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almost 4 years New York, NY, United States Story
Moguls of the World: May Adrales, Fiercely Talented Director Who Is Paving the Way for Women Worldwide

Incredibly ambitious, intelligent, and gorgeously talented artist, May Adrales, is at the forefront when it comes to paving the way for women to develop careers as directors. A first generation Filipina American who grew up in Virginia, this seasoned director of the stage who resides in NYC has been at the helm on productions at multiple prestigious theatre companies including The Public Theater, Second Stage Theatre, New York Theater Workshop, South Coast Rep, Primary Stages, Williamstown Theater Festival, Partial Comfort Productions and Long Wharf Theatre.  

In addition to her impressive list of directing credits, Adrales has true versatility in that she has served in highly-coveted positions within artistic administration. She has served as Director of On Site Programming at the Lark Play Development Center where she developed programs to support and nurture the work of over 200 playwrights, and has been an Artistic Associate at The Public Theater where she spearheaded the Shakespeare Lab. Passing on her invaluable knowledge to the next generation, she has worked with many high school and middle school students in workshops and productions through both The Public Theater and Epic Theater Ensemble.  

A recipient of numerous accolades, she was awarded the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s inaugural Denham Fellowship and the Paul Green Emerging Directing award. She is a recipient of a TCG New Generations grant and has been awarded directing fellowships at New York Theater Workshop, Women's Project, SoHo Rep and The Drama League.

A fantastic teacher, Adrales has directed and taught at some of the most prestigious drama programs across the US including NYU, Juilliard, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Fordham University and Bard College. Adrales is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and currently serves on faculty.  

MOGUL looks forward to following the exciting and inspiring career of May Adrales, and we are proud to feature her as our MOGUL Woman of the Month.

Full Name: Jocelyn May Divinagracia Adrales

Occupation: Theater Director

Hometown:  Covington, VA but currently Brooklyn, NY

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MOGUL: What inspired you to become a director, particularly in the area of theatre? Do you foresee wanting to explore directing for film and television?

May Adrales: Be the change you wish to see in the world. I took that adage pretty seriously. I wanted to figure out how to make the world a more joyous, more democratic, and more beautiful place -– a world that embraces complexity, creativity and diversity on every level. I thought I’d go to law school, fight for social justice and help to make that kind of world. I learned the hard way that I’d be a terrible lawyer and even worse politician. But I was good at creating that world on stage, in a rehearsal room and in my community. So I went into theater.   

I love working in the medium of film. There is so much possibility and potential with every shot. The little dictator in me loves the complete control in film.  But the masochist in me loves the unpredictability of live theater. My focus is in theater for right now, but I’m open to new adventures. 

MOGUL: What were the initial challenges in breaking into the field and what advice would you give to young women looking to follow in your footsteps? What have been the most exciting aspects of working within the field?

Adrales: The initial challenge for me was access.  When I moved to NYC, I had no formal theater training and I only knew one person working in theater.  For the most part there weren’t stories that reflected my experience or people on stage that looked like me. Theater felt impenetrable. But I found the right community. I found the right mentors who helped me see my potential.

My advice in threes: (and also happen to all start with “f”)

  • Find your mentor.
  • Fail big and learn to forgive yourself. 
  • Follow your passion

MOGUL: What are your ultimate career goals as a director?

Adrales: I’d like to run my own theater one day. Create that world that I want to see. 

MOGUL: Favorite play you’ve directed and why?

Adrales: This question is like choosing your favorite child…. Probably A. Rey Pamatmat’s Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them at Humana Festival. 

Teresa Avia Lim, Jon Norman Schneider and Cory Michael Smith drove the audience to tears, to laughter and to their feet at every performance. Rey’s writing astounds me. In this warm coming of age story is a radical new vision of family and community. 

MOGUL: Best performance you’ve ever seen?

Adrales: The Canadian choreographer’s, Dave St-Pierre’s Un peu de tendresse bordel de merde!

Unrelentless, courageous dance theater piece examining shame and sexuality.

George C. Wolfe, Mother Courage and her Children at the Delacourt, starring Meryl Streep.  At the end of Act One, Meryl sang Jeanine Tesori’s adaptation of  “The Song of the Great Capitulation,” and it opened up the heavens, literally.  It rained as she stomped through the mud, singing with unbelievable strength and courage about survival.  Incredible. 

And Romeo Castelucci’s On The Concept of The Face.  Devastating piece of theater.  No words to describe. 

MOGUL: Hobbies outside directing?

Adrales: I run. When I was younger, I ran long distances to run away from problems. When I got older, I ran marathons to quit smoking. Now I just run to feel great about life. And also desserts. I eat a lot of dessert. 

MOGUL: Most inspired by?

Adrales: People watching on subways and streets.  And provocative photography and sculpture. (To name a few - Jeff Wall, Sanford Biggers and Ron Mueck) And composer imani uzuri inspires me. Music just flows through her veins. 

MOGUL: If you could meet 3 people from history?

Adrales: Kemal Ataturk – what an incredible leader and visionary. Would love to take a tour of Istanbul and the Middle East with him. 

Mozart – I’d have him over for an elaborate dinner and have him play a few original songs.

Emily Dickinson – she writes infinity in each verse and her poetry has been a friend to me in my darkest moments. We’d have tea and it would be the best life-affecting afternoon of my life.  (But any longer I fear may result in awkwardness.) 

MOGUL: Favorite time of day?

Adrales: Sunrise. I love days when I’m out the door just when the sun comes up. New York is a different city – full of hope and possibility. 

MOGUL: Personal motto?  

Adrales: -- hmmm… hard one… Sing in the shower? Smile at strangers?

MOGUL: Your worst/most entertaining date? 

Adrales: I met a guy once in a bar and we totally hit it off. Talked for hours and exchanged numbers and made plans. But then we got up to say goodnight and he was 6’8”. I’m 5’1”. The second date was …awkward. And he flirted with the waitress. It was our last. 

MOGUL: Best date?

Adrales: Brad and I met at Brooklyn Roasting company, then took a walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park. The sun started to set, we got a beer at a dive.  Night starts to fall, we decide to get dinner at Vinegar Hill House. After dinner, he walks me to my bike.  And seven hours after our coffee, I asked him if he’d kiss me goodnight. And now eight months later, I’m traveling around the world with him. (I’m writing this from Dubai where he has been temporarily relocated for work).

MOGUL: Most romantic thing you’ve ever done for someone?

Adrales: It’s hard to date a director, admittedly.  My travel schedule is insane. So just to have a second date with my man, I cut a trip short, paid the $300 to change the flight to be able to meet him for drinks and a walk along the High Line that night. I only told him I did that months later after he did the same for me. 

MOGUL: Current favorite song?

Adrales: Nellie McKay’s Sari, or really that whole album.

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