The judging is carried out by three panels of industry experts.

Theatre Judges

Clifton Taylor

(Theater Chair) Lighting Designer

For more than 29 years Clifton Taylor has created lighting, projection and scenic designs for theatre, dance and opera around the world. Clifton has also been theatre consultant on new large scale theatrical venues in number of countries. In 2002 he was awarded a grant from the Asian Cultural Council to teach a course in design for the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“Light has been a vital storytelling device ever since we’ve told ourselves stories. Even before we had the incredible technical control over light that we now enjoy, light and shadow were important metaphors in the plays and stories of the cultures that preceded ours.
“As the artistic and industrial partnership that makes up the stage lighting community gains increasing mastery in lighting  timing, brightness-contrast and color control, the designers who are working with light today are finding new and vital ways to frame the human experience in the 21st century.  These achievements should be recognized and written about and discussed, furthering the age-old role of the theater to be an incubator for cultural change and human understanding.”

David Rooney

Chief Theater Critic, Hollywood Reporter

David writes regularly about theater and film for The Hollywood Reporter. He began covering the entertainment industry in 1991 for Variety while based in Rome, becoming the paper’s chief Italian correspondent and film reviewer in 1994. He relocated to New York in 2003 and became chief theater critic and theater editor for Variety from 2004-2010. He has written about theater for The New York TimesThe Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone and served on the nominating jury of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. David has been a member of the New York Drama Critics Circle for 14 years, and is the winner of both Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards for his theatre criticism.

“This is an exciting time for lighting and video in theatre, with new technology affording stage artists the possibility to create fully immersive environments, infinitely nuanced moods, and effects that are every bit as thrilling as those we see in film and television. As recently as 15 years ago, the use of video in stage productions frequently meant clumsy filmed backdrops that just pointed to an absence of imagination (or budget) on the part of set designers.
“Over the past decade, video has become a more fully integrated tool to complement traditional physical design elements, while the essential role of lighting in creating vivid stage pictures has been enhanced by an accomplished new generation of designers able to paint with light.”

Deborah Jowitt

Dance Critic and writer

Since 1953 when she began to dance professionally, Deborah has taught, lectured and choreographed. Deborah began to write a regular dance column in The Village Voice in 1967, and has since gone on to have her articles feature in The New York Times, Dance Magazine, Ballet Review, and Dance Research Journal, as well as having published two collections, and a further book, Time and the Dancing Image, which won the de la Toree Bueno Prize for 1988. The Congress on Research in Dance (CORD)in 2001 awarded her for her ‘Outstanding Contribution to Dance Research.

Chris Jones

Theatre Critic, Chicago Tribune
Chris Jones is the chief theater critic and a Sunday culture columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His reviews of theater, performance, circus and comedy for the newspaper now  number in the thousands and his weekly, wide-ranging Sunday column explores all aspects of culture and its relationship with American life and ideas.

He also serves as a critic for CBS-2 Chicago, and, in 2014, he became the director of the National Critics’ Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut.  He also is the author of “Bigger, Brighter, Louder: 150 years of Chicago Theater,” published in 2013 by the University of Chicago Press. Prior to joining the Tribune in 2002, Jones served for many years as a critic for Variety and Daily Variety. He has twice served on the drama committee of the Pulitzer Prizes.

Lauren Warnecke

Dance Critic, Chicago Tribune

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic at the Chicago Tribune, and has previously worked at the Windy City Times, Dance Magazine, and Pointe. Based in Chicago, she is founder and editor-in-chief of Art Intercepts, a Midwest-focused critical dance blog created in 2009.
“I mostly write about dance, in which lighting and video/projection are absolutely critical elements. A good, cohesive design provides context, and directs the eye to what the choreographer wants audience members to pay attention to. Particularly in contemporary dance or non-narrative works, it can be challenging to extract meaning from choreography alone. Lighting and video have the ability to transform the environment on stage, contextualizing what might otherwise seem just like bodies moving through space.”

Mark Swed

Chief Music Critic, LA Times

Mark Swed has been the classical music critic of the Los Angeles Times since 1996. Before that, he was a music critic for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and the Wall Street Journal and has written extensively for international publications. Swed is the author of the book-length text to the best-selling iPad app, “The Orchestra,” and is a former editor of the Musical Quarterly. He was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in criticism, cited for his passionate music criticism, marked by resonant writing and an ability to give life to the people behind a performance.

Celia Ipiotis

Dance Critic, Eye on the Arts

Celia Ipiotis began her professional career as a ballet and modern dancer and choreographer. She received a BFA from Ohio State University and an MA in Media Studies from New School For Social Research. In 1976, Ms. Ipiotis began working with the pioneering videodance artist Jeff Bush and their award-winning videodance productions have been exhibited at World’s Fairs and festivals around the world.

She is now the creator, producer and moderator of the nationally recognized culture series EYE ON DANCE & The Arts (EOD) – a television series devoted to artist’s ideas, achievements, and creative approaches.

Ms Ipiotis has also served as a member of university dance faculties including Hunter College, Harvard and Antioch College. She has participated on international and national arts selection panels and functioned as advisor for WNET’s “Dance In America Series,” She has led panels and forums on arts issues and moderated conversations on the artistic process for the NYC Ballet, The Guggenheim Museum “Works and Process” series, the Juilliard Special Projects Series, Marymount Manhattan College, BAM, NYFA, NYU and many others.

Selected as a “Scholar in Residence” at Jacob’s Pillow, Ipiotis sits on the Hunter College Dance Advisory Committee and on the Manhattan Children’s Museum Dance Protal Advisory panel.