Anna Himali Howard (Theatre-Makers, 2022)Anna Himali Howard, INSIDE, 2001. Photograph: Ali Wright

Anna Himali Howard

Shortlisted in 2022 for Theatre-Makers

Anna Himali Howard is a director, theatremaker and dramaturg. She directs co-created shows with a focus on active listening – creating fun, challenging creative spaces for participants, listening to what emerges, and then giving that material a dramaturgical framework that makes it sing. Inspired by community spaces, diaspora and moments of connection, Anna’s work often draws on the aesthetics of libraries, church halls, or function rooms. She was chosen to collaborate with teenage climate change activists in Gloucester to create I Stand For What I Stand On (2021). Prompting the cast to create their own materials in writing and performance, the show is performed into the audience’s headphones, giving the young activists a rare opportunity to be heard without having to shout.

In BE Next, two performances were created with a group of young people from Birmingham aged 14-21, for most of whom English is an additional language. Using exercises to generate material, the performances were led by what the young people brought into the room, whether that was songs, dance or text, challenging and pushing the boundaries of what they considered worthy of staging or watching. Upcoming work sees Anna collaborate with South Asian women to devise work about the experience of polycystic ovary syndrome. Through this work, she is interested in making space for people to explore the ways in which they want to be heard, and building community resilience.

Anna’s work has been staged at theatres including the Bush Theatre, the Gate Theatre, the Orange Tree and Birmingham REP. She trained on the Birmingham REP Foundry, as the Paines Plough Trainee Director, on the NT Studio Directors’ Programme and the Royal Opera House Directors’ Course. She was a Creative Associate at the Gate Theatre and is currently an Associate Artist at Brixton House. Her work with international companies includes directing for BE Festival, New Nordics, and the Royal Court International Playwrights Residency.