Nancy Keystone

Dramaturg: Julius Caesar

Nancy Keystone is a Los Angeles-based theatre and visual artist, educator, and founding Artistic Director/Executive Producer of the collaborative ensemble, Critical Mass Performance Group. With CMPG her work encompasses a variety of forms including epic historical projects, re-inventions of classic texts, intimate interactive salons, public happenings, and social practice. Known for exuberant theatricality and surprising collisions of ideas, CMPG was named 2013’s Best Theatre Company by the LA Weekly. She is committed to taking political and social institutions to task, uplifting marginalized voices, and revealing unacknowledged truths. Ms. Keystone is the honored recipient of a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, and United States Artists Hoi Fellowship.

Most recently with CMPG, in her roles as writer, director, and scenic designer, Ms. Keystone helmed a new exploration of the Iphigenia myth at the Getty Villa. Their production of Ameryka (2010-18)–a kaleidoscopic investigation of the promises and betrayals of the United States’ core ideals—was mounted at Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre, and named Production of the Year, and Best Ensemble by Stage Raw. With Cornerstone Theater Company and residents of Jordan Downs housing project in Watts, she created “A Jordan Downs Illumination,” a community-based, multi-modal performance installation (Best of 2019 by KCRW). Other multi-award-winning projects with CMPG: Alcestis, a re-invention of Euripides’ play about love and sacrifice (Boston Court Pasadena, Getty Villa); Apollo trilogy, exploring the US space program, its relationship with Nazi rocket scientists, and the surprising intersection with the Civil Rights Movement (CTG’s Kirk Douglas Theatre, Portland Center Stage); The Akhmatova Project, a movement-based piece, inspired by the life and writing of Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova. 

As a freelance artist Ms. Keystone has directed and designed award-winning productions at theatres across the country, including Portland Center, Center Theatre Group, Denver Center Theatre, East West Players, Boston Court Pasadena, Actor’s Express, Georgia Shakespeare Festival, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. Other directing forays include opera (Long Beach Opera, Musica Angelica, San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival) and film. She has been director/dramaturg for many new plays by emerging playwrights and leads boundary-busting playwriting workshops based on her devising techniques. As a visual artist, Ms. Keystone works in mixed media, creating paintings, collages, and unique scenic environments for her productions. 

She is the recipient of Theatre Communications Group’s Alan Schneider Director Award, a MacDowell Fellow, and Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities Fellow at USC. She has received support from the NEA, Pew Charitable Trusts, Center for Cultural Innovation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, David Lee Foundation, California Community Foundation, among others. She earned an MFA in directing from Carnegie Mellon, and a BA in Theatre Arts from UCLA. She is on visiting faculty at UCLA, is a frequent university guest lecturer, and an instructor in arts-in-education programs.