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People’s Light Expands Artistic Team

Following Zak Berkman’s transition to producing artistic director, the theatre has brought on an artistic cabinet including Steve H. Broadnax III, Lisa Portes, Mieke D, and Nikko Kimzin.

MALVERN, PA.: People’s Light has made four additions to its artistic team. Following Zak Berkman’s transition to producing artistic director, a move which saw him he succeed former executive artistic director Abigail Adams in March, the theatre has promoted Steve H. Broadnax III from resident director to associate artistic director, appointed Lisa Portes director of new works, brought on Mieke D as director of community programs, and introduced Nikko Kimzin as associate producer for the world premiere of Eisa Davis’s Mushroom.

“This is a turbulent time when we need to ask big questions, to probe who we are and who we want to be, as an organization and as a culture,” said Berkman in a statement. “Steve, Lisa, Mieke, and Nikko are all joyful inquisitors who lead with care and curiosity. I’m ecstatic to have them join our artistic team as we plan and pursue the next evolution of People’s Light.”

Steve H. Broadnax III is an acclaimed actor, educator, director, and writer. He has worked extensively in regional theatre for over 20 years and serves as co-head of the MFA directing program at Penn State University. His Broadway directorial debut, Thoughts of a Colored Man, recently received a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Broadway Production, and the world premiere of Bayard Rustin Inside Ashland, written and directed by Broadnax, runs through June 12. In his role as associate artistic director, Broadnax will direct select People’s Light productions, develop and serve as lead producer for various projects, and oversee a program for emerging directors in partnership with Penn State.

“I’ve been calling People’s Light ‘the light of the People’ since I directed my first production here in 2016,” said Broadnax in a statement. “It’s such a supportive environment for artists to call home. I’m thrilled to join Zak for this next evolution of the company, and to make work that is deeply meaningful for our region, and for the theatre field as a whole. I’m excited to begin with Bayard Rustin Inside Ashland and go from there!”

Lisa Portes is a director, advocate, leader, and educator. She is a co-founder of the Latinx Theatre Commons and serves on the board of the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the executive board of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), and on the Directors Circle of the Drama League. Her work has appeared at Cal Shakes, Cincinnati Playhouse, Goodman Theatre, Guthrie Theatre, Olney Theatre, South Coast Repertory Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, and Victory Gardens Theatre. In New York she has developed and/or directed new work for Soho Rep, Playwrights Horizons, the Public, New York Theatre Workshop, and the Flea. In 2016 she was honored with the SDC Zelda Fichandler Award for Directors. She heads the MFA Directing program at the Theatre School at DePaul University. As director of new works at People’s Light, Portes will lead New Play Frontiers, the theatre’s residency and commission program where playwrights create new works inspired by the region, and serve as lead producer of a new works festival in spring of 2023.

“I’m thrilled to join the incredible team at People’s Light under the visionary leadership of Zak Berkman, who follows in the footsteps of the legendary Abigail Adams,” Portes said in a statement. “I am particularly excited by the possibility of making People’s Light a destination for directors and writers in the development of the new American canon.”

Mieke D is is a mixed-race, genderqueer femme of Asian and European descent with more than 15 years of experience in professional theatre as a writer, performer, director, administrator, facilitator, teaching artist, and cultural organizer. They make documentary and collaboratively devised theatre, teach anti-oppressive curricula, and facilitate spaces for healing and community building with Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists and beyond. As director of community programs at People’s Light, their goal is to build relationships with communities affected by the subject matter of plays, histories, and social issues, in order to promote a just world through theatre and cultural programming. They will lead in-community initiatives, cultivate local partnerships, and produce community-centered events. 

“I am passionate about theatre as a vehicle for civic engagement,” said Mieke in a statement. “People’s Light has demonstrated their commitment to integrating civic practice, arts education, and theatrical excellence as spokes on a shared wheel. I’m excited to breathe new life into community-focused initiatives by getting to know stakeholders, actively asking questions, inviting fresh ideas, and creatively problem-solving new ways to address local issues.” 

Nikko Kimzin is a producer, teacher, performer, director, and arts consultant (Kimzin Creative) who guides organizations in creating equitable change that is community-created and upheld. He works with city and county governments, schools/districts, and arts and culture organizations to create equitable access to culturally relevant arts programming and processes. He previously served as the director of education and community engagement at Transcendence Theater Company where he produced all education and community programming with a focus on equitable arts access for underserved communities from 2018 to 2021. He was also the producing director at Epoch Creative NYC, a company dedicated to producing work of BIPOC artists where he co-wrote, produced, and directed the web series The Great Black Way and #Unbooked. He has created corporate professional development programs for Google, Sotheby’s, and other Bay Area executive teams. As associate producer for the upcoming world premiere of Eisa Davis’s Mushroom, the next play to emerge from New Play Frontiers, Kimzin will steer the multifaceted production and help engage local Latinx community partners.

“I am excited to work in collaboration with People’s Light and our local partners as we honor the strengths and cultural wealth of the communities reflected within Mushroom,” Kimzin added in a statement. “Our work will be to advance these communities artistically, economically, and socially.”

With Berkman and his executive leadership team of Erica Ezold (director of finance and operations) and Erin Sheffield (general manager) at the helm, the reconfigured artistic cabinet—which also includes director of production Charles T. Brastow and director of education and civic practice Kathryn Moroney—will lead strategic planning and season selection for the 48-year-old Malvern theatre.

Since 1974, People’s Light has been one of Pennsylvania’s largest professional nonprofit theatres. Based on a seven-acre campus in Chester County, the theatre is known for its resident and visiting artists, its year-round season of dynamic productions, and its work with young people. As of 2019, People’s Light had a budget of approximately $6 million.

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