Profession: Stage manager
Hometown: Livermore, Calif.
Current home: New York City
Known for: She stage-managed Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s An Octoroon at Soho Rep and Theatre for a New Audience. She’s also adjunct assistant professor of stage management at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., and general manager at NYC’s Transport Group.
What’s next: Paula Vogel’s Indecent on Broadway. She worked on the show in previous runs at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Conn., and at California’s La Jolla Playhouse.
What makes her special: Soho Rep artistic director Sarah Benson recalls marveling at Spooner rehearsing her cues during An Octoroon. “It was like watching some amazing contemporary dance to see her flicking switches, cuing lights, and calling cues into the headset, all in perfect overlapping rhythm,” Benson says, applauding Spooner’s sense of calm. “She knows what you need before you even know you need it! Even under the most extreme pressures of tech I have never seen her lose her sense of humor or belief in the project at hand.”
Climb every mountain: Spooner says she’s inspired by projects that require “artistic mountain climbing. It’s all driven by the possibility we might fail in a big, spectacular way—and that’s dangerous and exciting,” she says. She’s also working to climb the figurative mountain of making working in the arts accessible. “It’s amazing how many producers and directors have supported me in my motherhood—it feels like a dream but it’s very real,” she says. “I also hope to find a way for theatremakers to afford the entry-level positions in our business. I think about that every single day.”
Bi Jean Ngo
Hometown: Fairfax, Va.
Current home: Philadelphia
Known for: The world premiere of Christopher Chen’s Caught at InterAct Theatre Company, and the U.S. premiere of Jérôme Bel’s Gala at FringeArts Festival. She’s also a founding member of the Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists (PAPA) collective and winner of the 2016 F. Otto Haas Emerging Artist Barrymore Award.
What’s next: You for Me for You at InterAct (March 24-April 16), Strange Tenants by Jeremy Gable with Sam Tower + Ensemble (Fall 2017).
What makes her special: Director Rick Shiomi, whom Ngo considers a mentor, first met her in 2014 in Philly. Directing her in Caught, he says, he found her “brilliant, going deep into both the comedy and emotional angst of her characters.” He also cites her work with PAPA and organizing the Philadelphia version of the Beyond Orientalism forum. “With all of her talent, vision, drive, and buoyant energy, Bi is someone who is making an impact upon the Philadelphia theatre community.”
Space for all: “I am attracted to theatre that is revolutionary, and what I mean by that is that I like doing plays that change the way a person views the world,” she says, citing Caught as an example. But she’s not only fascinated with new plays. “I’m attracted to Shakespeare, because his plays can still offer us perspective on love, government, and society. And I’m attracted to making my own work at this point, because as an Asian woman in theatre, I want to represent the stories that I want to tell about people who look like me. Lastly, I’m attracted to carving out space for other Asian actors, so that our stories continue being told in the way we want to tell them.”
Bryan Joseph Lee
Profession: Marketing director
Current home: Washington, D.C.
Known for: He’s the director of marketing and communications at Round House Theatre, an actor-focused theatre company in Bethesda, Md. As a fellow of the University of Maryland’s DeVos Institute of Arts Management in Washington, D.C., he recently led an international audience development project with ElMadina Arts in Alexandria, Egypt. In 2016, he was named a Rising Leader of Color by Theatre Communications Group.
What’s next: Next on the docket are Round House’s productions of Or, (April 12-May 7) and How I Learned What I Learned (June 7-July 2). He’s also gearing up for the company’s 40th anniversary season in 2017-18.
What makes him special: “Bryan is one of the best strategic thinkers I’ve ever worked with,” says Ryan Rilette, artistic director of Round House Theatre. “His long-term, big-picture thinking is really what sets him apart and makes him an invaluable member of our team.”
Why marketing matters: “I’m a mission-driven marketer,” says Lee. “I believe you can use data to build authentic relationships with audiences, promote diversity, encourage accessibility, and grow revenue. I love marketing because I love storytelling, and I try to make sure the stories we tell about our art are as exciting and inclusive as possible. At the end of the day, great art would exist in a vacuum if the language we’re using about the art fails to connect with people.”
Efren Delgadillo Jr.
Profession: Scenic designer
Hometowns: Born in East Los Angeles, raised there and in Gómez Palacio, Mexico
Current home: Los Angeles
Known for: Designing the five-ton wheel for the 2013 staging of Prometheus Bound at the Getty Villa, coproduced by the CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP). Also with CNP, he was the scenic designer for Brewsie and Willie with Poor Dog Group (PDG) in 2011, after which he became a core member of PDG.
What’s next: He’s designing the set for the Latino Theater Company’s world premiere of The Sweetheart Deal, written and directed by Diane Rodriguez, at Los Angeles Theatre Center, May 4-June 4.
What makes him special: “As an artist, Efren approaches his practice with fluidity and detail, which allow for organic and distinctly original results,” enthuses PDG writer/director Jesse Bonnell, who first worked with Delgadillo on Brewsie and Willie. Bonnell says Delgadillo has a special affinity for “generating new ideas that are both radical and subtle. This range of collaborative might allows him to work on a variety of projects from ancient Greek plays to experimental performance. Efren brings his heart to each project, a quality that is found in every aspect of his character. He is truly a powerful voice in Los Angeles.”
Summers on the farm: Delgadillo says his work is partly informed by childhood summers he spent at his grandmother’s bakery and milk farm in Gómez Palacio. Those experiences, driving tractors and playing in the dirt, “fed my mechanical heart and mind,” he notes. “I would return to the United States extremely grateful for what I had. I embraced a strong work ethic and was recharged for another school year in the States.”
Profession: Playwright/arts advocate
Hometown: Flint, Mich.
Current home: Nashville
Known for: He’s the playwright-in-residence at Nashville Repertory Theatre, where he directs the Nashville Rep/Ingram New Works Lab. His plays include The Ice Treatment, Good Monsters, and Long Way Down.
What’s next: The Ingram lab’s roster this year includes Andrew Rosendorf, Gabrielle Reisman, Stacy Osei-Kuffour, and Eppler himself, who’s writing about “artificial intelligence and competitive grief.” All four writers’ work will bow at the Ingram New Works Festival in May, along with a new play by this year’s fellow, Christopher Durang.
What makes him special: Playwright Tori Keenan-Zelt, who went through the Ingram lab in the 2014-15 season, could be talking about both Eppler’s role as a playwright’s advocate and his unique voice as a writer when she says, “Nate invites you to a party. Once you’re there, all wishes are granted. But be careful: He’ll entertain you into noticing the bodies under the floor, digging them out, and asking them to dance.”
Going local: While Eppler shares the bullish attitude of many about the state of new plays in the U.S., he says he’s most excited by “brand-new plays developed by local artists being presented by local companies. Artists and communities in conversation, particularly at this moment, is something we desperately need and something there is a genuine appetite for. Theatres just can’t be curtain up, curtain down presenting organizations anymore. We need theatres to be community service organizations. We need theatres to be strong, vocal members of their communities.”
Profession: Director and dramaturg
Hometown: New York City
Current home: Chicago
Known for: She was the dramaturg and assistant director for José Rivera’s Another Word for Beauty at Goodman Theatre in 2016 and she’s co-artistic director of Cold Basement Dramatics and an ensemble member of the Electric Brain.
What’s next: She’s directing and co-devising a solo show, Trixie the Giant, based on the life of suffragette Trixie Friganza, set to premiere at New York’s Dixon Place in May. She’s also directing a musical adaptation of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which will have a staged reading in May at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater.
What makes her special: South Coast Repertory Theatre literary director Kimberly Colburn met Blumberg when she was a directing intern at Actors Theatre of Louisville and Colburn was the literary manager. “Sophie’s got that rare gift of being able to absorb other people’s input while still holding true to the center of her artistic vision,” she says. “She’s adventurous and spirited too!”
Anthropological study: Blumberg says she got interested in theatre in middle school because of its community aspect; now she examines how the art ties back into the world. She’s also inspired by Lecoq physical theatre, and even got to assist Lecoq scholar Dominique Serrand while at Actors Theatre. “I learned a lot about how a body can tell a story,” she says. “Words can lie but the body cannot, and I find that really helpful when I get in a room. Everything that a character is saying is not always the truth, but what they do onstage is always the truth.”