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RoleCall-WEB-3

20 Theatre Workers You Should Know

In our new monthly Role Call feature, we shine a light on theatre professionals across the country who deserve a bigger national profile.

This month American Theatre inaugurates a new feature on theatre folks who deserve to be more well known in the field—and you don’t have to take our word for it, as each one has been recommended to us by at least one colleague. Here we feature 20 people of all different disciplines, or “roles”; in the future we’ll feature at least one playwright, one director, one designer, one performer, one administrator/staffer, and one freelance artist.


CLARE BARRON

Clare Barron (Photo by RJ Tolan)
Clare Barron (Photo by RJ Tolan)

Profession: Playwright
Hometown: Wenatchee, Wash.
Current home: Brooklyn
Known for: You Got Older, an Obie winner and a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2014, produced by Page 73 Productions at HERE Arts Center.
What’s next: I’ll Never Love Again, a play with music created from her high school journal (including naked drawings) at the Bushwick Starr this winter. “I wanted to make this piece because I felt like teenager-dom was way stranger than I remembered,” says Barron. “And that maybe there was some forgotten wisdom in that strangeness.”
What makes her special: “Clare Barron is badass,” says playwright and director Robert O’Hara, who met Barron after reading her play Baby Screams Miracle for consideration in the Woolly Mammoth season. “She writes with an audacity of imagination. She struck me as someone that wasn’t trying to be like anybody else but herself—wholly unique and blazingly original, something we can never have enough of in the theatre.”
What she’s thinking about now: “I’m thinking and writing a lot about sexual violence in relationships and how ambition operates in women,” she says. “In general, I’m drawn to work that is intimate and detailed but also super-theatrical and not afraid of emotionality or huge, appalling gestures. I grew up acting in productions of The Music Man and The Wizard of Oz with casts of 100-plus kids, just loving the shit out of it, and I want to always remember that kind of wild abandon and joy and deep, deep need whenever I work on a play.”


DEENA SELENOW

Deena Selenow (Photo by Vincent Richards)
Deena Selenow (Photo by Vincent Richards)

Profession: Director and curator for new performance
Hometown: New York City
Current Home: Los Angeles
Known for: Directing Riot/Rebellion, produced by Watts Village Theater Company in association with the Latino Theater Company at the Los Angeles Theatre Center; adapting and directing Toxicos (based on Sophocles’ Philoctetes, plus Britney Spears) at L.A.’s REDCAT New Original Works Festival.
What’s next: She’s directing Chalk Repertory Theatre’s production of Ruth McKee’s In Case of Emergency, Oct. 9–11 at La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls (WoW) festival.
What makes her special: Travis Preston, artistic director of the CalArts Center for New Performance, who worked with Selenow while she was getting her directing MFA at CalArts, calls her “an outstanding artist and leader. Of course, she has incredible drive, discipline, and imagination. But the characteristics that really distinguish her for me are her dynamism, sense of humor, and taste for the bizarre. These strengths interact in ways that lend her work a delightful eccentricity.”
What kind of theatre she likes: “I am attracted to stories that question established truths and provide a platform for voices that may otherwise go unheard,” Selenow explains. “I strive to bring levity to dark material, because that is how I choose to move through the world. I find humor and joy in the darkest of circumstances, and through my work strive to share this philosophy with others. It is my hope that my work instigates discussion of topics that are uncomfortable to articulate or define—self-identity, blind spots, privilege, inequity—and challenges the audience, company, and myself to interrogate our own choices in how we move through this world.”


GODFREY L. SIMMONS JR.

Godfrey L. Simmons Jr.
Godfrey L. Simmons Jr.

Profession: Actor/director
Hometown: Born on an air force base in England, raised in Yorktown, Va.
Current home: Ithaca, N.Y.
Known for: He’s artistic director of Civic Ensemble and a company member of Epic Theatre Ensemble, for which he contributed as a writer to Dispatches From (A)mended America.
What’s next: At Civic Ensemble, On the Corner (Oct. 2–11), a community-based play exploring economic, social, and cultural structures, which follows an African-American family navigating life “on the corner.” For the holidays, the company will perform Commedia Carol, an adaptation of the Dickens classic.
What makes him special: Epic’s artistic director, Ron Russell, reports that Epic’s “extended ensemble all call Godfrey L. Simmons Jr. ‘The Mayor.’ Godfrey has worked everywhere in NYC’s Off-Broadway scene and knows everyone.” What’s more, Russell says, Simmons “was an integral part of the founding of Epic in 2001. Every ensemble needs leaders, and Godfrey has always been, and continues to be, one of our strongest.”
What he looks for in a play: “As an actor I always want to do big, messy epics—either classics or new plays—that rip the lid off the major themes of this experiment called the United States. My point of entry as an actor is always going to be: What does it mean to be an intelligent black man in this society? As a director or a producer, I’m probably not going to be interested in a play unless it has the potential to ask the questions that a community needs to deal with to move forward. I mean, you can’t do a production of Christmas Carol in the 21st century without dealing with privilege or the rights of workers, the elderly, or the disabled. Can you?”


JACOB PADRÓN

Jacob Padrón
Jacob Padrón

Profession: Artistic producer
Hometown: Gilroy, Calif.
Current home: New York City
Known for: Currently line producer at the Public Theater, Padrón has moved on a fast track through similar artistic-producing jobs at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and Center Theatre Group since receiving his arts management MFA from Yale in 2008.
What’s next: In addition to his work at the Public, Padrón is part of the team behind the Sol Project, a playwright-driven initiative that will identify a cohort of 12 Latino writers and connect them with Off-Broadway theatres to premiere their work, then find them regional productions. “The mission is to create a body of work by Latino writers,” says Padrón.
What makes him special: Oregon Shakes artistic director Bill Rauch praises Padrón, saying, “I have learned so much from his belief in a culture of affirmation and his commitment to thoughtful and rigorous decision-making.”
Where he learned to do what he does: In his second year at Yale, he did a fellowship at L.A.’s Center Theatre Group and was put to work producing the L.A. contingent of Suzan-Lori Parks’s vast 365 Days/365 Plays project. “They handed me this gold mine of an experience,” Padrón recalls. He was once told by Yale’s theatre management chair, Edward A. Martenson, that the “kind of job I wanted didn’t exist. But I think our organizations are changing.” His impressive résumé would seem to testify to the increasing usefulness of a job description he defines as “straddling the artistic and managerial, where I’m essentially a facilitator helping the artists to realize their vision.”


JANELLE LUTZ

Janelle Lutz
Janelle Lutz

Profession: Actor
Hometown: Hollister, Calif.
Current home: Dallas
Known for: The Boy from Oz at Uptown Players, Out of Order at Theatre Britain, and Lady in the Dark and South Pacific at Lyric Stage, among many others.
What’s next: Creep at WaterTower Theatre.
What makes her special: “Janelle is an inspiring performer who can take direction and incorporate it on a dime,” says Kevin L. Ash, a board member at Theatre Britain and director of Out of Order. “She is not only talented, but humble and versatile enough to try anything and make it work into her characterization. Through all of this she is a joy to work with and brings a smile to everyone’s face offstage.”
Her favorite thing about Dallas theatre: “The people,” she answers. “They are the best people you will meet anywhere; they are beyond amazing. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive group. They have accepted me and have truly become my second family.”


JOSEPH VALDEZ

Joseph Valdez
Joseph Valdez

Profession: Playwright/actor
Hometown: Sacramento, Calif.
Current home: Los Angeles
Known for: His play Timestop, which was selected for the 17th Annual Native Voices Playwrights’ Retreat and Festival of New Plays, and his solo show, Little Big Joe the Bug Squasher.
What’s next: He’s currently writing three plays, working with his theatre group Native Voices Artist Ensemble, and will be touring with Will & Company in the production of 50 Years On: Wounded Body and Soul this fall.
What makes him special: “There are artists who choose to write for the theatre, and then there are artists who must write for the theatre,” says Randy Reinholz, founding producing artistic director of Native Voices at the Autry. “Joseph Valdez is the latter­—an exciting, dynamic, high-octane writer-performer who is a joy to work with, listen to, and watch perform onstage. His ideas are intriguing, unique, and necessary. His wild imagination and fierce dedication to the process—a gift. We are lucky to have him in the theatre world and can’t wait to see what comes next.”


JOSH WILDER

Josh Wilder
Josh Wilder

Profession: Playwright
Hometown: Philadelphia
Current home: New Haven, Conn.
Known for: The Highwaymen at Raw Stages New Works Festival at History Theatre; Leftovers at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Playwrights Conference.
What’s next: He’s currently working on his MFA in playwriting at Yale School of Drama.
What makes him special: Ron Peluso, artistic director of History Theatre in St. Paul, Minn., got to know Wilder when he was a Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights’ Center and commissioned him to write The Highwaymen, a play about the destruction of St. Paul’s most vibrant African-American neighborhood for the building of Interstate Highway 94. “His incisive, passionate writing got to the core of the issue and stirred up powerful memories for community members who heard the script at our Raw Stages New Works Festival,” says Peluso.
How he got into theatre: “My mom signed me up for this lottery to attend the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School when I was 10, and I got in!” Wilder recalls. “I took my first drama class in the 7th grade, and it was a wrap after that.” He went on to study theatre at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, eventually ending up at Carnegie Mellon. What kept him going, he says, was “the support and mentorship I received throughout those formative years. I first met Quiara Hudes in her mother’s kitchen on Thanksgiving when I was in high school. She’s been a part of my journey ever since. I’m pretty sure she knew I was a playwright then.”


JOSHUA HOLDEN

Joshua Holden (Courtesy of the Joshua Show)
Joshua Holden (Courtesy of the Joshua Show)

Profession: Puppeteer
Hometown: Peabody, Mass.
Current home: Brooklyn
Known for: The Joshua Show, a family-oriented work featuring puppetry, live music, and physical comedy that has appeared around the country. The show was named best performance and fan favorite at the 2013 National Festival of the Puppeteers of America.
What’s next: In October, The Joshua Show will be presented by the Romania International Theatre Festival for Young Audiences. Next year, the piece will be performed for school audiences at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts as part of Lincoln Center’s Meet the Artist Series.
What makes him special: Aretta Baumgartner, education director at the Center for Puppetry Arts, who saw Holden’s work when she was performance adjudicator for the 2013 National Festival of the Puppeteers of America, raves that Holden “and his puppet soulmate, Mr. Nicholas, are the perfect combination of warmth, wisdom, and whimsy…by combining elements of music, dance, vaudeville, storytelling, acting, and puppetry in his work, Joshua finds a way to allow every audience member to find a way in—to see themselves in the theatre that’s unfolding.”
How he caught the theatre bug: “My mother took me to see The Wizard of Oz at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Mass., when I was seven years old, and by intermission I was begging to join the cast onstage,” he remembers. “I began studying acting soon thereafter, but it wasn’t until after college that I was serendipitously hired to work with a master puppeteer on his newest puppet show. At first I took the job because it was a good paycheck, but over the last eight years I have gone from a reluctant apprentice to creating and managing my own award-winning one-man show, The Joshua Show.”


KARENA FIORENZA INGERSOLL

Karena Fiorenza Ingersoll
Karena Fiorenza Ingersoll

Profession: General manager
Hometown: Arcadia, Calif.
Current home: Chicago
Known for: Fiorenza Ingersoll has worked as the associate managing director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre, annual fund manager at Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre, and associate managing director of Yale Repertory Theatre. She’s currently general manager for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and for the multidisciplinary troupe UNIVERSES.
What’s next: She’s working on a remount of The Art of Falling, a collaboration between Hubbard Street Dance and the Second City, which will run in L.A. in November and in Chicago in June 2016.
What makes her special: “Karena has such a huge heart, which infuses her work all the time,” says Susan Medak, managing director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre. “She brings a warmth and joyful sense of humor to whatever she does.”
How she describes her work: “When people ask me what I do, I respond automatically with, ‘I make dreams come true.’” she says. “My role is to facilitate the creative process to the best of my ability so that the art is the true champion and not muddied by other tangential things or egos. So whether I’m touring the world with a dance company, line-producing a musical about the Black Panthers and Young Lords, or allocating resources in a budget process, I know that every decision I make has purpose and has value to the intrinsic mission of the organization, ensemble, or individual artist that I choose to partner with and serve.”


KELVIN DINKINS JR.

Kelvin Dinkins Jr.
Kelvin Dinkins Jr.

Profession: Creative producer/manager/artist
Hometown:
Born in Queens, raised in Atlanta
Current home: Red Bank, N.J.
Known for: He’s general manager at Two River Theater; previously he served as associate general manager at Seattle’s Intiman Theatre.
What’s next at Two River: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which opens Nov. 14, directed by Jessica Stone.
What makes him special: Rebecca Sherr Christian, who worked with Dinkins when she was general manager at the Intiman, calls Dinkins “a natural leader. During my time working with him, he showed tremendous ability to think on his feet and take on important roles outside his job description with creativity and confidence. He proved himself to be a dynamic thinker, connector, and creator, all of which are so vital to a life in the theatre.”
What led him to the theatre: “A desire to continue the sense of ‘play’ that I experienced from the first time I watched the 1986 [movie] version of Little Shop of Horrors to the moment I spoke my first lines onstage in The Boys Next Door,” Dinkins says. “Of all of my experiences in various facets in theatre, producing has been the career that most satisfies my desire to facilitate the art for artists and distribute the art to those that need it. I discovered my love of theatre very late in life simply from a lack of access, and it is my hope to eliminate such barriers in the future for others. Everyone should be in a play or musical at least once in their lives.”


LATESHIA DEZELLE ELLERSON

LaTeshia Dezelle Ellerson
LaTeshia Dezelle Ellerson

Profession: Development professional
Hometown: Houston
Current home: Atlanta
Known for: She’s development director at True Colors Theatre Company; she previously studied and worked as an actor at Chicago’s Second City.
What’s next: True Colors’ production of Fetch Clay, Make Man begins performances on Oct. 27. As a fundraiser, her largest project is the company’s annual Celebrity Golf Tournament and Gala (May 21, 2016).
What makes her special: Jenn McEwen, True Colors’s managing director, calls Ellerson “a diligent worker and innovative thinker. She came on board with True Colors and established an annual giving campaign that has continued to grow based on her relationships with our donors…We are lucky to have a development director who cares so deeply and passionately about our mission—it makes such a difference.”
Her vision for the American theatre: “I envision theatre as a tool to reach the most disadvantaged groups in our society. Leaders in the most thriving cities in our country realize that a flourishing arts and culture industry is part of the formula to make their city competitive, increase tax revenue, and enhance innovation. The private and public sector are key in shifting the mindset toward regional investment in the creative arts sector. We need these leaders to mobilize their peers and cities behind this effort to see a major shift in the funding landscape.”


LISA PORTES

Lisa Portes (Photo by Joe Mazza/BraveLux)
Lisa Portes (Photo by Joe Mazza/BraveLux)

Profession: Director/head of directing at the Theatre School at DePaul University
Hometown: Daughter of an Air Force brat and Cuban exile, Portes spent her formative years in U.S. college towns and Latin American cities
Current home: Chicago
Known for: She directed the controversial production of Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval’s This Is Modern Art at Steppenwolf, about a group of teenagers who grafitti-bombed the Art Institute of Chicago. “The criticism was that the piece was one-sided and glorified criminal activity,” Portes says of the Chicago critics’ response. “As far as I’m concerned, the status quo gets plenty of play and good plays are rarely about obedience.” She also recently organized Carnaval 2015, a festival of new Latina/o plays.
What’s next: The Cathouse, a large-scale, site-specific installation styled after a brothel which theatrically meditates on 12 of the Western canon’s most notable bad girls: Hedda Gabler, Miss Julie, Phaedra, etc. “The narrative goes that they want too much sex or power and then they die,” she says. “I’m interested in interrupting that narrative by imagining what they do when they are by themselves—outside of their story and beyond their authors’ purview.”
What makes her special: Playwright Luis Alfaro says he has watched Portes’s work mature from forceful early directorial choices to more nuanced and complex recent ones. “If you stick around long enough, like Lisa has, the gift is relaxation and leaning back to let the work breathe,” says Alfaro. “Don’t get me wrong, the hands are still going—she is Cuban, after all—but now they illustrate, where once they punctuated.”
What kind of work she wants to make: “I am drawn to work that illuminates unexpected worlds and puts characters we rarely meet onstage at the helm of the story,” says Portes. “As a director, educator, advocate, and producer, I aim to define and promote a new American narrative that is driven aesthetically and politically by the world we are becoming, rather than the world we’ve been.”


MALIC WHITE

Malic White (Photo by Joe Mazza/BraveLux)
Malic White (Photo by Joe Mazza/BraveLux)

Profession: Actor/writer
Hometown: Schererville, Ind.
Current home: Chicago
Known for: Many recognize White as an ensemble member of the Neo-Futurists, especially from Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, “an ever-changing attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes.” They* also star as St. Jimmy in the Hypocrites’ production of American Idiot (through Oct. 25). “I’m thrilled to take on a role that has been played by Billie Joe Armstrong and Melissa Etheridge!”
What’s next: White is at work on their first full-length show, POP WAITS, “an athletic, participatory, clown rock musical,” written with “partner in love, art, and crime” Molly Brennan and slated to premiere at the Neo-Futurists in February 2016.
What makes them special: Neo-Futurists artistic director Bilal Dardai has known White since the performer joined the ensemble in 2012. “Malic makes work about the worlds they came from and the worlds they live in, about the joy and rage that come from being painfully aware, and while much of what they write is born in the theatre, it rarely dies there,” says Dardai. “It follows you home and tries to continue the conversation, and if you’re willing to listen, it changes you.”
How they found their individuality: “I began performing in musicals at age four, but I took time away from theatre in college to pursue writing and social justice work. I gave acting another shot after graduation and was turned down for role after role with the same comment: ‘We really like you, but you just look too androgynous.’ When I auditioned for the Neo-Futurists, I quickly found a home in an aesthetic that requires its performers to be themselves…I challenge theatres to consider work outside of the straight white male playwright canon, and I challenge casting directors to cast creatively. We’re actors, after all.”
*White’s preferred pronoun.


NELSON T. EUSEBIO III

Nelson T. Eusebio III
Nelson T. Eusebio III

Profession: Director
Hometown: San Diego, Calif.
Current home: New York City
Known for: Eusebio ran the Leviathan Lab, an Asian-American creative studio in New York, from 2011 to 2013; as a freelance director, he helmed the critically acclaimed productions of It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at Center Stage in Baltimore and PlayMakers Rep in Chapel Hill, N.C., as well as the Marathon of New Plays at Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York.
What’s next: A short film musical adaptation of Cyrano set in 1980s New York with an Asian Cyrano and a white Roxanne. “I’ve found that creating work for artists of color for film/video is deeply rewarding, as many actors of color are given ‘under-five’ roles on television shows.” He’s also developing a site-specific adaptation of Genet’s The Balcony.
What makes him special: “Nelson is a visionary leader and director in our field,” says playwright and director Chay Yew. “Passionate and fierce, he always strives for the theatrical collision between the personal and the political in his work. It’s as if he’s restlessly searching for an American utopia where equity and diversity is the norm.”
What inspires him: “The potential for change. We are capable of more than we think we are; we can change, grow, expand,” says Eusebio. “Often the world wants us to stay small, remain in our lanes, and be ‘safe.’ The conflict that arises from that is the place I make stories from. I make work about change, the forces that create it, and the aftermath of it. My hope is that we can give the power to the people, serve as a model to those who are coming next, share stories that reflect the world we live in now and the world we’d like to be living in.”


SEAN DORSEY

Sean Dorsey
Sean Dorsey

Profession: Dancer/choreographer
Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.
Current home: San Francisco
Known for: As one of the nation’s first major transgender choreographers, he’s earned three Isadora Duncan Awards and founded Fresh Meat Productions, which has produced the evening-length work The Secret History of Love.
What’s next: The continuing tour of Dorsey’s newest evening-length work, The Missing Generation, about longtime survivors of the early AIDS epidemic—a work he created over a two-year period, doing oral history interviews and weaving the audio into a soundscape/score that he then choreographed.
What makes him special: Rhodessa Jones, co-artistic director of San Francisco’s Cultural Odyssey, called Dorsey “an artist for the 21st century. He’s committed, passionate, and elegant in his choreography.” She particularly admires “his archival work around the history of dance; he guides us with a very laser-like gaze into the history of a transgender artist in America.”
What he wants audiences to get from his work: “A transformational experience: to have deep, visceral feelings of resonance and connection with the stories and bodies onstage; to feel their hearts open; to be invited to touch on a long-buried grief or experience in order to heal; to see through the illusion of separation between us all, whether LGBT or straight; to understand that my happiness and liberation is tied to yours; to experience catharsis and healing,” he says. “Yes, this is gorgeous dance, but we dance it for a reason, and we dance with a purpose.”


PATRICIA DURAN

Patricia Duran
Patricia Duran

Profession: Actor
Hometown and Current Home: Houston
Known for: Starring roles in Drowning Girls and Cloud Tectonics, both at Mildred’s Umbrella Theater in Houston. She also appeared in Our Lady of 121st Street at the Alley Theatre and Blood Wedding at Stages Repertory Theatre.
What’s next: She’ll play Lucy in Mac Wellman’s Dracula with Mildred’s Umbrella, opening Oct. 15. She’ll next appear in Caryl Churchill’s Love & Information at Main Street Theater in February 2016.
What makes her special: Says Jennifer Decker, artistic director of Mildred’s Umbrella, Duran “shows such a range and talent that local press have called her ‘magnificent’ and have claimed to be ‘transfixed’ by her when she is onstage.”
What inspires her: “Growing up, my mother told me if I wanted to act, then I needed to watch the old Hollywood films,” she says. “I became obsessed with actors like Bette Davis, especially in her earlier work. I must have seen Of Human Bondage a hundred times. I was mesmerized by her transformation and how fearless she was, and I wanted to be like that in my work. I still do.”


TYLER KINNEY

Tyler Kinney (Photo by Jennifer Marquez)
Tyler Kinney (Photo by Jennifer Marquez)

Profession: Costume designer
Hometown: Reading, Mass.
Current home: Boston
Known for: Costumes for Astro Boy and the God of Comics at Boston’s Company One, which won him the Elliot Norton Award for outstanding design from the Boston Theater Critics Association; for Henry VI, Part 2 at Actors’ Shakespeare Project in Somerville, Mass.; and scenic design for Bud, Not Buddy at Emerson College, for which he was a Kennedy Center American Theater Festival national finalist.
What’s next: SpeakEasy Stage Company’s production of Appropriate (Sept. 12–Oct. 10), and Othello (Sept 23–Oct. 25) at Actors’ Shakespeare Project.
What makes him special: “Tyler Kinney is already setting himself apart on the landscape for his insight into the work, his generosity in collaboration, and his tireless work ethic,” says Allyn Burrows, artistic director of Actors’ Shakespeare Project. “It’s rare to witness someone stay true to his design while inviting so much conversation around the process. His professionalism is unparalleled.”


SNEHAL DESAI

Snehal Desai
Snehal Desai

Profession: Director/writer
Hometown: Quakertown, Pa.
Current home: Los Angeles
Known for: As an associate artistic director at East West Players, he recently directed The Who’s Tommy there; he also has a solo show titled Finding Ways to Prove You’re Not an Al-Qaeda Terrorist When You’re Brown (“I like to call it subtle humor,” he quips).
What’s next: He’ll direct the Sanskrit classic Shakuntala at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., the American premiere of Anupama Chandrasekhar’s Free Outgoing for Boom Arts in Portland, Ore., and an EWP touring show about Bhagat Singh Thind, an Indian-American WWI vet denied citizenship due to exclusionary immigration laws.
What makes him special: East West Players artistic director Tim Dang says he has watched as Desai’s “youthful activism” has “matured into a ‘rock star’ status in his stance for equity, diversity, and inclusion. Snehal has a vision for the next generation of the American theatre, and he is fearless as a leader.”
What drives him: “I was a poli-sci major, then I went into theatre studies when I basically didn’t want to leave school,” he says. “I’m very inspired by political playwrights like Havel and Brecht, and by theatre being a place for political discourse, for the community to come together to talk about larger issues. Through storytelling, we can humanize them. You can read a headline, ‘5,000 People Killed,’ but if you bring it home in an intimate, live way in the theatre, it reaches people in a way that can effect change.”


TENNESSEE DIXON

Tennessee Dixon
Tennessee Dixon

Profession: Set/video designer
Hometown: Born on Toul-Rosières Air Base, France; raised in Springfield, Ill.
Current home: Richmond, Va.
Known for: She designs interactive media and projections for international artists, including kumungo player Jin Hi Kim (Dong Dong: Touching the Moons) and choreographer Ivan Angelus (VU). Most recently, she did sets and projections for the musical Boy in the Bathroom at Richmond’s Firehouse Theatre, where she serves as an associate producer, handling Firehouse STUDIO, an incubator for experimental performance work.
What’s next: Set and projections for storytelling virtuoso Clay McLeod Chapman’s “brutal but humorous” Junta High.
What makes her special: Joel Bassin, Firehouse’s artistic director, says that Dixon is “able to distill complex stories into singular physical environments that, in their simple elegance, evoke deep currents of meaning.”
What excites her: “I’m interested in the relationship between the live narrative and the language of graphics and visual symbol. If projections are used as scenic art, I do not want the media to impose on the scene but to help create a believable place and be integrated into the mix of what happens onstage. I embed slow changes throughout long scenes so viewers sense something is alive but can’t pinpoint the changes.”


VICTOR MAOG

Victor Maog
Victor Maog

Profession: Director, creative producer, and arts educator
Hometown: Union City, Calif.
Current home: New York City
Known for: As the artistic director of Second Generation Productions (2g), and V.P. of the board of directors of the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists (CAATA), Maog develops projects and programs featuring artists of color, promotes the work of women, and empowers underserved communities.
What’s next: Directing the ABC/Disney Talent Showcase, which will launch 12 diverse actors into the industry; mentoring the Brown/Trinity MFA Shakespeare Project; guest-directing the Yale School of Drama MFA actors; the world premiere of his first play, tot: The Untold Yet Spectacular Story of (a filipino) Hulk Hogan at Mu Performing Arts (June 16–26, 2016), about a boy who explains his new American life through pro wrestling; and preparations for CAATA’s National Asian-American Theater Conference and Festival at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2016.
What makes him special: Gladys Chen, president of Second Generation Productions, calls Maog “a visionary” who has been driven to “build bridges between playwrights and audiences, between theatres and communities, and between local and national theatres.” In particular he is “creating theatre experiences that are winning the hearts and minds of audiences 18–40 years of age, a.k.a. the YouTube/Netflix generation, who can’t wait to come back to the theatre to see what’s next.”
What he’s striving for: “By inviting a multiplicity of stories, aesthetics, and decision-makers to the table, we can wrestle with the challenges of our day, which—when we start to scratch away—begin to reveal the entanglements across all time,” Maog says. “My goal is that we capture our culture, all the complexities of it. Because we all are—whether we like it or not—in a race against time.”

  • http://www.jamilmangan.com Jamil A.C. Mangan

    Josh Wilder is certainly someone to watch

    • Marlene Goebig

      Josh Wilder is an amazing young man with endless potential!

  • Christine Evans

    Great series idea! I’d like to recommend Charlotte Meehan for this series. Her company, Sleeping Weazel, does amazing work in Boston, bringing not just ethnic, age and gender diversity to the stage but also staging avant-garde and aesthetically singular work. SW’s “African-American History and it’s Expressions” was a brilliant curatorial event as well as art event. Charlotte is also a badass playwright and curates a cyber-art gallery through Sleeping Weazel.

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