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6 Theatre Workers You Should Know

From a fine arts major turned playwright to a spoken-word artist inspired by gardening, here are some stage folks to keep your eye on.

Evren Odcikin

Evren Odcikin.
Evren Odcikin.

Profession: Director/producer
Hometown: Istanbul, Turkey
Current home: San Francisco
Known for: Directing Urge for Going by Mona Mansour and Language Rooms by Yussef El Guindi at Golden Thread Productions, where he’s director of new plays and marketing; directing 410[GONE] by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig at Crowded Fire Theater.
What’s next: He’ll helm the world premiere of The Most Dangerous Highway in the World by Kevin Artigue at Golden Thread (May 6–29), and I Call My Brothers by Jonas Hassen Khemiri at Crowded Fire Theater.
What makes him special: Golden Thread founding artistic director Torange Yeghiazarian, who’s worked with Odcikin since 2005, first heard about him from a colleague at Magic Theatre, who called him “the wonder boy.” Enthuses Yeghiazarian, “He has an impressive range of skills, but I most appreciate his ability to simultaneously support and challenge me.”
What kinds of projects excite him: “I love visiting different worlds, different perspectives, so I’m always looking for singular voices,” Odcikin says. “I love figuring out how my voice interacts with another’s.” Odcikin typically directs works that address underrepresented communities. “I am always drawn to the story of the outsider,” he adds. “I relish the drama and the humanity that emerge when those relegated to the sidelines take centerstage. Because of my personal background, this ­usually—but not exclusively—manifests itself as immigrant stories…I want to make these divergent perspectives the norm and not the exception.”

Martine Kei Green-Rogers

Martine Kei Green-Rogers.
Martine Kei Green-Rogers.

Profession: Dramaturg, professor
Hometown: Norfolk, Va.
Current home: Salt Lake City
Known for: Shakespeare productions with a twist, such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2014 The Comedy of Errors set in the Harlem Renaissance, and director Ron OJ Parson’s shows at Chicago’s Court Theatre.
What’s next: She’s one of the dramaturgs at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in Omaha, Neb. (May 28–June 4). And she’s the dramaturg for two of OSF’s Play on! commissions, The Comedy of Errors and The Two Noble Kinsmen. She’ll also dramaturg Court Theatre’s Blues for an Alabama Sky in 2017.
What makes her special: “I know everybody thinks they are multitasking, but Martine actually is,” observes OSF interim director of literary development and dramaturgy Lue Morgan Douthit, who has known Green-Rogers since Douthit hired her as OSF’s FAIR Shakespeare dramaturgy fellow for the 2007 season. “I’ve never met anyone who could juggle the threads of so many conversations and communication platforms at the same time. It’s ridiculously scary how many worlds she is tapped into.”
What she’d pursue with more time: When not wrapped up in dramaturgy projects or teaching at the University of Utah, she’s been thinking about devising a site-specific piece with her Utah friends Julie Rada, Aaron Swenson, and Chris Copelin about race, gender, and identity, tentatively called Bento Boxes and Collard Greens (a nod to the culinary history of some of the cultures represented in the group). “I am always interested in social justice issues and how they manifest in the theatre,” Green-­Rogers says. “I know it is why I can never quit doing what I do and lending my voice to the conversations.”

Jason H. Thompson

Jason H. Thompson.
Jason H. Thompson.

Profession: Projection and lighting designer
Hometown: Allegan, Mich.
Current city: Los Angeles
Known for: Thompson recently won an Ovation Award for his projection design work on Chavez Ravine: An L.A. Revival at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Among his many credits: Baby, It’s You! on Broadway and Venice at the Public Theater in NYC.
What’s next: Thompson is designing lighting and projections for shows at Shanghai Disney Resort: a Frozen sing-along show and a live Tarzan show.
What makes him special: “Jason is an innovator,” says costume designer Ann Closs-Farley, who recently worked with Thompson on a production of The Cunning Little Vixen at ­Severance Hall in Cleveland. “I am always relieved and excited when Jason is on the design team, because, first and foremost, his projections and lighting are going to make my costumes look amazing. More importantly, I know Jason is going to be available and excited to collaborate to help make the material become alive.”
First blood: One of his first jobs after grad school was assisting on the infamous Broadway production of Dracula, the Musical, but a job’s a job. “I rented a tiny closet space in Washington Heights that was exactly the size of a blow-up mattress, but I didn’t mind,” recalls Thompson. “I was having the time of my life working as a projection design assistant on Broadway. For young designers, being in the theatre is better than any classroom. I observed greats like Des McAnuff and Howell Binkley. I learned so much working with projection designer Michael Clark. He really taught me how to be a projection designer.”

Shá Cage

Sha Cage.
Sha Cage.

Profession: Actor/spoken word artist/curator
Hometown: Natchez, Miss.
Current home: Minneapolis
Known for: Last fall she opened two shows on the same day, playing Prince Hal in Henry IV Part I with Ten Thousand Things and the girl in her self-penned solo work U/G/L/Y at the Guthrie Theater. Other credits include Grounded at the Frank ­Theatre, The Ballad of Emmett Till at Penumbra Theater Company, Mary T & Lizzy K at Park Square Theatre, and Agnes Under the Big Top and Ruined at Mixed Blood.
What’s next: She’ll appear in Kira Obolensky’s new play Changelings at Ten Thousand Things, May 13–June 5, and continue to tour U/G/L/Y. Also this summer she’s featured in two short films by E.G. Bailey, New Neighbors and Foto Libre.
What makes her special: Penumbra co-artistic director Sarah Bellamy calls Cage “an artist who is truly and deeply connected to community. She has undoubtedly helped raise many of the young female artists of color in the Twin Cities, creating safe and nurturing forums for them to find voice and express themselves with authenticity.” And how about as an actor? Bellamy said Cage is “focused, sharp, and carries audiences on her journey with grace.”
What keeps her going: As someone who caught the performing bug in a “deeply Southern Baptist Church,” Cage says she is still “inspired by ritual and change,” and also “by culture and activism.” On the other hand, she is “floored by history that often leaves so many out.” So what excites her going forward? “The new narrative…and brave voices that are unafraid to ask big questions.” When she’s not thinking theatre, she says, “Gardening, travel, and cold-ass Minnesota winters keep me ‘present.’”

 Kathleen Dorman

Kathleen Dorman.
Kathleen Dorman.

Profession: Director of education
Hometown: Pittsburgh
Current home: New York City
Known for: At Classic Stage Company, Dorman brings Shakespeare and young audiences together with programs like the Shakespeare Smackdown, a scene competition for middle and high school students. She also collaborates with cartoonist David Heatley on comic strip-style synopses of the Bard’s plays for CSC’s study guides.
What’s next: She’s working with Trusty Sidekick Theater Company on a new Shakespeare project for very young audiences.
What makes her special: Jeff Griffin, CSC’s managing director, recalls not being able to afford to hire Dorman her first year, lamenting that even after he did bring her on, she worked “for peanuts” initially. Now he says the theatre can’t live without her. “Kate has many great stories about how the program inspires the students,” Griffin says. “What is equally special to me is how many artists, teachers, and the rest of us are inspired by Kate.”
Sharing the wealth: Dorman’s first real experience with Shakespeare was when she participated in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Shakespeare Monologue & Scene Contest as a senior in high school. She tied for first place, and she thinks her lack of knowledge of the Bard’s work at the time helped her excel. “It’s very important to me that we welcome students who might not otherwise have a meaningful encounter with Shakespeare in a way where they feel that they belong at CSC,” Dorman says. “The work of a canonical playwright like Shakespeare is cultural currency: When kids feel that they get it, and that they are included, it’s very powerful.”

Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm

Tearrance Chisholm.
Tearrance Chisholm.

Profession: Playwright
Hometown: St. Louis
Current home: Washington, D.C.
Known for: In Sweet Remembrance, coproduced by Endstation Theatre Company and Sweet Briar College; Br’er Cotton, a semifinalist for the 2015 Inaugural Relentless Award; and Bhavi the Avenger, staged at Convergence Theatre in D.C., a troupe Chisholm cofounded.
What’s next: His play Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies will premiere at Iowa’s Pyramid Theatre Company (July 21–31), and he’ll be one of six participating playwrights at this summer’s Kennedy Center/National New Play Network MFA Playwrights Workshop.
What makes him special: “His work explores the human condition, with all the foibles and fantasies attached to it by what we accumulate through culture and race, in a way that’s often funny and always fresh and provocative,” says Nan Barnett, executive director of NNPN, where Chisholm interned last fall. “He’s on his way to becoming a major voice, and I can’t wait to see what happens when the rest of the world discovers him.”
From painting to prose to plays: Chisholm was a fine arts major in college and took short-fiction writing classes to break up the studio art courses. “I took short fiction so many times that I wasn’t allowed to take it anymore,” he says. “So I settled on playwriting.” That first playwriting class required students to submit a play to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, and the first play he wrote, Niggerville, was a finalist for a prize. “Without that early encouragement,” Chisholm says, “I might not have continued with playwriting. Once I got into it, I realized that theatre is the synthesis of art and literature—two things that I love.”

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