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6 Theatre Workers You Should Know

From a sound designer in New York City to an arts administrator in Baltimore, here are some theatre workers to have on your radar.

Curtis Williams

Curtis Williams. (Photo by Lauren Alicia)

Profession: Actor
Hometowns: Born in Monrovia, Liberia, raised in New Orleans
Current home: New Haven, Conn.
Known for: Top credits include roles in Stephen Adly Giurgis’s Den of Thieves at New Mexico’s Santa Fe University of Art and Design and Escape From Happiness and Othello, both at Yale School of Drama. In late July he appeared in Greg Keller’s Dutch Masters in Crestone, Colo.
What’s next: He’s beginning his third year in Yale’s MFA acting program.
What makes him special: Kathy Randels, artistic director of New Orleans’s ArtSpot Productions, calls Williams “an amazing young actor for all of us to watch. He has an ability to completely transform/melt into each character.” Randels recounts meeting Williams when, as a child, he’d accompany his father, Curtis Muhammad, “a legendary worldwide civil rights activist and a lifelong hell raiser for freedom, to community and labor-organizing meetings.” She says Williams “was always quiet, but you could tell there was a lot going on inside his gentle spirit.”
Environmental influences: Williams recalls getting interested in acting when mimicry of his classmates helped stop their teasing and made him new friends. That same year Hurricane Katrina struck NOLA, which led him to relocate a number of times across the U.S. and to Jamaica. As a result, he notes, he realized early on how environments can affect someone’s personality. “I started to become more animated without realizing it,” he says. “People see a brand-new person when I’m onstage, and they have an opportunity to understand the pain and obstacles many other people like me have to face on a daily basis.”


Elisheba Ittoop

Elisha Ittoop. (Photo by C. Stanley Photography)

Profession: Sound designer
and composer
Hometowns: Born in London,
raised in Cary, N.C.
Current home: New York City
Known for: She recently redesigned the Mystic Aquarium’s California Sea Lion show, for which she recorded vocals for the song parody “Eye of the Sea Lion” (in the style of “Eye of the Tiger”) and contributed lyrics for a song parody of “Roar.” Her design for Sunday in the Park With George at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis was heard through late August, as was her design for Romeo and Juliet at western New York’s Chautauqua Theater Company.
What’s next: Henry IV Part 2 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival continues through Oct. 29, and The Rembrandt runs at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago Sept. 7-Nov. 5.
What makes her special: David Stewart, the Guthrie’s director of production, says Ittoop was “an absolute delight to work with” on Sunday. “Strong, professional, approachable, Elisheba embodies all that I could hope for in a sound designer. She was able to take a very difficult space to design in and make this production hum. It is one of the best-sounding designs I have heard in the space.”
A chance composition: Ittoop was busy pursuing acting in college, but then one semester somehow got “accidentally placed into a sound design class. I went with the flow and headed over to the sound lab at NYU,” she says. To her suprise, it fit her like a pair of headphones: “I was able to funnel my love of storytelling into this new-to-me medium. I come from a very musical family, and this way of storytelling just completely clicked with me.” She adds, “Hands down, this was the best scheduling mistake ever.”


JoAnn M. Hunter

JoAnn M. Hunter. (Photo by Patrick Vaccariello)

Profession: Choreographer
Hometowns: Made in America, born in Japan, raised in Rhode Island
Current home: New York City
Known for: After working for years as a Broadway triple threat, Hunter transitioned to dance captain, then associate choreographer, and finally choreographer on the Main Stem musicals On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Disaster!, and the still-running School of Rock.
What’s next: More work on Beatsville, a Beatnik musical with Glenn Slater and Wendy Leigh Wilf that had a run at Sarasota, Fla.’s Asolo Repertory Theatre last spring. Also in the works: a possible new rock musical by an unnamed artist; A Sign of the Times, with music by Petula Clark and a book by Bruce Vilanch; and a personal project about pro footballers called Perfect Spiral.
What makes her special: Director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw raves that Hunter’s work “is always creative and has a great energy to it, just like her—her enthusiastic energy is contagious. She is also a good storyteller and makes sure that the dance feels organic to the show and the plot.” Her background as a hoofer herself, he says, also means she’s “extremely patient, because she remembers what it was like.”
Stepping up: “What keeps me going in the theatre is the challenge!” Hunter effuses. “I thrive on new ideas, new people, new inspirations.” Including her own: “I would like to create my own piece that I have been working on. I am scared to death, but I think it is quite relevant to human nature—your identity and how or why we hold on to it, or not. It is a piece that I want to tell through a great deal of movement and dance.”


 Jim Streeter

Jim Streeter.

Profession: Production manager
Hometown: Trenton, N.J.
Current home: Palmyra, N.J.
Known For: He is the production manager for Princeton University’s Performing Arts Services. From 1990 to 2000, he was the resident lighting designer for Princeton’s program in theatre and dance (now the Lewis Center for the Arts). He is also a member of the board of directors for the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), a vice commissioner for diversity for the lighting commission of USITT, and a member of USITT’s diversity and inclusion committee.
What’s next: A Festival of the Arts at Princeton in October, which includes the world premiere of an adaptation of Euripides’ The Bacchae, written by Princeton alum Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, which will open the new Wallace Theater.
What makes him special: Jane Cox, director of Princeton’s theatre program, calls Streeter “an incredibly generous and thoughtful human being and artist who dedicates his time to working with student theatre groups, and cajoles and coaxes them into being excited about design and production.” He’s “at the heart of theatre and dance at Princeton University…Our students are so lucky to have him supporting them.”
The drive for diversity: “I’m very passionate about equity, diversity, and inclusion,” says Streeter, who was one of the first mentors in USITT’s Gateway Program in 2014. He finds it particularly rewarding to work with USITT’s diversity and inclusion committee, whose members’ “enthusiasm, dedication, and spirit drive me to do the work. We tell our mentees every year that this is family, and you will always be a part of this family we choose.”


Mia Chung

Mia Chung. (Photo by Heather Chung)

Profession: Playwright
Hometown: Tarrytown, N.Y.
Current home: “Post-geographic”
Known for: You for Me for You, a play about two sisters fleeing North Korea, at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., Royal Court Theatre in London, and the National Theater of Korea in Seoul.
What’s next: Chung is currently developing her plays Catch as Catch Can, This Exquisite Corpse, an untitled play with music about the Korean War, and “a children’s play with music based on a Korean myth and a Buddhist koan, which I workshopped at the Unicorn Theatre in London.”
What makes her special: Howard Shalwitz, Woolly Mammoth’s artistic director, who commissioned You for Me for You, describes Chung’s plays as containing “an inquisitiveness about who we are as a nation and who we are becoming, as she explores issues such as identity, gender, and globalism.” To tell the diverging stories of two sisters who are separated, Shalwitz says, Chung “employs daring forms and styles without losing her deep sense of empathy for her characters.”
Her artistic ethos: Chung relies on what she calls “Beginner’s Mind” for creativity. “I never like to do the same thing twice,” she explains. “I often start writing before I am fully conscious of it as writing.” She is particularly fascinated with form, saying, “Innovation of form interests me as much as fresh content.” For her, theatre is “confrontation. Ideally it is experienced live, in person, and in the company of others; ideally, it communicates with our whole selves—brain, heart, and guts. Ideally, it gives the stage to overlooked perspectives and then ideally we see ourselves. Theatre is an opportunity to make ideas flesh—that’s the brass ring.”


Stephanie Rolland

Stephanie Rolland. (Photo by Bill Geenen)

Profession: Producer and
arts administrator
Hometown: Philadelphia
Current home: Baltimore
Known for: In 2016 Rolland was part of Theatre Communications Group’s inaugural Rising Leader of Colors cohort. She has served on TCG’s National Awards Committee and the League of Resident Theatres’ diversity recruitment subcommittee. She has been on the literary committee for the Philadelphia Young Playwrights since 2009. She was the event manager for Yale University’s inaugural “Inspiring Yale” performance, as well as the project manager for the “Krymov Lab at Yale” program featuring director Dmitry Krymov.
What’s next: As artistic administrator of Baltimore Center Stage, Rolland is working on a number of special projects, conducting local casting, negotiating contracts, and serving as the theatre’s representative to Actors’ Equity Association, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and the local musicians’ union. She is also worked on a short festival about Harlem with the Harlem School of the Arts last month.
What makes her special: “The beautiful thing about Stephanie Rolland is the professionalism, passion, and joy she brings to the artistic team,” says Kwame Kwei-Armah, Center Stage’s artistic director. “From tending to our relationships with various unions to supporting the art on our stages, I count her work with us as a blessing.”
Primal instincts: “I am inspired by humanity’s primal urge to keep on living,” she says. “What pushes us out of the door each day? What happens when person A meets person Z along the way? The stage is our lab. The plays are our artistic experiments. I am fueled by the search for the answers. The possibilities are endless.”

 

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