SPEAKERS AND PRESENTERS: THE 2018 INTERNATIONAL BLACK THEATRE SUMMIT
More information about speakers and presenters can be found at the Craft Institute website.
Mohammed Ben Abdallah is a playwright and former politician from Accra, Ghana. He holds an MFA from University of Georgia and a PhD from University of Texas, Austin. While a member of the revolutionary PNDC government in the 1980s and 1990s, he established the National Commission on Culture and built of the National Theatre of Ghana with its resident companies the National Theatre Company, National Dance Company, and National Symphony Orchestra.
Since the 1970s, Abdallah’s work as a playwright has pushed the creative boundaries of theatre, linking Western and African dramatic traditions by developing a theatrical style he has termed Abibigro (African Play), meaning Total African Theatre. His plays developed in this style emerge from collaborative workshops involving musicians, actors, and dancers that encourage the inclusion of various eclectic styles into the changing script. He has aimed to blend multiple African and diasporic styles of music, dance, storytelling, comedy, dramatization, and, experimentation. His work particularly focuses on the role of the storyteller as a figure of the avant-garde rather than one relegated to tradition. His first play The Slaves brought him international attention in portraying the collective terror and personal moral tensions amongst a group of captured prisoners held in a slave dungeon on the west coast of Africa. His subsequent plays including The Trial of Malam Ilya, Fall of Kumbi, Verdict of the Cobra, Land of a Million Magicians, and Witch of Mopti established him as a major voice in theatre and developed his style of Abibigro theatre in his writing and staging . His most recent major production Song of the Pharaoh premiered at the National Theatre of Ghana in 2013 to critical acclaim.
A native of New Orleans, Jackie Alexander is an award-winning actor, writer, producer, director, former Artistic Director of The Billie Holiday Theatre, and current Artistic Director of The North Carolina Black Repertory Company, producers of The National Black Theatre Festival. His debut feature film Joy, on which he served as actor, writer, and director was awarded Best Feature Film by the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. The film also earned Best Actor and Best Screenplay honors for Jackie on the festival circuit. Jackie’s debut novel, Our Daily Bread, was published by Turner Publishing in the fall of 2012.
After a sixteen-year relationship working as an actor, writer, director, and producer with The Billie Holiday Theatre in New York, Jackie was named Artistic Director of the theatre in 2013. As Artistic Director, he oversaw a redesign of the theatre’s website, expanded programming to include a reading series, developmental workshops, film screenings, and topical community discussion panels, and launched new fundraising initiatives like the Back the Billie campaign and a 2014 cultivation event that attracted high profile guests such as filmmaker Malcolm Lee, actors Wendell Pierce and Michael Potts, and Publicist Terri Williams. Publicity from this event substantially raised BHT’s profile to kick-off the 2014-2015 season, resulting in coverage by the New York Times and other NY media, partnerships with The Brooklyn Historical Society and BRIC Media Arts, and attendance by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray at BHT’s 2015 production of Brothers from the Bottom. During Jackie’s two-year tenure as Artistic Director, BHT was awarded a prestigious Mellon Grant, the first private funding awarded to the theatre in over thirty years and nominated for an astounding seventeen AUDELCO awards for excellence in Black Theatre; taking home the top prize nine times.
In in first season as Artistic Director of The North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NC Black Rep), Jackie established partnerships on productions with the Wake Forest Baptist Sticht Center on Aging, Susan G. Komen, N.W., The North Carolina ALS Association, and the Winston Salem Symphony. Additional partnerships with The Gantt Center for African-American Culture in Charlotte and An Appalachian Festival in Boone allowed NC Black Rep to expand its artistic footprint in North Carolina with productions in both cities. During the 2017 National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF), NC Black Rep’s signature event, Jackie directed two productions, Angelica Cheri’s The Sting of White Roses and Cheryl Davis’ Maid’s Door and produced a city-wide Health Fair focusing on disparities within the African American Community. His inaugural Artistic Director Meet and Greet at NBTF 2017 connected festival playwrights and directors with producers from across the country, including Broadway producers Stephen Byrd, Alia Jones-Harvey, and Ron Simmons.
Stage directing credits include the World Premieres of his critically acclaimed plays Brothers from the Bottom, The High Priestess of Dark Alley, The Legend of Buster Neal, The Right Reverend Dupree in Exile, The Desire, and Birthright. Additional directing credits include the New Orleans premiere of Jelly’s Last Jam (Five Big Easy Awards including Best Musical), Lemon Meringue Façade by Ted Lange, Losing The Light, The Waiting Room by Tony Nominee Samm-Art Williams, The Resurrection of Alice, and world premieres of Finding Home, Fati’s Last Dance, Maid’s Door (Seven AUDELCO awards including Best Drama), Plenty of Time, The Sting of White Rose, Storm Stories—True Stories From Hurricane Katrina, and Matisse’s Self Portrait by OBIE winner Charles Mee. Jackie’s direction of Plenty of Time and Maid’s Door was honored with productions at the 2005 & 2015 National Black Theatre Festivals, while his plays The High Priestess of Dark Alley and The Legend of Buster Nealreceived that distinction in 2009 and 2011.
A short list of stage acting credits include: Plenty of Time, Acted Within Proper Departmental Procedure, Losing The Light, Imperfection Flawed, The Death of Bessie Smith, Romance, Revolution, & War, Tell Pharaoh, The Authors Voice, which he produced on Theatre Row, and the originating role of “Prophet Solomon Jones” in Raisin’ Hell, a musical premiere by Motown Legend William “Smokey” Robinson. Jackie has also been featured on two recordings Spoken Melodies and the critically and socially acclaimed The Price of Freedom-The Amadou Project, both produced by the late jazz great Weldon Irvine.
The OBIE and AUDELCO award-winning Billie Holiday Theatre in New York devoted its entire 2010-2011 season to Jackie’s work; commissioning him to write three new plays and making him the only playwright in the storied history of the theatre to receive that honor.
Composer and artist Kathryn Bostic is known for her work on award-winning films, TV and live theater. She is a recipient of numerous fellowships and awards including the prestigious Sundance Institute Time Warner Fellowship, Sundance Fellowship for Feature Film Scoring, Sundance/Skywalker Documentary Film Scoring, BMI Conducting Fellowship, and Best Music in Film by the African American Film Critics Association. Her scores can be heard in several films by award winning directors including Ava DuVernay, Justin Simien, Sam Pollard, Stanley Nelson and Kirsten Johnson. In 2016 she became the first female African-American score composer in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Bostic has written for Broadway, most notably collaborating with the award-winning playwright August Wilson on “Gem of the Ocean” and various productions of his last play “Radio Golf” as well as the Mark Taper production of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” directed by Phylicia Rashad. Because of her collaboration with Mr. Wilson, Bostic was asked to score the PBS American Masters program “August Wilson – The Ground on Which I Stand.” Reflecting on Mr. Wilson’s career, this documentary inspired her to write“The August Wilson Symphony” and song “State of Grace”, which received a world premiere in January 2018 by the Grammy award winning Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra helmed by Grammy award winning conductor and composer Lucas Richman who was instrumental launching the premiere.
In addition to her work with August Wilson, Bostic’s work on Broadway includes “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” with Robin Williams, by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph. Her score of music and ambient textures in “Bengal Tiger” garnered a Drama Desk win in the Sound Design category for this collaboration. She has been nominated for several additional awards including the Ovation Award, NAACP Theater Award, and a Drama Desk nominee for “Outstanding Music in a Play.”
As a vocalist and artist Bostic has toured and recorded with several renowned artists including Nas, Ryuchi Sakamoto, and Dave Byrne. She has also performed at various festivals and clubs including The Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scott’s, The Pori Jazz Festival, Cape May Jazz Festival, Birdland (NYC), Catalina’s (Los Angeles.)
Dr. Nsenga Burton is an award-winning professor, multimedia journalist and blogger, filmmaker and producer. Currently, she serves as editor-at-large for The Root (a Univision company) and contributor to The Grio where she writes media criticism. In 2012, Dr. Burton founded The Burton Wire, an award-winning news blog that covers global news of the African Diaspora. Currently, she serves as Co-Director of the Film and Media Management program at Emory University in the Department of Film and Media Studies where she teaches courses on Hollywood entertainment industries, content creation and special topics like Reality Television and Hip-Hop Cinema.
In addition to her work as a journalist and professor, Dr. Burton is a leader in the field of technology and diversity, recently completing her term as Executive Director of the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs. She is also leads a new media and technology consulting firm, The Burton Wire Media Group. She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee, the National Communication Association, NU Council of 100, American Studies Association and the African American Film Critics Association. Dr. Burton is the current chair of the Atlanta Youth Commission Board.
A former cultural critic for Creative Loafing, Nsenga serves as an expert commentator on radio, television and new media platforms including GPB, WABE-FM, WUGA-FM, WURD-AM Philadelphia, WEAA-FM Baltimore, WVON-FM Chicago, KPCC Los Angeles, WHUR-FM Washington, DC, WYPR-FM Baltimore, WFAE-AM Charlotte, WBFF-TV Fox News Baltimore, WSOC-TV Baltimore, WCCB-TV Charlotte, CCTV and ARISE TV (online), and HuffPost Live.
Dr. Burton is the winner of NABJ’s 2013 Ray Taliaferro Entrepreneur of the Year Award and was a Scripps-Howard Fellow at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. News One named The Burton Wire one of the top 15 black blogs in the country and Dr. Burton has been a scholar-in-residence at New York University. An activist scholar, her latest book, Black Women’s Mental Health: Balancing Strength & Vulnerability is currently out on SUNY Press. She served as co-editor of the book and wrote a chapter entitled, “The Representation of Black Women’s Mental Illness on Being Mary Jane and How to Get Away with Murder.” Additional academic publications include “Mad Men: Draper, Double Consciousness and The Invisibility of Blackness,” in The Universe is Indifferent: Theology, Philosophy and Mad Men, eds. Ann Duncan and Jacob Goodson, Cascade Press, 2016 and “South African Soap Operas: A Rainbow Nation Realized?” appears in the anthology, Watching While Black: Centering the Television of Black Audiences, edited by Beretta E. Smith-Shomade. Nsenga is currently writing a book on race and reality television and an essay on the pedagogy of filmmaker Marlon Riggs for an anthology on documentary, blackness and NMAAHC.
Dr. Burton holds degrees in media studies and production from Northwestern University (B.S. Radio/TV/Film), New York University (M.A. Cinema Studies), University of Pennsylvania (M.A. Communication) and the University of Southern California (Ph.D. Critical Studies in Film and Television). She currently resides in Atlanta with her daughter Kai and fur-son Mr. Miyagi. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual or @TheBurtonWire.
Robert John Connor, award winning director, has worked in the arts and entertainment industry for over 30 years as an actor, singer, writer, director and producer. A graduate of Morehouse College, Robert studied music, radio, film and television. Robert went on to pursue acting and music, and has appeared in a variety of stage productions including: 110 in the Shade, Once on This Island, Camelot, Crowns, The Club, Urinetown, Queen of the Blues, Higher Ground, Come out of the Rain, Tyler Perry’s I Know I’ve Been Changed and Jezebel. Some of his film and television credits include: Greenleaf, A Different World, The Cosby Show, the film Glory, and Showtime at the Apollo. As a musician Robert has recorded and arranged vocals for a variety of artists, jingles for national and international products and has sung with a variety of artists including: Michael Buble, Gladys Knight, Barry Manilow, Byron Cage and Cassi Davis. Robert went on to earn a Masters of Fine Arts in Performance and Dramatic Media from the University of Georgia, and has directed productions including: Jar The Floor, Dreamgirls, The Amen Corner, Romeo & Juliet, Execution of Justice, Black Nativity, Hairspray, Miss Saigon and the world premiere of the amateur production of The Color Purple.
Jean Duncan is a member of the Writers Guild of America West. She most recently served as Writer-Producer of the 2016 feature-length documentary The Hue, Tint and Shades of Words: Diverse Screenwriters in the Entertainment Industry. Other writing credits include Staff Writer on the ABC-TV half-hour comedy series He’s The Mayor, and Story Writer on the NBC-TV live-action half-hour comedy series The Pink Panther. In addition, she served as Writer-Producer on numerous corporate film productions, Mentor to professional TV writers at the European Film College at Ebeltoft and Copenhagen, Denmark, PR Writer-Associate Producer for Stevie Wonder, and international concerts for Barry White. She has also worked as a published freelance writer for Essence Magazine and several regional publications. Her professional career began as Public Relations & Media Assistant for the NBA Atlanta Hawks. She currently works in Worldwide Theatrical Marketing at 20th Century Fox Films. Ms. Duncan earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and graduated magna cum laude with a Master of Arts degree in English with Emphasis on Creative Writing from Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles.
Steve Duncan is a Professor of Screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University. A current member of WGA West and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Produced credits include Co-Creator and Executive Consultant, CBS-TV Emmy winning series Tour of Duty; Writer-Producer, ABC-TV Emmy nominated series A Man Called Hawk, and Co-Writer of Emmy nominated TNT original film The Court-martial of Jackie Robinson. He’s the Writer-Producer-Director of the feature-length documentary The Hue, Tint and Shades of Words: Diverse Screenwriters in the Entertainment Industry. The writer of five fiction novels, he’s also the author of A Guide to Screenwriting Success: How to Write for Film and Television (Rowman-Littlefield) and Genre Screenwriting: How to Write Popular Screenplays That Sell (Continuum Books). He’s a contributing author to The Handbook of Creative Writing (Edinburgh University Press) and Now Write! Screenwriting (Tarcher/Penguin). An United States Navy veteran achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander, he earned a Master of Arts degree in Communication Arts: Television and Film, from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
Indira Etwaroo, producer, scholar and non-profit arts leader, has worked with institutions and artists across the country and the world. Indira’s passion is exploring the complex intersections between community, performing arts and the topics-of-our-time, leading to models of diverse artistic excellence and sustainability in the 21st century. Indira has received many awards and honors for her work, including being named one of the “40 under 40” national leaders by The Network Journal.
Dr. Etwaroo joined Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation in 2015 to provide the vision, strategic direction, fundraising leadership, management and partnership expertise for one of Brooklyn’s cultural anchors, as well as to oversee a reimagining of the historic Obie and AUDELCO Award-winning Billie Holiday Theatre. Within her short tenure, Indira has completed a multi-million dollar renovation of the theater, converted over 6,000 sq ft of ground floor space into essential rehearsal space where hundreds of artists can build new works and millions of Brooklyn community members can now witness “art in motion”; and more than doubled audience and revenue in her three-year tenure. RestorationART has been a standard bearer for arts, social justice and community development under Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, which has the distinction of being the nation’s first community development corporation, founded in 1967 through intense grassroots activism and the personal initiative of then Senators Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Jacob Javits. Dr. Etwaroo has developed a partnership with Tom Oppenheim, Artistic Director of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting to create the first-ever Black Arts Intensive with the founders Stephen McKinley Henderson, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Michele Shay, Sonia Sanchez and Phylicia Rashad for university students across the country, held at The Billie Holiday Theatre.
Dr. Etwaroo was the Founding Executive Producer of the multiplatform, state-of-the-art Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at New York Public Radio, the largest public radio station in the nation with a reach to millions weekly. In 2006, she was charged with creating New York Public Radio’s first-ever live broadcast studio in Lower Manhattan to bring audiences face-to-face with dynamic content on multiple platforms: live, on air and online. Of note, she conceptualized and executive produced the first-ever seminal recordings of all ten plays in August Wilson’s American Century Cycle (2013) in partnership with Constanza Romero, August Wilson’s widow and Executor of the Wilson Estate with Artistic Directors Ruben Santiago Hudson and Stephen McKinley Henderson; the American Radio Broadcast Premiere of Their Eyes Were Watching God narrated by Phylicia Rashad (2012) and adapted by Arthur Yorinks; and the breakout Talent Quest Series, Battle of the Boroughs, which excavated hundreds of musicians from all walks of life from throughout New York City. The Greene Space now stands as an exemplary model to the national public radio system for reaching ethnically diverse and younger audiences through multiplatform content. Dr. Etwaroo joined NPR in 2013 as Founding Executive Producer and Director of NPR Presents to develop a national live events strategy to bring on air and online content to audiences across the nation, which debuted with the highly-successful national tour Water +, conceptualized by Etwaroo and directed by Tony Award-winner Kenny Leon. Etwaroo also worked with BAM’s Department of Education and Humanities, leading key programmatic initiatives from 2004 – 2006.
Indira has produced over a thousand conversations and events with noted artists, newsmakers, and changemakers from across the globe on timely topical issues from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 to a conversation/concert with Wyclef Jean to a talk with Broadway director and cast of Death of a Salesman – the late Mike Nichols and Philip Seymour Hoffman. She has also produced, choreographed and/or directed over fifty dance works and/or theatrical productions, receiving six AUDELCO wins in 2017 for The Billie Holiday Theatre’s New York Premiere of Richard Wesley’s Autumn, directed by Walter Dallas. She is also the author of scholarly articles and chapters used in universities across the country on the topic of performance and inclusion.
Prior to joining the non-profit world, Indira received her PhD in Cultural Studies and Masters in Dance Education from Temple University where she taught undergraduate and graduate lecture courses. She also received her BME in classical flute performance and education. Indira studied acting with Black Arts Theatre Pioneer Ernie McClintock and performed with his Jazz Actors Studio of Actors at the 1995 and 1997 National Black Theater Festival. Dr. Etwaroo was named a Fulbright Scholar in 2003 to conduct research in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a full year to explore the theatrical performance traditions that inform the controversial practice of female genital cutting. Dr. Etwaroo is married to award-winning actor Jerome Preston Bates and they have two daughters, Kyrsten and Zenzele. They reside in Brooklyn.
Marissa Ford is the Associate General Manager at the Goodman Theatre where she works with the executive and artistic leadership to bring theatre to worldwide audiences. Marissa believes in the power of storytelling to engage, connect and build communities. In her time at the Goodman she developed the Goodman Accessibility Committee and managed the citywide summit on accessibility in partnership with ADA25 Chicago and the Chicago Community Trust. She curated Goodman’s first Sensory Friendly Performance and the development of their touch tour program and managed several of Goodman’s artistic festivals including the August Wilson Festival, Latino Festival, Leonard Bernstein Festival and the Black Theatre Summit. Marissa curated Goodman’s Black Words Matter Celebration and managed the opening celebration of Goodman’s Alice Center for Education and Engagement. Prior to her career at the Goodman where she began as The Roche Schulfer Executive Apprentice she served with Collaboraction Theater Company, American Theatre Company and Broadway in Chicago. Marissa is an alumni of Drake University and holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Theatre and a Bachelors of Business Administration in International Business.
Steven G. Fullwood is an independent archivist and writer. He is the former associate curator of the Manuscripts, Archives & Rare Books Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In 1998, Fullwood founded the In the Life Archive (ITLA) to aid in the preservation of materials produced by LGBTQ people of African descent also housed at the Schomburg Center. With archivist Miranda Mims, he recently co-formed the Nomadic Archivists Project, an initiative that partners with organizations, institutions, and individuals to establish, preserve, and enhance collections that explore the African Diasporic experience. Fullwood’s published works include Black Gay Genius (2014), To Be Left with the Body (2008) and Carry the Word: A Bibliography of Black LGBTQ Books (2007). In 2005, he was honored with a New York Times Librarian Award.
Considered among the celebrated interpreters of playwright August Wilson’s work, Stephen served as associate artistic director for Ruben Santiago Hudson in the historic audio recordings of Wilson’s American Century Cycle. In the fall of 2013 all ten of the plays were recorded and live streamed throughout the cyber world from WNYC/NPR’s Greene Space in Manhattan. In 2010 Henderson received a Tony nomination and the Richard Seff Award for his performance as Bono in the Broadway revival of FENCES with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. He received a Virtuoso Award from the International Santa Barbara Film Festival in 2016 for his performance in the Paramount feature film of FENCES directed by Mr. Washington. In 2007 he was cast in two productions of Signature Theatre’s critically acclaimed Wilson season, and in three productions of Kenny Leon’s historic Century Cycle Readings at Kennedy Center in 2008. Stephen participated in the naming ceremony of the August Wilson Theater in 2005; the same stage where he made his 2001 Broadway debut as Stool Pigeon in Mr. Wilson’s King Hedley II when it was The Virginia Theatre. Stephen also played Slow Drag in the 2003 Broadway revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom with Charles S. Dutton and Whoopi Goldberg. In an eloquent obituary for Mr. Wilson, Michael Feingold of the Village Voice wrote,
“To think of the great characters and scenes in August’s plays is to think of an epic parade of great African American actors who have seized their moment to make theater history: James Earl Jones and Mary Alice in Fences, Charles S. Dutton in Ma Rainey and The Piano Lesson, S. Epatha Merkerson confronting him in the latter, Roscoe Lee Browne sagely ironic in Two Trains Running, Stephen McKinley Henderson oozing malice in Jitney, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Lisa Gay Hamilton glaring a skyful of weaponry at each other in Gem of the Ocean.”
During its off-Broadway run in 2000, Jitney garnered Drama Desk, Obie, and Audelco awards for each actor as members of the outstanding ensemble of the New York season. In Los Angeles, Mr. Henderson won the NAACP Theatre Award and a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for his performance as Turnbo. Jitney’s production history from 1996-2002 culminated in an Olivier Award for its run at the National Theatre of Great Britain.
Habib Iddrisu is an actor, dancer, musician, and historian from Northern Ghana. He received his PhD from Northwestern University. Born into the Bizing family of court historians of the Dagbamba/Dagomba people, Dr. Iddrisu has been principle performer with the top national groups across Ghana. He has toured the world extensively with musical and theatre groups, and has diverse experience as a performer, teacher, choreographer, and a scholar. One of Dr. Iddrisu’s performance and research concepts is to develop the concept of a “total performance experience” that comes out of his experience of African performance in traditional and modern contexts. He combines theatre, dance, music and storytelling with the intent to bring African styles to a global world. He is an assistant professor of ethnomusicology and Dance, and African studies executive committee member at the University of Oregon.
Soul-stirring, interdisciplinary work has garnered Al Letson national recognition and devoted fans. In 2008 Letson created, hosted, and executive produced State of the Re:Union (SOTRU). Every episode SOTRU examined America through the lens of community. The program aired on more than 300 NPR stations, receiving critical acclaim, and numerous awards, including a Peabody Award (2014), three consecutive National Edward R. Murrow Awards (2012, 2013, 2014).
In 2015 SOTRU ended production and Letson joined the Center for Investigative Reporting to help launch and host public radio’s first hour-long investigative journalism show, Reveal. Reveal’s first pilot, The VA’s Opiate Overload, won a Peabody Award (2013). Since that time Reveal has gained a large audience and is heard on over 400 public radio stations and over 1 million downloads a month. In 2016 Letson launched his own podcast, showcasing a little bit of errthang. Errthang is just that, everything: storytelling, radio drama, pop culture reviews, and interviews. Letson is basically taking all the things that are floating in his head and turning it into a mixtape of delight for listeners.
A true renaissance man, Letson got his start on stage as a performance poet where he established himself as a heavyweight in the Poetry Slam community, being a featured on venues such as HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, and CBS’s 2004 Final Four PreGame. Drawing on his background as a performance poet, Letson seamlessly weaves spoken word into the fabric of his theatre work. Several of his plays produced on stages across the country. His solo performance Summer in Sanctuary opened at the Abingdon Theatre company off-Broadway in the summer of 2012 and ran for nine months at the Marsh in San Francisco.
A self-described comic nerd, in 2017 Letson was picked by DC Comics to join the DC Comics Writer’s Workshop. The workshop trains writers to work for DC Comics, writing iconic characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Independently, Letson’s been working on a graphic novel, “Imperfect”, with artist Pier Brito, which will be released in 2018. While it may seem like his interests are varied, they are all aspects of who Al Letson is, a storyteller for the new millennium.
Founder of Global Film Network Inc., Producer/Director Regge Life is presently the Senior Distinguished Director in Residence at Emerson College. Prior to Emerson, he was on the faculty of Howard University. He has led numerous workshops in film production notably at Sarah Lawrence College as well as teaching theater at Smith College and at Hunter College. He is also a filmmaker with domestic and global credits. Residing in Japan from 1991 to 1995, he produced a trilogy of films and has been actively touring with these works in the United States, Japan and Europe. Screenings and lectures have taken place on the campuses of Harvard, Yale and numerous universities in the United States as well as at Keio and other top universities in Japan. His films on Japan are part of the permanent collection at over 800 colleges and universities worldwide.
Born in Harlem, New York, his father’s job with Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon Mobil) moved the family to White Plains in Westchester County. He graduated with honors from Woodlands High School in Hartsdale, New York and attended Tufts University and received a double BA in Drama and Sociology, enriching his education via a film studies course at Harvard and ethnomusicology studies at Brandeis. He later traveled to Ibadan, Nigeria to inaugurate the Tufts-in-Africa program and earned an additional Post-Graduate diploma in Theater Arts.
Following graduation from The Tisch School of the Arts at NYU with a M.F.A. in Directing, his thesis film MAX, starring Patricia Wettig was acquired by HBO.
He began his filmmaking career in documentary traveling to Nigeria in 1977 to document portions of FESTAC 77, a worldwide cultural celebration of the African Diaspora. The experience at Festac was the catalyst for additional cultural documentaries: CARNIVAL ’78, chronicling the celebration in Trinidad-Tobago; DELE ABIODUN – THE ADAWA SUPER KING that documented his introduction of Nigerian “juju” music in New York City; and EL ULTIMO BAILE, a bi-lingual film produced in Venezuela that was featured as part of the series, “Presente” on PBS. EL ULTIMO BAILE was Regge’s first experience producing a film in two languages – Spanish for the broadcast as part of the “Presente” series on public television and English for American educational distribution.
With roots in the theater, he ventured into narrative filmmaking producing and directing the indie film, REUNION starring Academy Award winning actor, Denzel Washington, and the A.I.D.S. awareness film SERIOUSLY FRESH featuring Malik Yoba that was nationally broadcast on PBS. For NBC’s, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, he directed THE STORY OF JOE BARBOZA and for the Learning Channel of Discovery Networks, NATIVE SON based on the novel by Richard Wright.
Continuing to work internationally, in 1990 Regge was awarded an NEA Creative Artist Fellowship in Japan, where for six months he observed the making of the 43rd installment of the world’s longest running film series, TORA SAN. As an observer, he produced THE MAKING OF TORA SAN #43, chronicling his experiences as the first non-Japanese to be allowed access to a process created by Yoji Yamada, a protégée of Ozu. He remained in Tokyo for 3 more years to produce a trilogy of long form documentaries: STRUGGLE AND SUCCESS: THE AFRICAN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE IN JAPAN, DOUBLES: JAPAN AND AMERICA’S INTERCULTURAL CHILDREN and AFTER AMERICA…AFTER JAPAN. These award winning and critically acclaimed films have been broadcast on NHK, PBS and a number of public television stations worldwide. His film work has earned a number of awards including three CINE Golden Eagles and a Silver Award at the Houston International Film Festival. In support of his work in Japan, Mr. Life received fellowships from the Center for Global Partnership, multiple Japan Foundation fellowships and he is the recipient of a Fulbright Journalist Fellowship.
In the area of Primetime US television, from 1986 to ’87, he served as a Director for “The Cosby Show” as well as Production Executive for the show. Following his work on “Cosby”, he helped launch “Generations”, the first and only daytime drama with an African American storyline, directed the situation comedies “A Different World”, “Sister Sister” and “Eve” and from 1998 to 2000, served as director for “Sesame Street”. He has been nominated for 3 Daytime Emmys.
As a television segment producer his work includes SWEET AUBURN about the fabled avenue in Atlanta that is the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King for Uniworld Television, “Black & Single”, “Mother’s Behind Bars” and “The Homeless” for Essence Television and “Danny Ferry and Brian Shaw in Rome” for Insport television.
Serving in various capacities supporting the worldwide film community, he is currently on the Advisory Board of Film Columbia a film festival in upstate New York, a former Board member and Chairman of the Board of AIVF (Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers), a member of the original Black Filmmaker Foundation, a founding member of the Black Documentary Collective and a longtime supporter of the Independent Feature Project. He is also a member of the Director’s Guild of America and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In addition to his NEA Creative Artist Fellowship, he is an Ushiba Memorial Fellow, a PBS/CPB Academy Fellow, named a Sony Innovator and the Black Filmmaker Hall of Fame has honored his work. Mr. Life’s work in Japan led to being appointed a Commissioner for the Japan – United States Friendship Commission in Washington and as a Governor with the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. His advocacy of Study Abroad led to service on the Board of the Institute for the International Education of Students and numerous speaking engagements in support of Study Abroad and intercultural education.
He recently completed his fifth film in Japan, this time a feature based on the Akutagawa Prize winning novel, “Cocktail Party” by Tatsuhiro Oshiro. The film sold out two hours prior to screening at the recent Okinawa International Film Festival and was featured at the Boston International Film Festival where it garnered the Indie Spirit Special Recognition Award. Prior to COCKTAIL PARTY a fourth documentary in Japan, LIVE YOUR DREAM that chronicles the story of Taylor Anderson, an American English teacher who lost her life during March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Prior to LIVE YOUR DREAM, REASON TO HOPE, a film that chronicles the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti featuring 60 Minutes anchor, Bill Whitaker. The film won Best Film at the 26th International Festival of Black Cinema in Berlin and was featured at the Hollywood Black Film Festival and the San Diego Black Film Festival.
His work has been exhibited at the Toronto Film Festival, the Montreal Film Festival, the Leiscester Film Festival, the Ninth Festival of New Cinema in Brussels and the Festival of New Cinema in Caracas, Venezuela.
In addition to his work for public and network television, in 1997 Mr. Life produced a special tribute to former Prime Minister of Japan, Kiichi Miyazawa.
Abba. T. Makama is the award winning writer and director of Green White Green. Green White Green is the most traveled film in Nigerian film history. Having its 2016 world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival, since then it has screened in over 20 international film festivals including Stockholm international Film Festival, Berlin Critics Week, New York African Film Festival. Green White Green won Best Nigerian film at 2016 African International Film Festival and was nominated for two African Academy Awards in 2017. Green White Green was also distributed on 3 international airlines (Air France, Emirates and Ethiopian Airline) Green White Green is currently streaming on Netflix worldwide. Abba Makama is also an Alumnus of the 2018 Berlinale Talents.
Abba has also directed documentaries for Al Jazeera and has created content for brands like Google, Backberry, Hennessey and Ciroc Vodka.
Dafina is the Co-Founder of Crux, the first platform dedicated to ensuring that Black creators and their stories gain a strong foothold as the VR/AR/MR space continues to grow and evolve. She was previously a Program Officer on the arts team of Bloomberg Philanthropies, where she managed Bloomberg Connects, a digital engagement initiative, and the Arts Innovation and Management program (AIM), a capacity-building supporting more than 260 small and mid-sized arts organizations in six U.S. cities. She recently served as the Director of Communications & Conferences for Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service organization for not-for-profit theatre. In 2012, Dafina was integral in launching TCG’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Initiative to support organizations and artists nationwide. Prior to joining TCG, Dafina served as the Associate Managing Director of Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, MN. She’s held numerous leadership positions at global public relations agency GCI Group (now Cohn & Wolfe) in New York. Dafina also consulted with the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on marketing and community engagement initiatives. Dafina is an alumna of the Kennedy Center’s International Arts Management Fellowship in Washington, D.C. She is a proud native of Houston, Texas.
For over twenty years, Anthony Meyers has provided guidance and support to nonprofit organizations, corporate and private clients in marketing, sales, programming, special events, and fundraising. He has produced preview events, conferences, workshops, and galas for international arts organizations, government officials, colleges, film festivals, tourism agencies, visual artists, and financial firms.
Anthony has served in administrative, management, and consulting roles for companies throughout the New York tri-state area, and has developed programs in New York, New Jersey, Cincinnati, and Miami. He was a We Are the Bronx management fellow through the Center for Community Leadership through the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). And he has developed key partnerships between nonprofit organizations and corporate stakeholders during many of his full-time positions as well as consultancies. As a creative, Anthony was awarded a BRIO Award in Screenwriting from the Bronx Council on the Arts. He was awarded artist residencies at Jacobs Pillow (choreography), Space One Eleven (Visual Art), Southern DanceWorks (Choreography), and Casita Maria (Creative Writing). His visual art has appeared in exhibitions in New York, Alabama, and Texas. Anthony’s personal essay, “My Own Protection: A Fortieth Anniversary Status Report,” was published in Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call (Vintage Entity Press, 2014).
Anthony currently works full-time as an Arts Program Specialist for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, managing a diverse grantmaking portfolio of over 140 nonprofit cultural organizations. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and is pursuing a Master of Science degree in Organizational Change Management, and a Post Masters Certificate in Leadership and Change, at The New School. He serves on an internal Diversity Committee at the Department of Cultural Affairs, on an LGBT Policy Taskforce for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr, and is a steering committee member of the Stonewall 50 Consortium.
He is a regular speaker at colleges and universities, sharing his career experiences in arts administration. Anthony is in discussions with Tufts University to teach a course on arts administration and leadership.
In 2017, Anthony created Leading ChangeMakers, an education and empowerment program that cultivates leadership from within for racially diverse nonprofit arts administrators. Programs include workshops, upcoming training programs, and consulting services.
He brings expertise in audience development, program and event management, fund development, advocacy, and serves as a coach to cultural professionals.
Eileen J. Morris is artistic director of The Ensemble Theatre, Houston where she worked closely with its founder, George W. Hawkins since 1982. She oversees every aspect of the theatre’s artistic programming which includes mainstage, tour education, the young performers program and special projects. The Ensemble Theatre is the largest and oldest African American professional theatre company in the Southwest that owns and operates its facility while producing in-house.
She is a director, actress and educator in which her art reflects her ministry. As Artistic Director of The Ensemble Theatre, she has produced over 116 productions which include eight world premieres, over 60 regional premieres and directed over 80 productions throughout her career. The Ensemble Theatre’s production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was recently named one of the Best Productions of 2018 by the Houston Chronicle. Eileen was named the 2017 Broadway World Houston Awards Best Director for Sassy Mamas and received the 2016 Houston Press Theater Award for Best Director of August Wilson’s Fences. Her most recent Ensemble Theatre directing credits include Front Porch Society, Sassy Mamas, Plenty of Time, Detroit ’67, What I Learned in Paris, Women in the Pit, and By the Way Meet Vera Stark to name a few. Under her artistic leadership, The Ensemble Theatre received the 2013 Houston Press Best Season Theater Award and has performed at The Winston Salem- National Black Theatre Festival for the past 10 years.
In Pittsburgh, she directs annually with the New Horizon Theater and has ties that include Pittsburgh Playwright’s Theatre, Kuntu Repertory Theatre, and City Theatre.
In Houston, her directing credits include the 2016 Houston Grand Opera world premiere- What Wings They Were: The Story of Emeline and the 2010 Alley Theatre’s production of I, Barbara Jordan. In 2017 she received the Black Theatre Network’s Larry Leon Hamlin Award, the BCCM Kim Kupp Award, and was recognized as one of Houston’s Top 50 Black Professionals and Entrepreneurs by D-MARS.com. She is a 2016 recipient of the PACE Foundation Community Award, and received the 2016 Houston Community College- Central Campus Unstoppable Leaders Award. Currently, she sits on the board of the Theatre Communications Group, board member, secretary and Cultural Arts Committee Chair of the Midtown Management District and is a board member of the Black Theatre Network. Morris was most recently selected among five female artistic leaders Nationwide to be awarded part of a $1.25 million gift of The Pussycat Foundation and Northern Stage in support of women artistic directors in professional theaters across the United States. The funds will be used to support programs that professionally develop emerging female artist leaders and designers.
A graduate of Northern Illinois University, Eileen holds the distinct privilege of being the ONLY woman in the country to direct eight plays of the August Wilson Ten Play Cycle.
Constanza Romero has served as the literary executor of the estate of August Wilson since 2005. Countless works by the playwright, her late husband, have been produced nationally and abroad under Romero’s leadership. In 2016, August Wilson was the most produced playwright in the country.
As a producer, Romero helmed the Manhattan Theater Club’s Broadway production of JITNEY, in 2017, and Broadway’s FENCES, in 2010. Both won Tony Awards for Best Revival. With the release of Wilson’s FENCES as a major motion picture in 2017, Romero served as a key participant speaker with the film’s promotional screening tour and facilitated conversations about Mr Wilson with stars Viola Davis and Denzel Washington.
Ms. Romero’s costume for the character Aunt Ester in GEM OF THE OCEAN can be viewed along with other Wilson memorabilia at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. In another important step toward building and protecting August Wilson’s literary legacy, Romero has finished collecting the materials for August Wilson’s archives for future residence in a research library.
As a costume designer, Ms. Romero’s Broadway credits include THE MOUNTAIN TOP, FENCES (Tony Nomination), GEM OF THE OCEAN (Tony Nomination), SEVEN GUITARS, and THE PIANO LESSON.
Romero resides in Seattle with her daughter Azula Romero Wilson, finding time to practice her other passion, creating poster art for theaters and other non profit organizations.
Ruben Santiago-Hudson is a Tony Award-winning actor, an accomplished writer/director with three Obie awards. In addition to an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination he received numerous accolades for his screenplay of HBO’s Lackawanna Blues. Most recently he received a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director Of A Play for his Tony Award winning revival of August Wilson’s JITNEY. Which also garnered Outer Critics Circle, Drama League and NY Drama Critic Circle awards along with 6 Tony Award nominations. Ruben received the 2013 Lucille Lortel and Obie Award for Best Direction of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, and in 2016 an Obie Award for Special Citations: Collaboration of the play Skeleton Crew with playwright Dominique Morriseau. Ruben recently stared in BET series The Quad and made his television directorial debut. He recurs in Showtime’s hit series Billions opposite Damian Lewis and also on OWN’s new David Makes Man alongside Phylicia Rashad.
Ruben made his Broadway acting debut in Jelly’s Last Jam, opposite Gregory Hines. He originated the role of Canewell in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, which earned him several awards including Broadways most prestigious award, the Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award for Featured Actor in a Play. Other Broadway credits include Lydia Diamond’s Stickfly produced by Alecia Keys and August Wilson’s Gem Of The Ocean. Santiago-Hudson co-starred for three seasons as NYPD Captain Roy Montgomery on the hit ABC series, Castle. Ruben starred in AMC’s gritty crime drama Low Winter Sunbased on the 2006 British mini-series. His screenplay debut Lackawanna Blues for HBO, received the Humanitas Prize, a Christopher Award, National Board of Review Honors, a NAACP Image Award; and Emmy, Golden Globe and WGA nominations. Under the artistic leadership of George C. Wolfe,the Public Theater/NY Shakespeare Festival originally commissionedLackawanna Blues as a solo performance piece. Santiago-Hudson performed the play bringing to life over two dozen characters garnering his first OBIE award. Working with the Public Theatre again in the summer of 2010, Santiago-Hudson starred as King Leontes in Shakespeare in the Park’s production of AWinter’s Tale. This past summer Ruben directed Othello at The Delacorte Theater for the NY Shakespeare Festival. On film Santiago-Hudson starred opposite Denzel Washington and Russell Crow in American Gangster, opposite Halle Berry in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Samuel L. Jackson in Shaft, Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate, and John Travolta in Domestic Disturbance. On television he portrayed famed chemist Dr. Percy Julian in Forgotten Geniusand starred opposite Gregory Hines in The Red Sneakers. Ruben’s other feature films and mini-series include Selma, American Tragedywith Christopher Plummer, Solomon and Shebawith Jimmy Smits and Halle Berry -- the first time a biblical movie starred actors of color, and opposite Christopher Reeve in Rear Window. Other TV credits include a series regular role on Michael Hayes, and TNT’s Public Morals recurring roles on The West Wing, Law & Order and numerous guest star appearances incl. ABC’s political drama Designated Survivor.
This season, Ruben directed Dominique Morriseau’s Paradise Blue at The Signature Theater off-broadway,. He also helmed the world premiere of Paradise Blue for The Williamstown Theater Festival. Other select Theater credits includeCabin In The Sky for ENCORES! at NY City Center and his own Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine for The Two River Theater Company, Naomi Wallace’s Things Of Dry Hours at the NY Theater Workshop, The Happiest Song Plays Last at Second Stage Theater, August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, Leslie Lee’s The First Breeze of Summer and Athol Fugard's My Children! My Africa! all for The Signature Theater Company, where Santiago-Hudson held the position of Associate Artist. August Wilson’s American Century Cycle was recorded at The Green Space NYC in September of 2013. Ruben served as Artistic Director of dramatic readings of all 10 plays for live audiences which aired on NY Public Radio. He directed Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Jitney and The Piano Lesson and performed in Fences and Seven Guitars in that series.
Santiago-Hudson received honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from Buffalo State College in 2006 and from Wayne State University in 2015. He also holds a Master of Fine Arts from Wayne State University and an honorary Master’s from A.C.T. in San Francisco, a Bachelor of Arts from Binghamton University. Other Awards and honors include Dramalogue, Clarence Derwent, Glen G. Bartle Award from SUNY Binghamton, Distinguished Alumni Award from Wayne State University, five Audelco Awards, Black Filmmaker’s Award, a Helen Hayes Award, a N.A.M.I.C. Award, and an HBO Comedy Arts Festival Theater Award. Santiago-Hudson received a NAACP Lifetime Achievement Theatre Award at the Los Angeles NAACP Theatre Awards in August 2009.
In 2014 The Ruben Santiago-Hudson Fine Arts Learning Center opened in his hometown of Lackawanna, NY. Ruben is the driving force of this dream project which teaches young people the transformative power of the arts.
ROCHE EDWARD SCHULFER is in his 37th season as executive director. On May 18, 2015, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the League of Chicago Theatres. In 2014, he received the Visionary Leadership Award from Theatre Communications Group. To honor his 40th anniversary with the theater, Mr. Schulfer was honored with a star on the Goodman’s “Walkway of Stars.” During his tenure he has overseen more than 335 productions, including close to 130 world premieres. He launched the Goodman’s annual production of A Christmas Carol, which celebrates 38 years as Chicago’s leading holiday arts tradition this season. In partnership with Artistic Director Robert Falls, Mr. Schulfer led the establishment of quality, diversity and community engagement as the core values of Goodman Theatre. Under their tenure, the Goodman has received numerous awards for excellence, including the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater, recognition by Timemagazine as the “Best Regional Theatre” in the US, the Pulitzer Prize for Lynn Nottage’s Ruined and many Jeff Awards for outstanding achievement in Chicago area theater. Mr. Schulfer has negotiated the presentation of numerous Goodman Theatre productions to many national and international venues. From 1988 to 2000, he coordinated the relocation of the Goodman to Chicago’s Theatre District. He is a founder and two-time chair of the League of Chicago Theatres, the trade association of more than 200 Chicago area theater companies and producers. Mr. Schulfer has been privileged to serve in leadership roles with Arts Alliance Illinois (the statewide advocacy coalition); Theatre Communications Group (the national service organization for more than 450 not-for-profit theaters); the Performing Arts Alliance (the national advocacy consortium of more than 18,000 organizations and individuals); the League of Resident Theatres (the management association of 65 leading US theater companies); Lifeline Theatre in Rogers Park and the Arts & Business Council. He is honored to have been recognized by Actors’ Equity Association, for his work promoting diversity and equal opportunity in Chicago theater; the American Arts Alliance; the Arts & Business Council, for distinguished contributions to Chicago’s artistic vitality for more than 25 years; Chicago magazine and the Chicago Tribune, as a “Chicagoan of the Year”; the City of Chicago; Columbia College Chicago, for entrepreneurial leadership; Arts Alliance Illinois; the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee, for his partnership with Robert Falls; North Central College, with an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree; Lawyers for the Creative Arts; Lifeline Theatre’s Raymond R. Snyder Award for Commitment to the Arts; Season of Concern, for support of direct care for those living with HIV/AIDS; and the Vision 2020 Equality in Action Medal, for promoting gender equality and diversity in the workplace. Mr. Schulfer is a member of the adjunct faculty of the Theatre School at DePaul University and a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where he managed the cultural arts commission.
Jackie Taylor was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in the Cabrini Green housing project. She rose from modest roots to become a distinguished director, producer, actress, educator, singer, playwright and theater founder. As the Founder of the 42-year-old Black Ensemble Theater (BE), she has created a strong institution committed to eradicating racism. BE is recognized throughout the nation for its outstanding original productions and exceptional educational outreach programs.
Jackie Taylor has written and produced more than 100 plays and musical biographies, including The Marvin Gaye Story, The Jackie Wilson Story, All In Love Is Fair, The Other Cinderella, I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass), Don’t Make Me Over (The Story of Dionne Warwick), Don’t Shed A Tear (The Billie Holiday Story), Somebody Say Amen, At Last: A Tribute To Etta James; among a myriad of other acclaimed productions.
A phenomenal actress and performer in her own right, Taylor has had featured roles in several major films, including Cooley High, Hoodlum, Barbershop 2, The Father Clements Story, Losing Isiah and To Sir With Love: Part 2. Ms. Taylor also has numerous television and theater credits to her name. She has worked with such greats as Sidney Poitier, Laurence Fishburne, Vanessa Williams, Bill Dukes, Glynn Thurman and Lawrence Hilton Jacobs just to name a few.
Jackie Taylor received her B.A. in theater from Loyola University. She earned a Master’s degree in Education from American College of Education and received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from DePaul University. An outstanding teacher, Jackie has worked for the Chicago Board of Education, the Illinois Arts Council and Urban Gateways. Through the years, Ms. Taylor has taught every grade level from Kindergarten through major universities.
Taylor serves as the president of the African American Arts Alliance and is on the board of the Betty Shabazz International Schools. The City of Chicago honored her as a 2016 Fifth Star Award Recipient. The former Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, declared March 27, 2009 Jackie Taylor day in Illinois. Taylor has received numerous awards for her work. She has been named one of the top 50 Performers by New City 2014 publication. She was named a Chicago Defender 2016 Women of Excellence Honoree and was included in New City Stage Magazine’s 2013 List of the 50 People Who Really Perform in Chicago. In 2012, Jackie was honored by Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine as one of 100 women to watch and a Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine. Other honors include a Special Jeff Award for her cultural contributions, a League of Chicago Theater Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the Top 10 in the Arts in the Chicago Sun-Times’ 100 Most Powerful Women; “Producer of the Year” by the National Black Theater Festival and a “Phenomenal Women Award” by Expo for Today’s Black Women. Nationally, she and her work have been featured in Jet, Variety, the New York Times, The Washington Post and Essence.
On September 10, 2010, Ms. Taylor broke ground on the new 20-million-dollar Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center which opened on November 18, 2011. Her most prized accomplishments are being the mother of daughter, of Tynea Wright and an outstanding Grammy to her grandson Tayden McGowan!
Lisa B. Thompson is an artist/scholar and Associate Professor of African & African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of numerous articles and the book, Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class. Her plays have been produced and developed by Brava for Women in the Arts!, New Professional Theatre, The Vortex Repertory, Theatre Rhinoceros, Crossroads Theatre, National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa, Company of Angels Theater, New African Grove Theatre Company, Black Spectrum Theatre, FronteraFest, Austin Playhouse and the National Black Theatre Festival. Her plays include Single Black Female (LA Weekly Theatre Award best comedy nominee), and Underground (Austin Critics Table David Mark Cohen New Play Award), Monroe, The Mamalogues, Dreadtime Stories: One Sista’s Hair, I Don’t Want to Be (Mamie Till), as well as the afro-futuristic trilogy of short plays: Watch, Mother Nature, and Mother’s Day. Thompson’s creative work has been anthologized in Contemporary Plays by African American Women: Ten Complete Works and Catch the Fire: A Cross-Generational Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She has received fellowships and awards from a number of institutions including Hedgebrook, The Millay Colony for the Arts, Harvard University’s W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute, the Humanities Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, and Stanford University’s Michele R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research. She is currently writing a book about contemporary black theatre and a play about culture clashes within the African Diaspora.
Sharon is a proud member of the Dartmouth Class of 1981. She has been a working actress on stage and screen for almost 30 years. She recently added playwright to her resume with the debut of her solo play Feeding the Dragon. Sharon completed the play at Dartmouth during her New York Theatre Workshop summer residency in 2015, having previously spent several summers participating as an actor. She started on the acting path after spending lots of time, even though a Government major, on stage in Dartmouth Players and in Black Underground Theater Association productions. During her Junior and Senior years she was Director of BUTA. After graduation she spent two years learning the ropes on the production side of the business working as assistant to Barry Grove ’73, the executive Producer of Manhattan Theatre Club.
Feeding the Dragon received its world premiere at City Theatre in the Fall of 2016 and was subsequently produced at Hartford Stage in January 2018 and opened Off-Broadway at Primary Stages in April of 2018 where she was nominated for a 2018 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Solo Performance. She has been awarded a Tow Foundation grant and is Primary Stages 2018-19 Tow Foundation Playwright-In-Residence. Feeding the Dragon was also recently released as an Audible theater recording.
Sharon is a member of the Hopkins Center Board of Advisors. She is a Career Network Volunteer, Dartmouth Partners in Community Service mentor and was a member of the Moosilauke Forum. She has also served as a guest speaker at several Dartmouth events, including the Arts at Dartmouth Awards and the Centennial Circle Forum.
As an actress Sharon has appeared on Broadway in The Scottsboro Boys, the last collaboration of legendary team Kander & Ebb in a role she originated Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theater. Off-Broadway appearances include Dot (Vineyard Theater); Wild with Happy (Public Theater – Lucille Lortel nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress; Audelco Award); Luce (Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3); and The Overwhelming (Roundabout Theater).
Select regional credits include: Seven Guitars (Actors Theatre of Louisville); Intimate Apparel(Guthrie Theater); Merry Wives of Windsor and King Lear (Denver Center); Jar The Floor (Seattle Rep); The Story (Long Wharf Theatre) and the original company of The Piano Lesson (Yale Rep) directed by Lloyd Richards.
Film and television credits include: On the Basis of Sex (2018), The Kitchen (2019), The Looming Tower, Wiener Dog, Mistress America, The Bourne Legacy, Michael Clayton, School of Rock, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Malcolm X, Die Hard With A Vengeance, Gotham, Blue Bloods, The Blacklist, White Collar, Taking Chance, Royal Pains, Damages, Law & Order, Law & Order: CI, and Law & Order: SVU where she can occasionally be seen on the bench as Judge Virginia Hayes.You may also recognize her voice from her narrations of several documentary series on Animal Planet, Discovery and NOVA. A native New Yorker, Sharon attended The Dalton School and received her MFA from the Yale School of Drama.
Rosalyn Coleman Williams is an actor, director and proud educator. Rosalyn is Chief Creative Officer at Red Wall Productions, a company that she runs with her husband, Craig T. Williams.
As an actor, Rosalyn’s professional experience includes Broadway, Film and TV. She has acted with Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry and Tom Cruise. Rosalyn will soon be seen in the feature film “Miss Virginia” starring Orange Is The New Black’s Uzo Aduba. Other work includes: Broadway: The Mountaintop, Radio Golf, Seven Guitars,The Piano Lesson, Mule Bone. Film includes Frankie & Alice, It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, Brown Sugar, Evolution of A Criminal, Brooklyn’s Finest, Our Song and Music of the Heart. TV includes Madame Secretary, Blue Bloods, The Blacklist, Elementary, White Collar and Nurse Jackie.
As a director, her film projects have appeared on TV and in film festivals all around the world. Rosalyn is in pre-production to direct “Hanging By A Thread” written by her husband Craig and Executive Produced by JuVee Productions, helmed by Academy Award Winner Viola Davis and her husband Julius Tennon.
A passionate educator, Rosalyn is one of the most sought after acting coaches in NY, chosen by readers of Back Stage Magazine as their favorite on-camera teacher. Rosalyn served as on-set acting coach during the second season of HBO’s “In Treatment.” She has coached Sundance directors on for their sophomore projects for Cinereach, creating custom workshops and programs to meet the needs of each director. Having taught at NYU, Tisch, Rosalyn has been invited to teach acting at schools around the country. Currently she serves as adjunct at SUNY Purchase and Atlantic Theater School.
Rosalyn is creator “Audition Power Tools,” “Acting In The Digital Age” and “Zoom In Acting” (the 100% on line on camera acting class.) All are currently available on all mobile platforms, and have a mission of, empowering actors, using cutting edge technology with an attention on the actor’s craft.
Rosalyn is a graduate of Howard University and Yale School of Drama.
Craig T. Williams Producer/Screenwriter/Editor – CEO of Red Wall Productions, a film production company that he runs with his wife, Rosalyn Coleman Williams. Craig has produced over 50 film projects including independent short films, promotional videos, educational films, actor reels and the groundbreaking documentary “Black Sorority Project.” He has empowered artists providing mentorship and one on one consultations to actors and filmmakers as they develop their craft. Through classes, workshops, and professional opportunities, Craig has equipped emerging artists with the tools and confidence to create their own work and share their individual stories with the world.
Craig is the writer of numerous award-winning short films, including “Allergic To Nuts” and “Drawing Angel.” Craig’s feature screenplay “Hanging By A Thread” was a finalist in the 2018 Sundance Screenwriters Lab. His TV pilot “Unfocused” was a finalist in the 2017 WGA sponsored Made In New York Fellowship.
“Title VII” is a feature screenplay he co-wrote with writer/director Nicole Franklin. “Title VII” explores same race discrimination at an IT firm. It premiered March 2017 at the Hollywood Black Film Festival and was a finalist for HBO Best Feature Film at the 2017 Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival.
Craig is in pre-production for his feature film “Hanging By A Thread” that will be directed by Rosalyn and Executive Produced by JuVee Productions, helmed by Academy Award Winner Viola Davis and her husband Julius Tennon.
He is co- leader of the Manhattan Chapter of FilmShop, a Media Producers and Independent Filmmakers Collective. He is also an active member of the Harlem Dramatic Writers Workshop and the Black TV and Film Collective.