NEW YORK CITY and PITTSBURGH: Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theatre and the publisher of American Theatre, is pleased to announce the participants in the seventh round of its Rising Leaders of Color (RLC) Program. The participants form a cohort of six highly talented early-career BIPOC leaders based in Pittsburgh who are in the U.S. not-for-profit theatre and related sectors, and who demonstrate the potential to impact the field in a positive way. Rising Leaders of Color 2022 is supported by Opportunity Fund and Walt Disney Imagineering. Alumni activities are supported in part by Howard Gilman Foundation.
“We can’t wait to meet this next cohort of BIPOC leaders at our hybrid National Conference in Pittsburgh this week,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG, in a statement. “We look forward to working with this next cohort to continue supporting an intergenerational network of BIPOC leaders, and together lead for a just and thriving theatre ecology.”
Said Emilya Cachapero, director of grantmaking programs for TCG, in a statement, “More than ever, as this country wrestles with its legacy of racism and inaction, it is essential to uplift and support BIPOC leaders who have exhibited their commitment to creating a more just society. Pittsburgh has a vibrant arts community, and we’re looking forward to highlighting a talented group of BIPOC leaders based in this community. Undoubtedly they will be at the forefront of shaping our national theatre field’s future.”
“What does it mean to be a leader in American theatre?” asked Jake Goodman, executive director, Opportunity Fund, in a statement. “This is a question that the early-career and visionary leaders in the Pittsburgh cohort of this fabulous program are going to answer in coalition as they learn together, gain national recognition, and reinforce the already-forming movement of BIPOC leaders who are shaping American culture.”
The members of the new cohort are:
Chanel Blanchett (she/her), a multi-disciplinary artist dedicated to creating visibility for those unseen by the social-cultural movements they create and the societies they exist within. In addition to her current role as programming manager at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Blanchett is a writer, director, and teaching artist with a focus in devised performance. As a freelance director and creator, she has worked with a range of organizations, from the Creator’s Collective to Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, to universities and colleges.Her most recent full-length work as a creator, [in]bodied, is an exploration of the rage and grief of Black womanhood. Chanel earned her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College.
Parag S. Gohel (he/him) has been steeped in the Pittsburgh arts community, working in various roles including actor, designer, visual artist, director, writer, coach, producer, and educator. Currently serving as the director of education and engagement for Pittsburgh Public Theater, Gohel has created curriculum and launched new programs for a host of regional education programs, including the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Arts Education Department, Bricolage Production Company’s Midnight Radio Education Program, City Theatre’s Young Playwrights Institute, and both Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Creative Dramatics program and Shakespeare Monologue & Scene Contest. He has produced work for Pittsburgh’s First Night, Children’s Festival, Three Rivers Arts Festival, and Festival of Firsts, and also showcased work in Philadelphia, New York, and internationally. Gohel holds a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Theatre Arts from the University of Pittsburgh, where he teaches performance.
Justin Lucero (he/him) is on faculty at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama, as assistant professor of directing for the John Wells Directing Program. Prior to his appointment at CMU, Lucero was the inaugural Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fellow in Directing & Theatre Studies for the University of Houston’s School of Theatre & Dance, and an Artist-in-Residence for the University of Texas at El Paso. He is the recipient of a directing fellowship with Asolo Repertory Theatre, a Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation Observership at South Coast Repertory, a FAIR Assistantship with Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and a Directing Attachment at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre (London’s West End). He was named to the 2021-2022 BIPOC Leadership Circle by artEquity, in partnership with the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale. Lucero also serves as artistic director of El Paso Opera, for which he has stage directed and produced numerous productions, including Cruzar la Cara de la Luna and the upcoming Frida.
SJ Porter (they/she) is an artist, entrepreneur, and student of life. Porter began performing at a young age in their mother’s church choir, and at a young age, they were encouraged to pursue creative writing by an attentive teacher. They are grateful to have served as an actor with Stage 62 (Hairspray) and Pittsburgh Classic Players (Much Ado About Nothing); as a producer with LT4 Productions (Fatherless 2020 and Minos upcoming Fall 2022) and Stage 62 (Disney’s Descendants: The Musical); and as assistant director with the Pittsburgh Public Theater (Robin Hood) and LT4 Productions (Minos upcoming Fall 2022)). SJ, born and raised in Pittsburgh, received both their Bachelor’s and Master of Social Work degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. They currently serve as the interim board president of Ujamaa Collective, a local nonprofit, which promotes creative entrepreneurship among women of Africana descent.
Sasha Schwartz (she/her) is a theatrical scenic designer and artist inspired by family and how spaces tell stories. Selected designs: Heisenberg (Northern Stage Company), the dance floor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table (Kelly Strayhorn Theater & Contemporary Arts Center NOLA), Off Peak (Hudson Stage Company), Bruise & Thorn (Pipeline Theatre Company), How the Light Gets In, On the Exhale, Agent 355 (Chautauqua Theater Company), pato, pato, maricón (Ars Nova ANT Fest), Young Playwrights Festival (City Theatre Company), Terminer (New Hazlett Theater), Men on Boats (Fordham University), The Amateurs (Willamette University). Recognition: 2019 USITT Young Designers and Technicians Forum, 2019 Lloyd Weninger Award for Stage Design, 2021 Exhibited Fine Artist at Pittsburgh MuseumLab (Mixed Family Portrait). Schwartz is an advocate for inclusivity and accessibility within theatre teams and more representation of BIPOC and queer voices in the arts industries. Education: BFA Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama.
Shae Wofford (he/him) graduated from Point Park University in 2017 with a Bachelors of Science in Sports, Arts, and Entertainment Management. He started his career in arts management when offered a position as an arts management fellow with Alumni Theater Company. Originally a member of the company, starting in 2012, Wofford always had a creative eye for the planning and educational side of the arts. As the programming director, Shae hopes to be able to create fun and exciting programming for members to not only help them grow as a performer but also enrich their understanding of the history of the arts.
From now through June 2023, the 2022 RLC Program will combine practical skills building with professional connections and opportunities to develop empowering relationships, as well as tools and resources to navigate a career in the theatre field as a BIPOC leader. RLC builds on the learnings and momentum of the Young Leaders of Color Program (YLC) and the SPARK Leadership Programs. From 2008-2013, YLC brought 79 leaders of color to TCG National Conferences. RLC expands and reenvisions that community as part of an ongoing national network of leaders of color. During 2014-15, the SPARK Leadership Program assembled a cohort of 10 leaders of color for a focused, year-long professional development curriculum. Through RLC and SPARK and its other professional development programs, TCG has supported a variety of learning opportunities and networking programs to meet the diverse needs of BIPOC theatre leaders at various stages of their career.
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