The strength of the Arches Award for Directors in its near decade-long existence has been not just its diversity but its willingness to take risks. The flagship of the annual Arches Theatre Festival, it gives two emerging talents the opportunity to take creative risks in a relatively low-level environment. This has paid dividends, as previous winners such as Davey Anderson and Neil Doherty would testify.

It is now run in association with Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland, and this year's winners look set to be chalk and cheese when their work is presented side by side over the course of an evening.

Cora Bissett presents Amada, a devised piece inspired by Simple Maria, a short story by the South American writer Isabel Allende. Performed by three actors, the work concerns one woman's struggle through a tragic and colourful life, and features a live score provided by a guitarist and Basque singer Nerea Bello.

In contrast, Rosie Kellagher has been working with playwright Hugo Plowden on Mother, Father, Son. The play looks at the Japanese phenomenon of hikikomori, whereby sociophobic grown-up men lock themselves in their rooms away from their parents. It also marks Plowden's professional debut as a writer.

"It's an extraordinary piece,"

Kellagher maintains, "and an extraordinary new voice that just spoke to me when I read it. It's slightly off-the-wall, and the way Hugo and I have worked together, we've discovered ways of looking at the text which weren't originally there. Hugo's new to theatre, so we've been exploring these things together.

"I think it was the quality of the writing that got this award," she says modestly, "but as a director there are thousands of resonances there that I can help to bring out."

Bissett will be familiar to many as an actress, whose career began at the Arches in a production of Jim Cartwright's play, I Licked A Slag's Deodorant. This followed several years singing and playing cello in the bands Darlingheart and Swelling Meg. In the decade since switching to acting, Bissett has generated her own work - most notably with Horses, Horses, Coming in All Directions - and has taken lead roles in more mainstream stage shows at Dundee Rep and Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre. She has also provided cello parts for records by Mogwai and Arab Strap.

"I wanted to create my own baby again," Bissett says of her motivation, "but I didn't know what I wanted to do. I was looking at work by A L Kennedy and Michel Faber - all this really interesting stuff. Then I started reading Allende, and I can't understand why it's not been put on stage before, because it's full of these really dramatic images that are an absolute gift theatrically. It's there on a plate for you. There's the cake - now let's get the ingredients."

Aside from her actors, the crucial flavour to Amada comes via its music. Bissett contacted Bello, a former neighbour, who by a strange quirk of fate just happened to be reading a collection by Allende.

"Starting in a band is the most useful thing I can bring to this,"

Bissett says. "Even though this is a really delicate piece of work, there's still a punk ethic to how we're making it. It's just jamming, only instead of instruments we've got a singer and some actors."

Kellagher began her career at the Lyceum, though in a backstage role as an administration assistant, then as assistant to artistic director Mark Thomson. Having taken on a multitude of roles while at Edinburgh University, where she joined the Bedlam theatre company, Kellagher already had a fully rounded working knowledge of managing theatre companies before she become a freelance director. Already she has worked with A Play, a Pie and a Pint, the ongoing series of lunchtime plays initiated at Oran Mor in Glasgow's west end.

Kellagher became the company's staff director, overseeing the series of transfers to Edinburgh's Jam House.

"Working on all these things has been a real learning curve," she maintains. "In six years at the Lyceum I learned so much on a practical level, and my role now as a director enables me to bring all those components together."

Where new writing is what drives Kellagher, Bissett sees herself as more of a theatre maker, and talks more like the conductor of an orchestra than any text-led auteur. She is instinctively sensitive to how the demands of Amada should be shaped. Kellagher, on the hand, is rigorously intellectual, more attuned to helping writers craft their work. What both directors have in common, though, is a recognition that whatever form their work takes, it needs solid parameters to rein them in.

"Devised work can end up so vague and wishy-washy that I knew I had to have a good story to hook it in," Bissett says, citing both the Arches' Andy Arnold and Grid Iron's Ben Harrison as mentors. Bissett first worked with Harrison at Bedlam in Edinburgh, where Kellagher also cut her teeth; this background seems to have given both women a sense of autonomy that feeds into a multitude of activities.

Outwith Amada, as well as appearances in the TV soap River City, Bissett works as drama outreach worker for Ankur Productions, a relatively new body set up to engage with multicultural performers. Kellagher is also keeping busy: two of her Oran Mor pieces are currently mooted for Edinburgh Fringe revivals, while she'll also be co-ordinating a big youth theatre project involving the Traverse Young Writers Group, the Lyceum Youth Theatre and the King's Theatre.

"There are so many aspects of theatre that I want to be involved in," Kellagher says, "but continuing directing is the aim, and I want to keep working with Hugo."

As conscious as both Bissett and Kellagher are of the opportunities the Arches award opens up, they're also aware of their own positions. Bissett sums it up: "I don't think being a director means having all the answers, because sometimes you don't."

Amada and Mother, Father, Son are at the Arches, Glasgow, April 10-14, then the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, April 18-21.