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6 Theatre Workers You Should Know

From a sports lawyer who loves theatre to a playwright who was inspired by Chernobyl, these are theatre artists you should know more about this month.

Alan Fein

Alan Fein
Alan Fein (Courtesy of the Arsht Center)

Profession: Sports and entertainment lawyer
Hometown: Born in Philadelphia, raised in Miami
Current city: Key Biscayne, Fla.
Known for: He helped bring NBA basketball to Miami; as chair of the Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Council, he aided in the planning and creation of the Ad­­rienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County; now he’s the chair of the Performing Arts Center Trust board of directors of the Arsht Center.
What’s next: The next theatre production at the Arsht Center is The Hammer Trini­­ty, April 2–May 8.
What makes him special: “Very few people in this city can say they’ve had a role in making Miami a world-class cultural destination, but Alan can,” says John Richard, the Arsht Center’s CEO and president. “I am convinced that his calling in life is to raise awareness of the importance of art and culture.” According to Liz Wallace, the Arsht Center’s vice president of programming, “What sets Alan apart from the rest and makes him an asset to the Arsht Center is his ability to see an opportunity where others see challenges.”
How he married into theatre: His wife is playwright Susan Westfall, a founding producer of Miami’s City Theatre. “I dare say Susi is the world’s only dramatist with her own NBA championship ring,” Fein quips. When they met, Fein recalls, he was a student athlete at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “I knew about sports, business, and politics, and not much else. I did not know a proscenium from a plumber’s helper.” Through Westfall, Fein has “learned to love the ‘back of house’ at the theatre as much as ‘the back of house’ at the AmericanAirlines Arena, where the Miami Heat play.”

Alina Bokovikova

Alina Bokovikova
Alina Bokovikova

Profession: Costume designer
Hometown: Born in Lugansk, Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union, she came to the U.S. from Novosibirsk, Russia
Current city: Cupertino, Calif.
Known for: She received the San Diego Critics Circle Craig Noel Award in 2014 for her costumes in School for Lies at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach, Calif.; her designs have been featured in exhibitions in Moscow and at the Prague Quadrennial. She’s also a part-time professor of fashion arts at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
What’s next: Way Downriver at North Coast Rep, April 13–May 8, and Fences at California Shakespeare Theater in Berkeley, July 6–31.
What makes her special: North Coast Rep artistic director David Ellenstein, who has hired Bokovikova to design 15 productions at the theatre, calls her “a brilliant and talented designer. She is creative and collaborative with the director and with the actors. She not only creates stunning costumes, but fills them with intrigue, whimsy, and flair. She is equally adept in period, modern, or free-form design. I will work with her anytime. She is a great artist.”
How she became a costume designer: Originally an art teacher, eight years ago Bokovikova happened to take an art history class with Snezana Petrovic at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, Calif. “She recognized my passion to the art and brought me to the costume shop,” the designer recalls. “And I forgot that I came to this college to improve my English, not sewing. I became a real costume designer at the University of Californ­ia–San Diego graduate school, where my great mentor Judith Dolan turned my artistic intuition into professional knowledge.”

Kamala Sankaram

Kamala Sankaram
Kamala Sankaram

Profession: Composer
Hometown: Ramona, Calif.
Current home: Spuyten Duyvil, the Bronx
Known for: Sankaram won the Jonathan Larson Award in 2013 for her steampunk murder mystery Miranda, which played at New York City’s HERE. Her second opera, Thumbprint, with librettist Susan Yankowitz, was part of New York’s PROTOTYPE Festival in 2014.
What’s next: Thumbprint will be produced at L.A. Opera in the 2016–17 season, and her band, Bombay Rickey, is recording their second album. She’s also working on an opera about privacy with librettist Rob Handel. “We’ve been describing it as Edward Snowden mashed up with Casablanca,” she says. “We’re working with Alessandro Acquisti, a privacy expert at Carnegie Mellon University, to design a system that will allow us to gather information from the online digital footprints of our audience members and use this information in the songs in the show.”
What makes her special: “Kamala is the most exciting new musical theatre composer I’ve encountered in five years,” says playwright Marc Acito. “Her music sounds like no one else’s—a unique fusion of surf rock, classical, spaghetti Westerns, and Bollywood. Also, you’ve got to love someone who can sing Mozart’s insanely high ‘Queen of the Night’ to a rumba beat.”
Why theatre: Sankaram started making theatre because she wanted to tell stories that could open up new ways of seeing the world. “I’m interested in creating work that is socially aware and that draws from both Western and non-Western influences,” she says. “As a biracial Indian-American woman, it’s very important to me to see a diversity of perspectives in the stories we’re telling each other.”

Matthew Cameron Clark

Matthew Cameron Clark
Matthew Cameron Clark (Photo by Deborah Hardee)

Profession: Director/playwright
Hometown and current home: Boise, Idaho (he’s a seventh-generation Idahoan)
Known for: As founding artistic director of Boise Contemporary Thea­ter, Clark helped create the BCT River Prize, which supports playwrights through new-play develop­ment and production. He has written three plays with Dwayne Blackaller—A Nighttime Survival Guide, The Uncanny Valley, and Narwhal! Unicorn of the Sea—and is writing a fourth.
What’s next: This month Clark will direct the premiere of Eric Coble’s Margin of Error (or, the Unassailable Wisdom of the Mouse and the Scorpion), April 13–May 7.
What makes him special: “Beyond his obvious love of playwrights and artists, what makes Matt so special is that his passion for theatre is only matched by his passion for Boise,” says Jeff Griffin, managing director of Classic Stage Company in NYC. “He’s truly committed to bringing the best of American theatre to his hometown, and in entwining his two loves he’s created a gem of a theatre.”
Why theatre: Clark was an 11-year-old King Duncan in Macbeth, but his love for theatre really began at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. Clark’s first paying gig was at Idaho Shakespeare Festival. “I held a spear, learned a lot, and met an amazing group of people,” Clark says. The following year, instead of going to grad school, Clark began producing theatre with friends. He hasn’t regretted a minute since: “The most important thing in my life is making meaningful connections with other people, and a life in the theatre has provided more opportunities for that than I ever could have imagined.”

Martyna Majok

Martyna Majok
Martyna Majok

Profession: Playwright
Hometown: Born in Bytom, Poland, raised in Newark, N.J.
Current home: New York City, where she’s in her first year at Juilliard
Known for: Ironbound, running in NYC March 3–April 10, in a coproduction between Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and Women’s Project Theater. She’s also the recipient of the 2015–16 Playwrights of New York (PoNY) Fellowship, which includes one year of housing in NYC and artistic development.
What’s Next: Cost of Living at Massachusetts’s Williamstown Theatre Festival (June 29–July 10), and commissions from Manhattan Theatre Club, Marin Theatre Company, the Foundry Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre, and South Coast Repertory.
What makes her special:Ironbound is a story we rarely see on our stages, of someone living in extreme poverty struggling to survive in a country where good jobs for blue-collar workers have slowly disappeared,” enthuses Ryan Rilette, producing artistic director of Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Md., which premiered the play. He also praises Majok’s “use of language—she has found a way to elevate the syntax of the Polish immigrant into a gritty street poetry that is unlike anything I’ve ever heard.”
What inspires her: When Majok was 2 years old in Poland, she says, “My baby teeth turned black and disintegrated from what we think was exposure to radiation from Chernobyl.” That harrowing memory grounds Majok’s mission: “I write the perimeters and pockets of society, American and otherwise—places where people live in basements, in spare rooms, on couches, in abandoned woods and warehouses, and quarantine homes.” Until she received the PoNY fellowship, in fact, Majok and her husband were sleeping in a bathtub in a bedbug-filled sublet, and considering leaving the field. “It’s hard out there for a theatre artist who does not come from wealth,” she says, “and I suspect this is why we’ve had less of those stories on our stages.”

Miriam A. Laube

Miriam A. Laube
Miriam A. Laube

Profession: Actor
Hometown: Pittsburgh
Current home: Ashland, Ore.
Known for: In 12 seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, favorite roles have included the Witch in Into the Woods, Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, Rosalind in As You Like It, Vasan­tasena in The Clay Cart, and Maruca in Universes’ Party People.
What’s next: This season she’ll assay various roles in Timon of Athens and return to The Winter’s Tale, in which she previous­ly played Hermione; this time out she’ll play Hermione’s loyal and courageous bestie Paulina, in Desdemona Chiang’s new production.
What makes her special: OSF artistic director Bill Rauch, who has directed Laube several times, says she’s been “a major artistic force in my life since I arrived,” not only as a performer but also as his associate director on The Pirates of Penzance. In all their work together, he says, “as a collaborator she has an uncanny ability to see the bigger picture. She is a total theatre artist.”
How she caught the theatre bug: Raised by parents from Germany and India, respectively, Laube remembers that a theatre moved in across the street from her house in Mc­Keesport, Pa., when she was 5, and she recalls the first show she saw there, Man of La Mancha. “I remember the sensation of being inside the music,” she recounts. “I didn’t know what was going on in the show, but I remember the feeling, the energy.” She recaptures the sensation now, especially within the language of Shakespeare and Sondheim: “You say those words and they have a sort of fire, a taste—they feel good in your mouth.”

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