Kaneza Schaal is a New York City based artist working in theater, opera, and film. Schaal was named a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow, and received a 2021 Herb Alpert Award in Theatre, Sundance Institute Interdisciplinary Program Grant, 2019 United States Artists Fellowship, SOROS Art Migration and Public Space Fellowship, Joyce Award, LMCC Alumni Award, 2018 Ford Foundation Art For Justice Bearing Witness Award, 2017 MAP Fund Award, 2016 Creative Capital Award, and was an Aetna New Voices Fellow at Hartford Stage. Her project GO FORTH, premiered at Performance Space 122 and then showed at the Genocide Memorial Amphitheater in Kigali, Rwanda; Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans; Cairo International Contemporary Theater Festival in Egypt; and at her alma mater Wesleyan University, CT. Her work JACK & showed in BAM’s 2018 Next Wave Festival, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and with its co-commissioners Walker Arts Center, REDCAT, On The Boards, Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, and Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. Schaal’s piece CARTOGRAPHY premiered at The Kennedy Center and toured to The New Victory Theater, Abu Dhabi Arts Center and Playhouse Square, OH. Her dance work, MAZE, created with FLEXN NYC, premiered at The Shed. She directed Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson’s BLUE at Michigan Opera Theater, and before that, Triptych composed by Bryce Dessner with libretto by Korde Arrington Tuttle, which premiered at LA Philharmonic, The Power Center in Ann Arbor, MI, BAM Opera House and Holland Festival. Schaal recently directed the world premiere of OMAR written by Rhiannon Giddens and co-composed by Giddens and Michael Abels at the Spoleto Festival USA, and its continuation at Los Angeles Opera. Her newest original work, KLII, is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation & Development Fund Project co-commissioned by Walker Art Center in partnership with Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, and REDCAT, and was co-commissioned as part of the Eureka Commissions program by the Onassis Foundation. Schaal will develop and direct a number of upcoming works including SPLIT TOOTH with Tanya Tagaq (Luminato Festival, Canada), HUSH ARBOR with Imani Uzuri (The Momentary, AZ) and a new work with musician Bryce Dessner.
Schaal’s work has also been supported by New England Foundation for The Arts, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, FACE Foundation Contemporary Theater grant, Theater Communications Group, and a Princess Grace George C. Wolfe Award. Her work with The Wooster Group, Elevator Repair Service, Richard Maxwell/New York City Players, Claude Wampler, Jim Findlay, and Dean Moss has brought her to venues including Centre Pompidou, Royal Lyceum Theater Edinburgh, The Whitney Museum, and MoMA.
Schaal is an Arts-in-Education advocate. Her work at the International Children’s Book Library in Munich, Germany with young asylum seekers to address migration and storytelling led to the creation of CARTOGRAPHY. Additionally, she created arts exchange platforms at three prisons in upstate New York, and has begun work on a new program for New York State’s maximum security facility for girls. Schaal’s education work has spanned from universities to community centers to public high schools; and from workshops for professional artists, to professional development training for teachers, to intergenerational collaborations between elders and teens, to in-schools work with immigrant communities. Schaal taught an Atelier course at Princeton University with Elevator Repair Service and has lectured at Yale University, CT, Wesleyan University, CT, New York University, University of The Arts, PA and Xavier, LA. In Spring 2020 she taught a course at Harvard University on theater and social practice, and she was the Denzel Washington Endowed Chair in Theatre at Fordham University in Fall 2021.