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JoElyn Wakefield-Wright Stage Director Fellowship

2024-25 Guidelines

Julia Mintzer
Julia Mintzer, 2017 Stage Director Fellow,
at work at Charlottesville Opera

The National Opera Association's JoElyn Wakefield-Wright Stage Director Fellowship provides funding to aspiring opera stage directors as they begin their careers. This fellowship is open to music or theater graduate students, or early career post-academics, with an interest in opera stage direction. The fellowship winner will receive the following:

  • A fellowship stipend towards application, tuition, travel, and/or housing to any opera stage director program between May 2024 and April 2025 (multiple awards of up to $1000 are possible)
  • If the applicant has not been offered a contract at a program, NOA will provide expedited application to one of the many such programs that are run by NOA members.
  • The winner may be offered the opportunity to present in a session at a subsequent NOA National Conference, detailing their experiences.


The person selected will have experience in stage direction and keen interest in opera and working with singers. The recipient will be at or near the beginning of his/her professional career as a stage director. Those working as assistant directors or in production are welcome to apply, however special consideration will be given to those applicants in a mentored program.

Application materials required:

  • Current resumé or CV
  • One letter of recommendation
  • Intended stage director program the funds will support
  • Brief statement of the applicant's professional goals
  • 150-word bio and headshot, to be used for publicity purposes

Application should be made using the online form. There is no application fee for this program. Application deadline: April 17, 2024

Apply Now

Some programs with stage director internships, entry-level directing experience, and higher-level opportunities:

(This is not an exhaustive list; please check the websites of these companies for eligibility, program descriptions, and deadlines.)

  • Central City Opera
  • Chicago Summer Opera
  • Druid City Opera
  • The Glimmerglass Festival
  • Harrower Opera Workshop
  • Hawaii Performing Arts Festival
  • Merola Opera Program
  • Opera Academy Verona
  • Opera Saratoga
  • Opera Viva Professional Development Program
  • Pittsburgh Festival Opera
  • Red River Lyric Opera
  • Santa Fe Opera
  • Spotlight on Opera
  • Wolftrap Opera 


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Alisa Belflower ( or Gordon Ostrowski (, Stage Director Fellowship Committee Co-Chairs.

About JoElyn Wakefield-Wright

JoElyn Wakefield-Wright
JoElyn Wakefield-Wright

I had one semester of opera direction at Indiana University. I realize how much I could have learned if there had been internships available in opera direction and production. That is why I support our organization’s involvement in education in this field.

JoElyn Wakefield-Wright

JoElyn Wakefield-Wright has been a member of NOA since the 1972 National Conference in San Francisco and has had a long and distinguished career as a performer and educator in opera. She studied at the University of Omaha, Pfeiffer College in North Carolina, and Indiana University where she received her Master of Music degree in Voice Performance with a minor in choral conducting. While at Indiana, Ms. Wakefield-Wright was heard in several roles with IU’s Opera Theater. A two-time Fellow of the Tanglewood Institute, where she worked with Phyllis Curtin and Charles Wilson, additional teachers and coaches included Richard Brewer, Martha Lipton, Oren Brown, and Frank St. Leger. Ms. Wakefield-Wright has served on the faculties of Manchester University in Indiana, Hamilton College, Utica College of Syracuse University, and Syracuse University where she directed the Opera Workshop for many years. Notably the Syracuse University Opera Workshop presented Juan de la Cruz, the winner of the Opera Production Competition, for the 1995 NOA National Conference in Boston. Engagements as a singer include appearances with the Indianapolis Symphony and the Fort Wayne symphony, in addition to many concerts throughout the Midwest region. For NOA, Ms. Wakefield-Wright has held many offices and leadership positions including President from 2006-2008; she has been in attendance at nearly every national conference for close to 40 years.

Previous Awardees

Tania Arazi Coambs
Tania Arazi Coambs
2023-2024 recipient

Tania Arazi Coambs is a passionate & versatile director, performer, & writer. The incoming 2023 Apprentice Stage Director for the Merola Opera Program; previously, she was a resident stage director for Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh and a Stage Directors & Choreographers Foundation Observership Fellow. Last year, she wrote & directed her own play Stoplight, which centered around the lives of two African-American teenage sisters. Written in collaboration with community actors, it was awarded Best Arts 2022 by SmilePolitely. Other highlights: the first regional production of Farinelli & the King; her award-winning production of The Tender Land, & scenes from her own opera, Catatumbo (composed by Griffin Candey). This year, she was a featured soloist with the Danville Symp. Orchestra, & played Francesca (The Bridges of Madison County) & Kate (Human Terrain). Tania has a DMA from the Univ. of Illinois & won the 2018-2020 NOA Dissertation Award.

Alison Pogorelc
Alison Pogorelc
2022-2023 recipient

American director of opera, theater, and film, Alison Pogorelc is a native of Milwaukee, WI. This season, she joins the assistant stage directing staff at the Metropolitan Opera, and makes her West Coast debut, directing Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue for West Edge Opera. Additionally, she will head to Wolf Trap Opera to direct the Studio Showcase and then return to Cincinnati to direct Handel’s Agrippina at CCM, where she recently directed L’Amant Anonyme and is pursuing her artist diploma. Alison frequently collaborates with Early Music Now, producing and directing narrative films centered around baroque arias. Previously she has assisted at Cincinnati Opera, Florentine Opera, Glimmerglass Festival and the Prototype Opera Festival. 
 Alison is honored to receive this generous funding as a recipient of the 2022 JoElyn Wakefield-Wright Stage Director Fellowship, which will further support her directing and assisting endeavors this season as she travels from coast to coast. The first few years of a freelance career are some of the hardest to navigate; Alison is incredibly grateful to the National Opera Foundation Fellowship Committee for recognizing her work and offering their support as she embarks on this next phase in her career.

Taylor Rose Carnes
Taylor Rose Carnes
2022-2023 recipient

Taylor Rachel Carnes is a stage director working primarily in opera and musical theater. Taylor is a California native and is currently the first director in the Graduate Artist Certificate Program in Opera at the University of North Texas. Carnes directed Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti in March 2022 and she will direct A Streetcar Named Desire in 2023 for UNT Opera.
Taylor joined the Young Artist Program at The Glimmerglass Festival in 2022, where she is the Assistant Director to Denyce Graves on a new production of Carmen. In addition, Carnes will assist Francesca Zambello on the premiere of The Jungle Book by Kamala Sankaram and Kelley Rourke. Taylor served as the 2019 Aspen Opera Center Assistant Director to Edward Berkeley for the Aspen Music Festival and School, where she was a staff member for three consecutive seasons. 
Prior to her career in stage directing, Carnes worked with companies across the country in stage management, supertitle design, and performance. In 2020, she served as an Assistant Stage Manager and Projection Caller for the world premiere of Eurydice at LA Opera. 
 Taylor is honored to be a recipient of JoElyn Wakefield-Wright Stage Director Fellowship and will use the funds to support her time at The Glimmerglass Festival. 

Alex Paul Sheerin
Alex Paul Sheerin, 2020-2021 recipient

Alex Paul Sheerin is a stage director originally from Long Island, New York. Sheerin was a young artist director at Brevard Music Center, and the resident director at North Shore Music Festival (Long Island), where he directed Don Pasquale. Other directorial credits include Cosi Fan Tutte (Queens College), The Medium (Chicago Summer Opera), Cosi Fan Tutte (abridged, Florida State Opera), Patience (Long Island Light Opera), and The Very Best of Gilbert and Sullivan (Brevard Music Center). Alex was scheduled to direct Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied and Ravel’s L’Enfant et Les Sortiléges at Florida State University, as well as Carmen at the North Shore Music Festival. Assistant directing credits include: Of Mice and Men (Matthew Lata, Director, Florida State Opera). Le Nozze di Figaro and Street Scene (Dean Anthony, Director, Brevard Music Center), Don Pasquale (David Gately, Director), The Fairy Queen (Isabel Milenski, Director, Hofstra Opera Theater), and Romeo et Juliette (Buck Ross, Director, Moores Opera Center). Sheerin received an M.M. in Opera Production from Florida State University, an M.M. in Vocal Performance from University of Houston, and a B.M. from New England Conservatory. He is excited to be joining Indianapolis Opera in the fall of 2020 as its resident assistant director, where he will assist on productions of Madama Butterfly, Carousel, as well as stage the concert series Sundays at the Basile and two opera-for-the-young productions, The Tails of Cats and Mice, and The Three Sillies. Proceeds from the fellowship will help towards his move to Indiana and fund further creative projects in the next year.

Rose Freeman
Rose Freeman, 2020-2021 recipient

Rose Freeman ( teaches, writes, stage directs, and produces theatrical performance in multiple performance mediums. Previous operatic productions include Juliet Palmer's Stitch, Nico Muhly’s Dark Sisters, Mohammed Fairouz’s Sumeida’s Song, Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium (all with Third Eye), Strauss' Die Liebe Der Danae at PFO, Eric McDonnell's Cosmic Ray and the Amazing Chris with Thompson Street and Forest Fantasies with Lingerie Lyrique. 

Currently pursuing her MFA at Temple University, Freeman has been a teaching artist with the Chicago Vocal Arts Consortium, Columbia College Chicago, and University of the Arts. She is an Ensemble Member of Third Eye Theatre Ensemble, Nothing Without a Company, and Member Emeritus for the DirectorsLabChicago Steering Committee. She has spoken on the emerging artists panel during the 2011 Chicago Theatre Symposium, participated in the 2012 DirectorsLabChicago, and 2017 La MaMa Umbria Intl. Symposium for Directors. A grateful recipient of the JoElyn Wakefield-Wright Stage Director Fellowship through the National Opera Association, Rose intends to use these funds to facilitate her participation at Wolf Trap Opera as a directing fellow in Summer of 2020.

Diane Machin
Diane Machin, 2020-2021 recipient

New York-based director Diane Machin is a California native who has worked on productions with theaters, universities, and festivals throughout North America, most recently with Music on Site, Inc., The New School, and the Performing Garage, home of the Wooster Group. Machin received her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts and English from California Lutheran University, and in May of 2020 received her Masters in Fine Art in Directing from The New School, School for Drama. Favorite opera credits include an updated adaptation of Jacques Offenbach's Bagatelle, a Christmas themed Gianni Schicchi, and assistant directing Eugene Onegin.

Originally slated to direct this summer’s Chautauqua Opera’s education outreach Bear Hug, and assistant direct two shows: Tosca, with director Sarah Ina Meyers, and The Mother of Us All, with director Keturah Stickann, Machin is now excited to help Chautauqua Opera produce a digital Summer season and welcomes the unique opportunity to make opera more accessible to a wider audience as we all deal with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Machin is honored by the opportunity afforded her by the National Opera Association, and plans to use the funding from the 2020 JoElyn Wakefield-Wright Stage Director Fellowship to purchase the equipment needed to experiment alongside singers to deliver livestream opera while still retaining the quality and magic of a live performance.

Audrey Chait
Audrey Chait, 2019-2020 recipient

Audrey Chait ( is a director, writer, and producer of opera and theater. She was selected as a JoElyn Wakefield-Wright Stage Director Fellow for her work with the Glimmerglass Festival 2019, where she serves as assistant director for Show Boat and Noah’s Flood. Ms. Chait is pursuing an Artist Diploma in Opera Directing at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she directed Dinner at Eight and the Bach St. John Passion.

Ms. Chait’s recent directing credits include Scalia/Ginsburg with Opera North, Magic Flute Outreach Tour with Kentucky Opera, Back to the Zoo with Cincinnati Opera/Cincinnati Zoo, L’elisir d’amore with Winter Opera St. Louis, and La cenerentola with Opera Las Vegas. Ms. Chait’s assistant director credits include the Santa Fe Opera and Carnegie Hall. She has also held positions at The Juilliard School, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Sarasota Opera, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Philharmonic, Bard Music Festival, Des Moines Metro Opera, and others. Ms. Chait holds a BA in Literary Arts from Brown University, where she was awarded the Innovative Thinking prize for her production of Britten’s Turn of the Screw. Her production of L’elisir d’amore for Winter Opera St. Louis was nominated for a St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Best Opera in 2018.

Kaley Karis Smith
Kaley Karis Smith, 2019-2020 recipient

Kaley Karis Smith ( has worked as a director and assistant director with opera companies across the country, including Michigan Opera Theater, Virginia Opera, The Chautauqua Opera Company, Chicago Summer Opera, Opera Omaha, Opera North, and Opera on the James. She was selected for the JoElyn Wakefield-Wright Fellowship to serve as the assistant director for Orpheus and Euridice this summer at West Edge Opera in Berkeley, California. This production will feature an exclusively female and non-binary cast and creative team under the leadership of stage director KJ Dahlaw and conductor Christine Brandes. In September, she will direct Goldie B. Locks and the Three Singing Bears at Virginia Opera, then return to Houston Grand Opera as the assistant director for their production of Handel’s Saul.

Kaley’s other directing credits include: The Turn of the Screw and The Crucible at Chicago Summer Opera, As One (open rehearsals series) at The Chautauqua Opera Company, The Bremen Town Musicians at The Chautauqua Opera Company and Opera on the James, Le Nozze di Figaro at Augusta University, and remounted productions of Petunia and Jack and the Beanstalk with FBN Productions, Inc. In the spring of 2017, she was the Assistant Director and Choreographer for the world premiere of Stranger from Paradise, based on the life and poetry of William Blake with Opera Omaha. She has also worked as a stage manager with Houston Grand Opera, Opera Saratoga, Opera Delaware, Opera Omaha, Central City Opera, Opera on the James, Opera Columbus, the University of South Carolina, and Indiana University.

Andreas Hager
Andreas Hager, 2018-2019 recipient

Andreas Hager is a director whose work spans opera, film, theatre, and alternate reality games.  He was selected as a JoElyn Wakefield Wright Stage Director Fellow for his summer 2018 work with Wolftrap Opera during which he will assist on productions of Idomeneo and Rigoletto. Recent directing credits include Il barbiere di Siviglia (Houston Grand Opera), Gianni Schicchi (Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music), and La belle Hélène (Opera North). In addition, he has worked with Opera Philadelphia, the New York Philharmonic, Cincinnati Opera, and Opera Columbus. He recently graduated from the Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music with an Artist Diploma in Opera Directing, and has a Bachelor's Degree in Cinema Studies from Oberlin College where he also studied piano performance. He is a winner of Opera America’s Director-Designer Showcase and a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab.

Kumiko Shimizu
Kumiko Shimizu, 2018-2019 recipient

Kumiko Shimizu has been awarded a JoElyn Wakefield-Wright Stage Director Fellowship to participate in Opera Viva’s 2018 Professional Development Program in Verona Italy.  She is professor of music and collaborative pianist at Delta State University in Mississippi.  As a collaborative pianist, she has played for several competitions, including the National Opera Association Vocal Competitions, and has been invited to play at the American Choral Directors Association Conventions, the Mid-South Flute Society Festival, Southeast Regional Tuba Euphonium Conference, William Bennett Summer Flute Academy, among others. She has received these awards: James Ronald Brothers Collaborative Pianist Award (National Association of Teachers of Singing Southern Region), Favorite Professor Award (Mu Phi Epsilon-Gamma Zeta Chapter), and Second Place – Instrumental Performance (American Prize).

At Delta State, Ms. Shimizu teaches collaborative piano, provides vocal coaching and stage direction for the opera/musical theater workshop, and has team-taught in the voice area by co-organizing several projects, such as Japanese Song Recital and Staged Art Song Recital. Since fall 2016, she has been director of the opera/musical theater workshop at the university and her scene repertoire has included selections from Giulio Cesare, Madama Butterfly, Falstaff, and Die Fledermaus, among others. This teaching assignment fostered a renewed interest in stage directing and Ms. Shimizu is very grateful for the support that NOA’s JoElyn Wakefield-Wright Stage Director Fellowship will provide as she continues to learn the art of stage directing in summer 2018.

Julia Mintzer was awarded the 2017 Fellowship to support her work at Charlottesville Opera.

Julia Mintzer
Julia Mintzer, 2017 Stage Director Fellow,
at work at Opera Academy of Verona

Winner of the National Opera Association’s 2017 Directing Fellowship, Julia Mintzer is a director, performer, creator, and teacher. Her interactive theater piece Pizza Parlance was listed in Nombre Art Magazine's "5 Must-Sees of Venice Biennale" and revived for NWR-Forum Düsseldorf.  Her latest project, On Behalf of a Madman, was a political satire told in a pastiche of 18th-19th century opera with an original book and libretto. (“Quick-witted... a relevant evening of commentary.”—Arts Fuse.) Julia led an all-female cast of La Bohème for MassOpera, hailed by The Theater Times as “a fascinating, high-energy production.” Her La Cenerentola for Bel Cantanti Opera was acclaimed as “wildly funny…This production is just the sort of thing that keeps opera alive and relevant.” (

Julia directed the first full staging of Beethoven's Fidelio with historical instruments in America, produced by period orchestra Grand Harmonie at Princeton University. Her performance piece Chacun a son gout was presented at STORE Contemporary (Dresden.) She staged an original work "Well I want it in writing, the smallest event and the secretest agency” at Cornell University’s Society for Humanities. Julia was sponsored by the European Network of Opera Academies to direct excerpts from Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Opera Academy of Verona, and was chosen by ENOA again to direct and develop a new work at the Helsinki Festival. This spring she stages Die Zauberflöte for the Potomac Vocal Institute and La Rondine for Delaware Valley Opera Company.

She has led seminars on the integration of technique and interpretation at the University of Cologne's Institute for Art and Art Theory, and has been a guest lecturer at Europa-Universität Flensburg and New England Conservatory Preparatory Division. She has directed scenes programs for the University of Dayton Early Music Ensemble, Opera for Humanity, and the Tanglewood Institute. Julia is a graduate of The Juilliard School and the Boston University Opera Institute, with additional studies at Columbia University and Europa-Universität Flensburg.

As a mezzo-soprano, Julia has performed principal roles at Washington National Opera, Die Semperoper Dresden, and The Glimmerglass Festival. She makes her UK debut in spring of 2020 in the title role of Carmen at Welsh National Opera.

Jen Stephenson
Jen Stephenson, 2015 Stage Director Intern,
scene at Druid City

This past summer, the National Opera Association's Stage Directing Internship program afforded me the opportunity to study and work at the Druid City Opera Workshop in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Through this program, founded and directed by Paul Houghtaling, I was able to work with various knowledgeable and talented leaders of our industry who offered me supportive and enthusiastic instruction as I directed several opera scenes performed by emerging professional artists.

I could not have been more thrilled with the program, learning a wide variety of important skills and tools that will be essential to me as I continue to forge ahead in my career. Each of the faculty was engaging and truly passionate about their craft, and all expressed their availability to me to ask questions and advice of them during the program and beyond.

I am grateful for the wonderful experience that I had at the Druid City Opera Workshop, and thankful to the National Opera Association's Stage Directing Internship Program for allowing me the opportunity to work with such a fantastic and dedicated group of professionals!

Jen Stephenson


Joshua Miller
Joshua Miller, 2014 Stage Director Intern

Joshua Miller is currently a doctoral student in the Butler Opera Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Miller studies directing with Dr. Robert DeSimone and is enrolled in the Arts Management Portfolio Program through the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. His current lecture recital thesis is “The Lyric Acting Application of W. Timothy Gallwey’s book The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance.” Miller has served as an assistant director for La traviata (Wolf Trap Opera Company), Les Misérables (ZACH Theatre), Le Nozze di Figaro & Turandot (Austin Lyric Opera). His most recent directing credits include Sweeney Todd (Butler Opera Center), The Rape of Lucretia (Spotlight on Opera), Cesti’s Orontea (UT Early Music Ensemble), Little Women (Spotlight on Opera) and The Magic Flute (Concord University). He also directed “The Pagliacci Project,” a touring outreach opera for Austin Lyric Opera. During the summer of 2014 Miller will assistant direct Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel as a member of The Glimmerglass Festival Young Artists Program.

Joshua worked with the opera program at Texas State University in San Marcus, Texas, and Dr. Samuel Mungo, director of opera studies, served as his mentor.

Emily Martin
Emily Martin, 2013 Stage Director Intern,
at work with Paul Houghtaling

I wanted to thank you so much for the opportunity you gave me with Paul Houghtaling and the Druid City Opera Workshop through the NOA Directing Internship.  It was an incredible experience and I was very thankful to have been a part of Paul’s wonderful program.  The talented singers were very prepared so staging and working with them was rewarding and exciting.  Paul was a great mentor – always available and willing to talk but at the same time letting me explore and express my ideas in my staging.  The collaboration between all of the faculty could not have been more supportive.  I feel as if I have made wonderful connections with these colleagues and I look forward to working with them all again in the future.

Thank you again for this opportunity.  It was truly wonderful.

Emily Martin-Moberley