6 Theatre Workers You Should Know

From an IT director to a sound/media designer, from a scenic artist to an administrator, check out this month’s cohort of theatre people you should know.

Brett Neveu

Brett Neveu. (Photo by Ryan Bourque)

Profession: Playwright and college instructor
Hometown: Newton, Iowa
Current home: Evanston, Ill.
Known for: The plays Pilgrim’s Progress, The Opponent, American Dead, and Red Bud. In addition, Neveu is a senior lecturer at Northwestern and an ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago.
What’s next: Traitor, his adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, is receiving its world premiere, directed by Michael Shannon, at A Red Orchid, Jan. 7-Feb. 25. Following will be the world premiere of Neveu’s To Catch a Fish, directed by Ron OJ Parson at Chicago’s TimeLine Theatre Company, April 25-July 1.
What makes him special: “It is his sense of play that I cannot ever get enough of,” raves A Red Orchid artistic director Kirsten Fitzgerald, who first met Neveu in the ’90s at the University of Iowa, where he was finishing undergrad and she was starting graduate work. “This wonderful, childlike impulsivity occurs simultaneously with an incredible thoughtfulness and deep compassion, both in him and in his plays. Brett understands and insists that there is almost never only one thing going on for any of his characters in any given moment. As an actor and producer, it is rich ground to mine and a blast to live in.”
Lifelong curiosity: Neveu says he’s been writing plays since he was 17 and hasn’t “stopped for 30 years.” He keeps going because of “personal curiosity in the puzzle of human interaction and how that can be strikingly mimicked onstage.” He adds that his favorite theatre “is the kind that leaves one buzzing afterwards, inside and out. The kind that makes one converse, that lingers in the mind, and that influences artistic ideals.”

Jane Snow

Jane Snow. (Photo by Lawrence Gregorek)

Profession: Scenic artist
Hometown: Watertown, N.Y.
Current home: Rockland County, N.Y.
Known for: As a scenic charge painter at Newburgh, N.Y.’s Scenic Arts Studio and a USA Local 829 union member, Snow has created backdrops and sculptures for numerous Broadway shows, including Hello, Dolly!’s recent revival. She also crafted a 30-by-48-foot bas-relief wall carving for Kayne West’s tour and appearance at Coachella Music Festival, and she’s responsible for the 22-foot Statue of Liberty in the film Across the Universe.
What’s next: Snow, who will be off the shop floor for a spell while she gets a knee replacement, just wrapped up an intensive workshop on carving at East Haddam, Conn.’s Goodspeed Opera House, and will continue teaching in Scenic Arts Studio’s three-year scene painting program.
What makes her special: Joseph Forbes, founder of Scenic Arts Studio, has known Snow for 25 years, and considers her “one of the most knowledgeable and experienced charge artists in the entire industry. Indeed, she is a truly iconic figure, not only among the artists and designers that make up the Broadway community, but also as a teacher and educator of the next generation of scenic artists.”
Making her mark: As a teacher, Snow likes to share the historical roots of the craft. “I love to show students a close-up of the Sistine Ceiling, the one with God touching Adam’s hand,” she says. “Close up you can see the marks of a tool that we scenic artists—and very few others—still use. That there is a direct thread from Renaissance times and Michelangelo to what we do as scenics today: creating a one-off, hand-wrought work. That just gives me a thrill.”

L. Peter Callender

L. Peter Callender.

Profession: Actor/director/administrator
Hometown: Born in Trinidad, raised in England and New York City
Current home: Oakland, Calif.
Known for: He’s artistic director of San Francisco’s African-American Shakespeare Company (AASC), with notable outside gigs including acting in ‘Master Harold’…and the Boys at Berkeley’s Aurora Theater,  directing Keith Josef Adkins’s Safe House at Aurora, and helming Jitney at American Stage Company in St. Petersburg, Fla.
What’s next: He’s directing A Raisin in the Sun at American Stage (Jan. 24-Feb. 18) and A Streetcar Named Desire at AASC (March 4-18), and he’ll play the lead in Shakespeare’s Richard III at AASC (July 14-29).
What makes him special: AASC executive director Sherri Young enthuses about her colleague and friend’s directing, “Peter can make a good actor great, a great actor excellent, and an excellent actor outstanding. Peter has a dynamic eye, and nothing escapes his attention. From the fold of a costume to the landscape of sound, he makes sure that everything works in unison to tell the story of the people and the events onstage.”
The play’s the thing: Callender, who has performed in 23 of the Bard’s plays and directed 5, hopes to inspire new generations the way he was by high school exposure to Shakespeare. He recalls a memorable moment with a young audience member after AASC’s Twelfth Night who approached him and said, “‘I really enjoyed your play. I never thought I would get Shakespeare! Thank you! Here’s my donation.’ And she gave me what she called her lucky penny. I still have it!”

Mike Bell

Mike Bell.

Profession: IT director
Hometown: Conroe, Texas, near the Woodlands
Current home: Houston
Known for: During the $46 million renovation in 2014-15 of Houston’s Alley Theatre, where Bell serves as information technology manager, Bell and his team designed and built the theatre’s data network—and then had to rebuild and restore it all, twice, after Hurricane Harvey hit last August, knocking out power. First they moved nearly 50 networked computers to a new temporary office; then, when power was restored, they moved it back to the recovered original site.
What’s next: “A more cloud-centric approach,” Bell explains, “to be more nimble” in case of any future interruptions. He’s also hoping to focus on company training to help users expand their computer knowledge.
What makes him special: The Alley’s managing director, Dean Gladden, sees Bell’s value as a forward looker. “He spends more time solving problems before they happen than he does on solving problems when they happen,” Gladden says. He’s pretty good in the moment too: Gladden recalls the time Bell made a special trip to the flooded theatre to recover a server and “hook it up in his bedroom so that we were able to make our weekly payroll and all our employees could receive a paycheck while the theatre was without electricity.”
From discs to servers: Bell was working as a DJ at Houston clubs, and says he “became bored waking up and not having anything to do until the evening.” A part-time desktop support job at the Alley led to a full-time slot, eventually to heading the department. He’s given up DJing but doesn’t mind: “Working with such talented and dedicated people has been such an honor.”

Sadah Espii Proctor

Sadah Espii Proctor. (Photo by Maria J. Hackett)

Profession: Director, dramaturg, sound/media designer
Hometown: Brooklyn and Central Islip, N.Y.
Current home: Brooklyn
Known for: Virtual reality storytelling and devised, site-specific, and multimedia performance with her own Espii Studios and such companies as H+ | The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory; NEW INC, the New Museum’s Cultural Incubator. Proctor was also a researcher-in-residence at Virginia Tech’s 2017 Spatial Music Workshop, where she composed Preface of a Gray in the Cube, a four-story black box with a 150-multichannel speaker system.
What’s next: She’ll produce the transmedia VR experience/audiovisual installation with//without you, and design sound for Wi-Moto Nyoka’s play at Playground Playgroup, to be presented at Fresh Ground Pepper Festival in April.
What makes her special: April Yvette Thompson, director of development at SimonSays Entertainment, hired Proctor as an intern there, and effuses about her “gift for breaking down complicated concepts into manageable pieces and creating structure where there is none…Watching her learning curve has been particularly exciting as she comes fully into her power as a thinker, change agent, and artist entrepreneur.”
Being there: As someone driven by “spectacle and story,” Proctor says she asks herself, “What can I create that engages a person on an aural, visual, kinesthetic, cultural, and intellectual level?” The ephemerality of theatre and live performance inspires her digital and virtual works, as both are “the kind of experience that, when asked about it, someone will say to the next person, ‘You just have to go see it for yourself.’ Those are the kind of moments I want to create, no matter what medium.”

Sam White

Sam White. (Photo by Chuk Nowak)

Profession: Producer and director
Hometown: Born and raised in Detroit (“also known as ‘The D!’”)
Current home: Stratford, Ontario
Known for: As the 2017 Paul Nicholson Arts Management Fellow at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, White was mentored by OSF executive director Cynthia Rider and created a strategic plan with emeritus executive director Paul Nicholson for the theatre she founded, Shakespeare in Detroit (SiD). That helped her land a space for the organization on Detroit’s Riverfront, slated to open in 2020.
What’s next: White is assistant-directing the Stratford Festival’s The Tempest for Antoni Cimolino, and is in pre-production for Twelfth Night and Much Ado Para Nada at SiD.
What makes her special: At OSF, Rider says that White “dove into every project with complete commitment,” praising her “ability to handle vision and strategy while never overlooking practical details. One of the best moments of 2017 for me was when she spoke to the board of directors at their fall meeting. Everyone left that room inspired by the power of theatre to change lives, and we knew the future of American theatre is very bright because of Sam’s unique calm and powerful, inspirational leadership.”
A vision reflecting everyone: “The roots of theatre are democracy, so I look at the art form as a service to the community, our nation, and world,” says White. “It’s the connective tissue of humanity, and my vision is to create a theatre movement where everyone is reflected, from those you see onstage to those sitting in the offices when you pull back the curtain.”