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Ann Joseph-Douglas (she/her)
Profession: Artist, educator, and arts administrator
Current home: St. Paul, Minn.
Known for: Joseph-Douglas is director of education at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. She previously served as director of the National High School Institute, an arts program for teens at Northwestern University, and is a founding ensemble member of Chicago’s Congo Square Theatre, where she held the roles of director of education, director of development, and executive director.
What’s next: Joseph-Douglas and her team are busy preparing CTC’s summer camp programming, which involves more than 80 programs for 1,200 students from K-12. She’s also spearheading a partnership between CTC and Bethune Arts Elementary, which she called “the ground floor of transforming the traditional model of arts partnerships by establishing a full immersion model that impacts students, teachers, and families, provides critical access to resources, and closes the achievement gap.”
What makes her special: According to Kim Motes, managing director of CTC, Joseph-Douglas is an innovative leader. “She is focused on real impact and outcomes that build lifelong skills through theatre and creative engagement…she is a trusted and insightful senior staff member who helps us achieve the fullest extent of our mission.” What’s more, Motes said, Joseph-Douglas makes the organization “smarter, more strategic, and a fun place to work.”
Making space: As a child, Joseph-Douglas participated in music, dance, and theatre classes through the Milwaukee Park District and Milwaukee Public Schools. “I can’t imagine what my life would have been without access to affordable opportunities for creative exploration,” she said, noting that arts programs have become increasingly inaccessible. What gets her up every day is her “mission to ensure that all young people, regardless of racial, religious or economic background, have access to quality arts programming. If a young person wants to create, make, write, or perform, I want to be able to provide that space for exploration without judgment and full support of those around them.”
Chantal Rodriguez (she/her/ella)
Profession: Academic administrator, educator, scholar, dramaturg
Hometown: Los Angeles
Current home: New Haven, Conn.
Known for: Rodriguez serves as associate dean of the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale, where she oversees student life and financial aid and co-leads the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging initiatives. She’s also an associate professor adjunct in dramaturgy and dramatic criticism, teaching courses including Latinx Theater, her favorite course. She also serves as the Title IX coordinator and the discrimination and harassment resource coordinator. From 2009 to 2016, she was the programming director and literary manager of the Latino Theater Company at the Los Angeles Theatre Company.
What’s next: This semester, Rodriguez is advising dramaturgy students on Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of Luis Alfaro’s Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles (March 10-April 1), directed by Laurie Woolery, and will next continue her work with the Latino Theater Company as dramaturg for the world premiere of Whittier Boulevard in April.
What makes her special: Kelvin Dinkins Jr., former assistant dean at the Geffen School of Drama, calls Rodriguez “one of the most humane and thoughtful leaders I have met in my career. Chantal is the embodiment of service leadership, and her tenacity and ability to continue to show up is a testament to her practice of collaboration and accountability throughout higher education and our theatre industry. She is the best—full stop,” said Dinkins.
Paying it forward: “I’ve been blessed with many amazing mentors in my life,” says Rodriguez. “José Luis Valenzuela, artistic director of the Latino Theater Company, and the inimitable Diane Rodriguez come to mind immediately. I strive to channel their vibrant and fearless spirit in my work every day.” In working with students, Rodriguez aims to be the person she needed when she was younger. “It is something that fuels my passion to take on the hard work of systemic change in order for our field to become truly accessible, equitable, and joyful for all.”
Dani Baldwin (she/her)
Profession: Artistic director, educator, director, actor
Hometown: Chico, Calif.
Current home: Portland, Ore.
Known for: Baldwin is the artistic director of Oregon Children’s Theatre, where she began 20 years ago as the box office manager. During her tenure, she expanded OCT’s educational offerings and built the Young Professionals Company, a teen-driven company offering performance opportunities, professional work experiences, and college-level workshops for students. Her varied behind-the-scenes and onstage credits at OCT include directing A Year With Frog and Toad, directing and choreographing Jasper in Deadland, designing costumes for In the Forest, She Grew Fangs, and performing in Over the River and Through the Woods.
What’s next: Baldwin is busy producing YP Company shows, including The Mad Ones (through Feb. 26). She’s also facilitating the commission of SPIDER by YP Company alumni Madeleine Adriance, which will kickoff OCT’s 2023-24 season. Outside OCT, Baldwin has upcoming improv performances with Cabaret White, PassinArt Theatre Company, and Love Street Playhouse.
What makes her special: Blake Wales, the education director at OCT, first met Baldwin when he was a 9-year-old student at the theatre. “I am now deeply honored to work alongside her in our education programming at OCT,” Wales said. “Dani always prioritizes the voices of students in the Young Professionals Company and bases her artistic decisions around their passions and opinions.” Wales is just one example of a YP Company alum returning to work at OTC, which he called “a demonstration of the community that Dani has created. She has helped shape the passions of so many young people in the region, and does so with an immense amount of love and care.”
Heart and creativity: Baldwin received a degree in theatre arts but didn’t believe she could make a living in the field she loved. But while working for “a high-tech PR firm,” she said it became clear “that a job without heart and creativity wasn’t sustainable for me.” She started moonlighting as a theatre performer before landing at OCT, where she met her mentor and closest friend, the company’s late founding artistic director, Stan Foote. “I grew here as an educator and artist, discovering firsthand the deep rewards of working with youth,” she said. “Nothing is more rewarding than fostering a supportive (and joyful) arts community where young adults grow theatre skills along with a greater belief in themselves.”
Eric Hart (he/him)
Profession: Props and effects designer, arts educator, author
Hometown: Rebuck, Pa.
Current home: Winston-Salem, N.C.
Known for: Hart is an interim professor of animatronics at the University of North Carolina School for the Arts, where he is directing a new program that combines design and production using the latest technologies. Hart penned The Prop Building Guidebook: For Theatre, Film, and TV, a text found in classrooms worldwide. His props have appeared in opera houses across the globe and on regional theatre stages nationwide, including a French automaton doll that blows bubbles for Buyer & Cellar and a trick umbrella gun for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, both at Triad Stage.
What’s next: On top of teaching, Hart is finishing the manuscript for the third edition of his prop building guidebook. He’s also fabricating props for the West End production of MJ: The Musical, set to open next spring.
What makes him special: Designer Nicholas Hussong, a frequent collaborator, said there is no one more dedicated than Hart to capturing the essence of a story through props and effects. “He has impeccable research and hands-on skills—I mean, he wrote the book on it,” said Hussong. “Equally important to the process and product is his vision and artistry. Eric always prioritizes rigorous dramaturgy rather than relying on superficial flash, and focuses on what is right for the world we are trying to create.”
Building off history: For Hart, objects are a vehicle for visual storytelling, and in-depth research informs his process of building props and effects. “I love learning how props and puppets and animatronics have been built for performances in the past, and I truly enjoy teaching others how to build items that tell a story and come to life,” Hart said. “Theatre has so much potential to tell stories and build community in a visual and tangible—yet ephemeral—way.”
Jermaine Hill (he/him)
Profession: Music director, arranger, conductor, pianist, and vocal coach
Hometowns: New York City and Chicago
Current home: Boston
Known for: Hill is the interim dean of Theater at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, where he brings his extensive experience as a music consultant and director to the classroom. Recent credits include Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at Huntington Theatre, The Color Purple at the Muny and Drury Lane Theatre, Choir Boy at Steppenwolf Theatre, We Are Out There at Chicago Shakespeare, Spunk as part of Roundabout Theatre Company’s the Refocus Project, among others. Prior to joining Boston Conservatory at Berklee in 2021, Hill taught at Columbia College Chicago.
What’s next: Hill is preparing to music direct and serve as the pianist and conductor for RENT at the Muny in August.On campus, Hill aims to continue modeling an innovative, contemporary theatre arts training program which, he said, “prioritizes scholarly and artistic inquiry and excellence; holistic care; diversity, equity, and inclusion in all its forms; and radical joy and generosity in equal measure.”
What makes him special: Justin Brill, Hill’s former colleague at Columbia College Chicago, called him an “extremely thoughtful, dedicated, and thorough collaborator. Jermaine is a passionate advocate for finding a new path forward for musical theatre training and education, always seeking solutions to improve access and reduce the impact of systemic harm.”
Making trouble: Hill thinks it’s an exciting time for higher education. “I continue to be inspired by my friends and colleagues around the country who, like me, are in positions where we can shape the future of theatre education and build bridges from our robust and ongoing professional careers to our classrooms, studios, and performance venues,” he said. Hill counts himself among the artist-educator-administrators “doing the work to make our programs anti-racist, more inclusive, more comprehensive, and truly transformative places to study. I’m honored to stand with them making, as the late John Lewis said, good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Kyle Haden (he/him)
Profession: Director, actor, educator
Hometown and current home: Pittsburgh
Known for: Haden is senior associate head and assistant professor of acting at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. At CMU, he is the point of contact for the season steering committee and student showcase. He was a longtime company member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as an actor, and served various roles within the education department, including managing the summer seminar program for high school students. From 2015 to 2020, Haden was the artistic director of the Ashland New Plays Festival. Recent directing credits include The Chief at Pittsburgh Public Theater and The Realness at Hangar Theatre, and he appeared onstage as Joe in Chimerica at Quantum Theatre in 2021.
What’s next: Next on the docket is directing the world premiere of Jennifer Chang’s The Devil is a Lie at Quantum Theatre (April 7-30). He’ll also lead the inaugural cohort of colLABo at CMU in May, a two-week program bringing together multi-hyphenate artists to workshop production challenges before shows enter rehearsals. This summer, he’ll begin rehearsals for the world premiere of Idris Goodwin’s Parental Advisory for a fall production at Milwaukee Repertory Theater.
What makes him special: Actor and theatre educator Juan Rivera Lebron, whom Haden has collaborated with over the last two decades, pointed to Haden’s sense of integrity as his greatest strength. “He has a profound, personal, artistic, and professional integrity that engenders a sense of trust in his collaborators and colleagues,” said Lebron. “I always know I can count on him for an honest, forthright point of view.”
Setting career paths: Haden credits director Dennis Krausnick for setting him on an artistic path. “He was the first person who told me I had a future as a professional actor if I wanted one,” Haden said. “As a junior in college who had no idea what he wanted to do with his life, but really enjoyed every moment spent in the theatre, those words meant so much to me.” Haden continues to pay it forward to other aspiring artists in need of motivation. “I do my best to lift them up so they can realize their full potential. That’s why I teach, and that’s why I always try to make space and take time for young artists, especially for those who walk into these rooms and find comfort in seeing someone who looks like them doing something like this.”
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