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6 Theatre Workers You Should Know

From a director of patron services in D.C. to a dramaturg in Illinois, here are some theatre folks you should have on your radar.

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Brian Andrade

Brian Andrade. (Photo by Mary C. Davis)

Profession: Administrator
Hometown: Providence, R.I., and Rehoboth, Mass.
Current home: Silver Spring, Md.
Known for: Andrade is the director of patron services at Theater J in Washington, D.C., where his management of the ticket office and front of house operations has reportedly resulted in improvements in both revenue and patron experience. Previously he served as the box office manager at Rhode Island’s Trinity Repertory Company and with Vermont-based theatre group the Here and Now. Andrade is also a musician and songwriter.
What’s next: Big changes abound for Theater J’s 2018-19 season (the company will be performing at several D.C.-area theatres while their home base undergoes renovations). Andrade says it has been a fascinating challenge planning the season, coordinating with each venue and trying to anticipate the issues that might arise.
What makes him special: According to Theater J artistic director Adam Immerwahr, Andrade’s business savvy has led to a significant increase in the average ticket price, through more strategic discounting and inventory management. Immerwahr also praises Andrade’s ability to work well with others. “Since his arrival, our audience regularly tells us what a pleasure it has been working with the staff that he supervises,” Immerwahr says. “He’s detail-oriented, wonderful with his team, and an ideal colleague.”
Creating spaces: “What keeps me going is knowing that the work I do helps provide a space for others to create,” Andrade says, “and I have often found that it has helped fuel my own desire to create.”

Bryna Turner

Bryna Turner. (Photo by Jenny Anderson)

Profession: Playwright
Hometown: Fort Bragg, Calif.
Current home: Brooklyn
Known for: Bull in a China Shop, which premiered in New York City at Lincoln Center Theater’s LCT3 last year, has been published by Samuel French, and is making the rounds: Chicago, London, San Diego, and even Boise, Idaho.
What’s next: Turner says she’s excited to collaborate with one of her favorite NYC theatre companies, Clubbed Thumb, on their Winterworks Festival in January. In addition, she’s just begun a two-year residency with WP Theater, and she’s working on a commission for LCT.
What makes HER special: Director Keira Fromm, who helmed the Chicago premiere of Bull in a China Shop last spring, points to Turner’s attentiveness throughout the production process. “I was deeply impressed with her responsiveness, excitement, and receptivity to the wide-ranging thoughts and ideas that came up during the process,” says Fromm. “Bryna is both a true collaborator and completely committed to her vision. Her work is delightfully cheeky, political, and full of love and generosity. And most thrilling of all, she’s dedicated to putting queer characters at the center of the narrative. She’s at the beginning of a big career, and I can’t wait to watch it develop.”
No ordinary woman: Turner traces her inspiration to a pivotal disappointment when, as a 5-year-old with curly red hair, she was passed over for the role of Ms. Hannigan in an Annie sing-a-long. “I’ve been interested in complicated and comic female roles ever since.” She says she uses her plays about queer women, “generally comedies that deal with love and don’t have happy endings,” as a way to “think a lot about the mess of a world we live in.”

Gabrielle Randle

Gabrielle Randle.

Profession: Scholar, dramaturg, and director
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
Current home: Evanston, Ill.
Known for: Randle’s dramaturgical work includes collaborations with playwrights Isaac Gomez and Gabriel Jason Dean. This past spring, she worked with director Marti Lyons on a reimagined production of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner at Chicago’s Court Theatre. She’s also an artistic associate at Sideshow Theatre Company.
What’s next: Randle, a Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University, is focusing on exams this fall. Her next project will be co-directing Jackie Sibblies Drury’s We Are Proud to Present… with Hallie Gordon for Steppenwolf Theatre’s Young Adults season.
What makes her special: Rudy Ramirez, associate artistic director of Austin’s VORTEX Repertory Company, first met Randle at the University of Texas at Austin; she served his assistant director for Terminus at the VORTEX in 2015. He raves that Randle is “eight steps ahead of the rest of us when it comes to critical race theory and using it to make transformative performance. She is always ready to ride the edge of productive discomfort while making sure all people involved in the process feel heard, empowered, and challenged.”
The top dog: Energized by theatre’s relative “underdog” status, Randle says, “The world doesn’t quite know that they need us.” How then to get the word out? “Make fugitive art—art that defines its role in the world as a futurity by modeling freedom through creativity, bravery, and care.”

Kay Richardson

Kay Richardson.

Profession: Sound designer and sound engineer
Hometown: Rocky Mountain, N.C.
Current home: Princeton, N.J.
Known for: Eclipsed at Synchronicity Theatre (for which she was nominated for a Suzi Bass Award), Thurgood at Theatrical Outfit, Between Riverside and Crazy and Gut Bucket Blues (Suzi Bass nominated) at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company—all in Atlanta.
What’s next: King Hedley II at Two River Theatre in Red Bank, N.J. (Nov. 16-Dec.16) and engineering Fun Home at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University (Feb. 15-23, 2019), where she’s the resident sound engineer.
What makes her special: In addition to working backstage on shows at the Lewis Center, Richardson works with students and visiting artists. “Kay has designed on collaborative teams with our students, giving them an insight into her generous and inspired process,” says Jane Cox, director of Princeton’s theatre program. “She has mixed our musicals with both professional and student designers, and improved the sound of the Princeton theatre program by 200 percent; and she has guided and inspired our students to engineer, design, and look at and listen to theatre in new ways.” Cox adds that in Richardson’s first season at the center, “Student interest in sound has tripled.”
Heavenly sound: One could say Richardson’s skills with sound are a gift from God. When she was 16, the pastor in her church placed her in the sound department, then “brought in Tommy Martin to show me how to really operate the equipment, and that was the turning point for me,” she recalls. Since then, she’s traveled the world as a designer and engineer. She also admits that as an African American, she doesn’t “really see people like me working in sound, and I want to be able to prove that people like me can make it in sound.”

Nell Bang-Jensen

Nell Bang-Jensen. (Photo by Kim Carson)

Profession: Director/creator
Hometown: Burlington, Vt.
Current home: Philadelphia
Known for: Bang-Jensen serves as associate artistic director of Philadelphia’s Pig Iron Theatre Company. Also in Philly, she helped to create the Wilma Theater’s resident acting company program, the Hothouse. She also co-founded HATCH, an arts residency in Harrisville, N.H. for female-identifying and non-binary artists. She’s a recipient of Theatre Communication Group’s Leadership U[niversity] grant program.
What’s next: Bang-Jensen is directing and co-creating a piece written by Scott Sheppard and Lee Minora about college athletes, sexual assault, and public penance in the 21st century.
What makes her special: Dan Rothenberg, co-artistic director of Pig Iron, serves as Bang-Jensen’s mentor in the Leadership U[niversity] grant program. Rothenberg says his mentee is “super-smart and unflappable.” Citing her community-based project at Pig Iron, The Caregivers—which she co-created with home health aides, hospice workers, and family caregivers—he says, “Nell really earned the trust of the caregivers she brought into the community-based project she created at Pig Iron; she is inspirational.”
Directors as bridge builders: Bang-Jensen’s devising work often extends beyond the theatre. For her, the community members she works with are citizen artists. “To me, the primary task of a director is to engage, build, and facilitate community,” she says. “I think stages that invite true civic engagement result in some of the most joyful and transformative pieces of theatre for an audience. In turn, they require those of us in the industry to step back and think more.”

Nicky Paraiso

Nicky Paraiso.

Profession: Performer and curator
Hometown: Flushing, Queens
Current home: New York City
Known for: Paraiso has served as director of programming at the Club at LaMaMa in New York City since 2001. He also curates the LaMaMa Moves! Dance Festival.
What’s next: He is in rehearsals for a new dance-theatre project called now my hand is ready for my heart: intimate histories, a collaboration between performers, choreographers, and dramaturgs that explores how a community of artists adapts to aging. The project, which was first presented in August at Brooklyn’s Mount Tremper Arts, is supported by a Theatre Communications Group Fox Fellowship Grant.
What makes him special: Ralph B. Peña, producing artistic director of Ma-Yi Theater Company, says that Paraiso “isn’t easily definable. It’s what makes him so essential and enduring. He is a card-carrying member of New York’s downtown theatre community—scrappy, rebellious, deeply engaged, and caring. I encourage all young artists coming to the city to seek him out and squeeze him for some priceless wisdom. I mean that literally.”
Learning the ropes: Paraiso’s pedigree is distinguished: He’s worked in the companies of such icons as Meredith Monk & Jeff Weiss, Anne Bogart, Robbie McCauley, Jessica Hagedorn, and Laurie Carlos. “I learned the performance ropes working with these genius artists,” says Paraiso. But he’s not resting on his laurels, continuing to find inspiration in “the latest work in theatre, dance, or performance. I am out six or seven nights a week watching live performance, whether it be the new play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a new dance by Sarah Michelson, or a multimedia performance by Andrew Schneider.”

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ADV – Billboard