She reached out to me after reading the On Diversity and Inclusion Series with responses from some of TCG’s 2012 Young Leaders of Color. During our conversation, Megan shared how difficult it has been for her to hire designers of color. With each production, she makes a concerted effort to find women and people of color for stage management and design roles. Each time, she hits a wall. Celebrating and nurturing diversity is intrinsic to who she is as an artist and arts administrator. When she called me, she was beyond frustrated.
We spoke for a little over an hour, but we wanted to do more than just talk. She suggested that we create a database of women and people of color who work in stage management and design. I sent her a list of folks in the D.C. area and counted my blessings once again to be living in a city filled a wide and varied number of wonderfully, talented theatre practitioners. I also reached out to Ed Sobel (Arden Theatre/PA), Seth Rozin (Interact Theatre/PA), Gregg Henry (Kennedy Center/D.C. and nationwide), Adrien-Alice Hansel (Studio Theatre and nationwide), and Megan Carter (The Women's Project/NY) for folks on their lists. If you’re reading this and you are (and/or know) a woman and person of color who works as a designer or stage manager, we’d love to know you. Please contact me with your information.
Our conversation and this series has been made even more relevant ahead of TCG’s Fall Forum on Governance: Leading the Charge, which will be held in New York from November 9th to November 11th. The discussions, sessions, and speeches aim to provide working models to tackle questions like:
- How can we ensure more diversity in positions of leadership at our theatres?
- How do we ensure our boards represent a diversity of thought and perspective?
- How can we make diverse audiences an integral part of our communities?
- How do we welcome artists of all backgrounds to the table?
Seriously, folks, mark your calendars and register! I’m aching/hoping to be there. If all works out, I'll be reaching out to my New York cat-less friends for a sofa soon! In the meantime, I’d like to introduce you to five amazing, smart, talented and generous women who have contributed their thoughts to this round of the Diversity and Inclusion Series. I'll be sharing these responses with you in the coming days!
Khanisha Foster is a mixed race actress, writer, teaching artist, the Associate Artistic Director of 2nd Story and an ensemble member of Teatro Vista. She was chosen for the Theatre Communication Groups’s Young Leaders of Color 2009 and an artist exchange with the Citizen’s Theatre of Scotland in Glasgow. She is a Sarah Siddon’s Society Scholarship recipient and a two time finalist for the PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship. Her teaching artist work has been honored by the White House. Her writing has been published with CellStories and podcast through 2nd Story, and will be published in the November release of the anthology Briefly Knocked Unconscious By a Low Flying Duck. She has performed with Teatro Vista, the Goodman Theatre, Steep Theater, and Collaboraction, among others. She can be seen in the film Chicago Boricua, official selection the Tribeca Film Festival, the Chicago Latino Film Festivals, and closing night selection for the New York Latino International Film Festival. Currently Khanisha is working on her memoir Heroin(e), several screenplays, and her second child who is due in less then three weeks!
Fanny García is the founder and editor of pLAywriting in the city, a blog about theater and the arts in Los Angeles. The blog aims to build a portfolio of art criticism written by people of color and increasing the coverage of work that is neglected by the mainstream media. She was a 2011 TCG Young Leader of Color and was featured in their I AM THEATRE campaign. Last year, she worked with Individual Artist Collective to send a delegation of artists of color to TCG’s 2012 conference in Boston. She has written several plays including Portrait of Ten Women, which chronicles the lives of Latina women living with HIV/AIDS. Her play The Rosalila received a workshop production directed by Luis Alfaro in 2010. She recently served as Associate Curator/Dramaturg for Watts Village Theater Company’s Meet Me @Metro. She is also actively involved in the creation of a national Latino theater alliance with Kinan Valdez of El Teatro Campesino and other theater collaborators. She is also one of the original co-founders of East LA Rep.
Deeksha Gaur is the newly-appointed Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Prior to this, she served as Director of PR & Marketing at Two River Theater Company and Director of Marketing at Long Wharf Theatre. She is a proud member of the TCG New Generations Future Leaders program (round 7). Career highlights include producing new musical Ugo’s Last Dance by David Lefort Nugent in New York (for which she received the Foundry Theatre’s Producer’s Chair Award); producing A Bedtime Story at the Edinburgh Fringe, a play banned in India for seventeen years; running Summer Cabaret 2006 as the Associate Managing Director; and producing Mike Daisey's Invincible Summer at Yale Repertory Theatre. Brought up in Bombay and London, she got her undergraduate degree in history at Cambridge University, and her MFA in Theater Management from Yale School of Drama.
Dafina McMillan serves as the director of communications & conferences for Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service organization for not-for-profit theatre. In this role, Dafina oversees the overall internal and external communications strategy – as well as programs TCG’s convenings, including the TCG National Conference, which gathers more than 1,000 theatre practitioners annually. Prior to joining TCG, Dafina served as the associate managing director of Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul, MN, where she managed the day-to-day operations for the theatre, which included communications, fundraising, overseeing the annual fundraising gala and working directly with the board of directors. While previously in New York, she was an account supervisor at global public relations agency GCI Group (now Cohn & Wolfe) and implemented communication strategies for Fortune 500 companies. Dafina has served as a speech writer, led executive visibility and corporate social responsibility campaigns, supported brand launches, and worked with national media to secure online, print and broadcast coverage for her clients. She also consulted with the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on marketing and community engagement initiatives. Dafina is an alumna of The John F. Kennedy Center’s International Arts Management Fellowship in Washington, D.C. Originally from Houston, TX, she received her bachelor of science degree in public relations from the University of Texas at Austin.
Erica currently serves as the Artistic Engagement Manager at McCarter Theatre Center where her work bridges literary, producing, marketing, and educational projects under the umbrella of community and audience engagement. She also teaches courses in Community-based Performance and Devising Theatre with Youth at Princeton University. Originally from Western Massachusetts, Erica has worked on the artistic staffs of Geva Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and Premiere Stages, and as a freelance dramaturg throughout the country. She is a proud recipient of a 2005 LMDA Dramaturg-Driven grant to create Bare Mountains, a documentary theatre piece exploring the creation of the Palisades Interstate Park System using interviews with communities who were displaced by eminent domain in the 1920s and 30s. In 2010, she was chosen to participate in the TCG New Generations Future Leaders program, which “seeks to identify exceptionally talented theatre professionals who will impact the field in a positive way.” Erica has conceived and overseen community-based arts programs with community partners including The Human Rights Institute, The Darfur Rehabilitation Project, New York State Parks, and the Orange County Department of Veterans Affairs. Erica received her B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, and her M.F.A. in Performance as Public Practice (Theatre and Social Change) from the University of Texas-Austin, where she regularly wore cowgirl boots to rehearsal.
Megan Sandberg-Zakian is a current recipient of the Theater Communication Group (TCG) “Future Leaders” grant to spend two seasons at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, MA, working on a series of publically-engaged development and production projects. This January she will direct The Mountaintop for Underground Railway Theater (URT). Other recent directing projects include: The Brother Sister Plays at Company One (IRNE Award: Best Production; IRNE nominee: Best Director; Elliot Norton Nominee: Best Production), Lydia Diamond’s Harriet Jacobs at URT (Elliot Norton Nominee: Best New Play; IRNE Nominee: Best Ensemble, Best Actress) and the RI premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Perishable Theatre/Trinity Repertory Company (Motif Awards: Best Production, Best Set Design, Best Actor). Megan has served as Associate Artistic Director of the Providence Black Repertory Company (RI) and The 52nd Street Project (NYC). She is a graduate of Brown University and holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College. www.megansz.com