered around strategies for building an equitable workplace and engaging new and diverse audiences. In 2016 and 2017 she led innovative theater makers from across the country in a professional affinity group for Independent Artists at the TCG National Conferences in Washington, D.C. and Portland, respectively. In 2016 she led two workshops in diversity and inclusion practices with the Theater Department at Dartmouth College, and in 2018 led a two-part workshop with CalArts School of Theater faculty and students that focused on creating equitable and inclusive artistic practices and creative workspaces.
From 2006 - 2009 she was co-curator and co-founder of Ad Nauseam Lyceum, a multi-arts collective dedicated to initiating collaborations between emerging visual, performance and media artists in New York. Enlivening dilapidated storefronts and abandoned buildings with unusual arts experiences, Ad Nauseam Lyceum created and curated ten multi-artist immersive installations in Harlem, Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. Over the course of three years, the collective brought together over 50 multi-disciplinary artists in large-scale creative collaboration.
Deena has guest taught in the Art Department at Pomona College, guest lectured at Dartmouth College, served on faculty as an instructor and MFA thesis adviser at New York Film Academy-Los Angeles, and from 2016-2018 she served as the Director of Oxy Arts at Occidental College. Currently she is on faculty at the CalArts School of Theater. She is a member of the board of directors at Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre, and was a member of the inaugural Theatre Communications Group Programming Council from 2017-2018. Deena received her MFA in Theater Directing from California Institute of the Arts under mentorship of Travis Preston, Janie Geiser and Christopher Barreca; and received her BFA in Drama from New York University under mentorship of Anne Kauffman, Kevin Kuhlke and Michael Krass. In October 2015, American Theatre Magazine recognized Deena nationally as a “Person to Watch,” for her adventurous approach to the performing arts and her dedication to diversity and inclusion practices in the American theater. A native New Yorker, she currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and their cats Amelia Bedelia and Goose.