Nancy Keystone

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2014

Los Angeles, CA

Nancy Keystone is a director, multidisciplinary artist, and artistic director of Critical Mass Performance Group, a Los Angeles-based ensemble committed to long-term collaborative development of multi-layered theatrical performances. In her roles as chief investigator, writer, director, and designer, she has recently helmed Alcestis (2013), a deconstruction of Euripides’ lesser-known play about love and death; and Apollo (2001-09), a theatrical collage exploring the intersections of the U.S. space program, with the Nazi rocket scientists, and the Civil Rights Movement. She is the recipient of a USA Fellowship (2011), an Arts Presenters Ensemble Theatre Collaborations grant (2008), and an Alan Schneider Director Award (2003), among many honors. She is a visiting faculty member at UCLA, a frequent guest lecturer, and an instructor in arts-in-education programs nationwide. Her latest work, Ameryka (2010-2016), is a kaleidoscopic epic integrating text, heightened physicality, and theatrical spectacle to illuminate the universal longing for freedom and justice through astonishing collisions of American and Polish culture, politics, and history.

  • Photo Credit: Jamie Grady
    Nancy Keystone
  • Nancy Keystone- ALCESTIS (2012-2013):
    ALCESTIS (2012-2013)
  • Nancy Keystone- APOLLO (2001-2009):
    APOLLO (2001-2009)
  • Ameryka (2010-2016)
  • Apollo (2001-2009)
  • Photo Credit: Nancy Keystone
    ALCESTIS (2012-2013)
  • Ameryka (2010-2016)
  • Ameryka (2010-2016)
  • Alcestis (2013)
  • Photo Credit: Nancy Keystone
    APOLLO (2001-2009)

What fuels your impulse to make creative work?

The astonishing, outrageous, sacred, dirty, noble, mendacious, brutal, courageous, hilarious, absurd, tacky, fathomless things that people do as they struggle to navigate a bewildering world.

Other people's creative work.

Surprising collisions and unusual associations of disparate people, events, and ideas.

Untold aspects of well-worn stories.

Turning things inside-out, uncovering hidden truths.


Certain death.

Office supplies.


Learning new things.

The unique energy of a particular space.

Possibilities for pushing into new theatrical frontiers, inventing hybrid forms.

The infinite interactions of actors with each other and the physical environment.

The transformation of a prosaic object into a poetic idea.

Giddy inspiration, terrifying state of not-knowing, ecstatic revelation, profound doubt, frustration, self-loathing, despair, redoubled effort, renewed inspiration, over and over and over again.

The yearning to surprise, to provoke, to shake-up, to delight, to astonish, to entertain, to commune with other people through a live, theatrical experience.

Collaborating with my ensemble: researching, brain-storming, questioning, digging, laughing, devising, experimenting, cliff-diving, discovering possibilities for the most theatrical and poetic expressions that work their way through the audience's nerves, mind, and heart.