Okay, folks, so a large part of what made the TCG National Conference so extraordinary were the other Young Leaders of Color. You've had a chance to hear from me here and in this recent interview. Now it's time for you get to meet these amazing, inspiring, talented, and brilliant artists! Last week, they all agreed to let me interview them! Brave souls, indeed! Below, you will find their bios and artistic visions, which we submitted as part of our application process.
Keep an eye out for their interviews!
ABOUT AKIBA ABAKA
Akiba director/playwright/producer, is the founder of the award winning Up, You Mighty Race, a professional theatre dedicated to the research, presentation, and advancement of world heritages and indigenous cultures. Her most notable directing credits include: Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Patience of Nantucket, 409 Edgecombe Avenue… and In the Continuum for which she earned the 2008 IRNE Award for Best Direction. She is currently establishing the Creative Campus Initiative (CCI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston, a multi layered learning environment that fuses theatre arts, media arts and 21stCentury skill building to prepare students for achieving their greatness.
“My ideal theatre provides a playground for the people. It is gritty and challenging like a sand box, adventurous and strong like a jungle gym, thrilling and whimsical like a swing set, and soothing and releasing like a slide. When I first envisioned this theatre, I named it Up, You Mighty Race, in hopes that by empowering my community, this theatre will eventually educate, empower, connect and increase understanding of all people in our Mighty human race. I am happy to say, we are on our way. The best is yet to come!”
ABOUT TORY BULLOCK
Tory is an actor/writer/teacher from Boston, MA. He graduated Boston Arts Academy in 2005 and has been acting professionally ever since. Some of his acting credits include Die Fledermaus, A Soldier’s Play, Neighbors, ARTiculation, Mr. Marmalade, The Overwhelming, and After Ashley just to name a few. He is also the founder and head writer for ARTiculation ( A Boston based poetry meets theatre collective founded in 2005). While he is an artist, he is also an arts educator currently employed by Urban Improv (www.UrbanImprov.org) touted as a "Rehearsal for life". Tory’s job is to perform for and work with groups of elementary school aged children. Through skits, song, dance, and discussion they are equipped with the tools necessary to navigate through any daily issues they might encounter.
ABOUT DESDEMONA CHIANG
Desdemona Chiang is the Associate Artistic Director of Impact Theatre in Berkeley and Co-Founder / Associate Artist of Azeotrope in Seattle. Selected Directing Credits: Crowded Fire Theatre Company, Playwrights Foundation, Washington Ensemble Theatre, Golden Thread Productions, Fringe NYC, and Cornish College of the Arts. Assistant Directing / Dramaturgy: Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Playmakers Rep, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, ACT Seattle, Arizona Theatre Company. Drama League New York Directing Fellow. Associate Member, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). Alumna, Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and Directors Lab West. BA, Integrative Biology and Theatre: University of California at Berkeley. MFA Directing: University of Washington.
“For me, theatre is visibility, representation, and communication—the sharing of ideas and experiences. We’re living in one of the most fascinating and theatrical eras in human history—of reality TV, FlashMob, YouTube, web2.0 and Facebook—where people are picking up FlipCams and iPhones, creating their own narrative, and becoming each other’s audiences. Theatricality is everywhere, yet the theatre itself is perceived as anachronistic. If theatre is a reflection of the world it comes from, then what are the stories and forms of this generation? Who are our gods, heroes and monsters, and how do we talk about them?”
ABOUT ALEJANDRA CISNEROS
Alejandra is a graduate from the University of California, Irvine. She directs/produces Los Angeles based theater including the cult-classic superhero series El Verde! which has toured throughout Southern California. Recent credits include The Way of Water by Caridad Svich for East LA Rep, Rosa Out of Control for the 2012 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and pre-production for the third annual Meet Me at Metro. She is a member of Individual Artist Collective and alum of Director’s Lab West. She was awarded a Directing FAIR Fellowship for the 2012 Oregon Shakespeare Festival season, assisting on Animal Crackers.
“I am passionate about non-profit community theatre that invests in the Individual Artist. Theatre that not only sustains the stories and history of a community but the home-grown artists of that community; whether it be through development/training or opportunity to participate. The type of theatre that I would like to continue to create is comedic; infused with the Latino voice of my community, in which the everyday individual is the heroine/hero.”
ABOUT MALCOLM DARRELL
Malcolm is a native of Los Angeles, California. He earned his BA from U.C. Berkeley and an MFA in Theater Management from Yale School of Drama. Malcolm has enjoyed collaborating with Cal Performances, The New Victory Theatre, Cornerstone Theatre Company and The Association of Performing Arts Presenters. In 2007, he received the Foundry Theatre’s Inaugural Producer’s Chair Award and co-produced the critically acclaimed play The Brothers Size, by Tarell McCraney, at The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival. In the fall of 2007, Malcolm became the founding General Manager of Ebony Reprtory Theatre, Los Angeles’ first African American Equity company. Presently he is the New Play Production Associate at Center Theatre Group.
"Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in." Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1959
"Recently I was reminded why ultimately my life’s work, my personal mission, is entrenched in the ideals of living in a world where equitable access to art is a human right. The world and theatre I long to create, inhabit, sustain and support recognizes that ethnic and gender diversity is vital to our survival as an industry. It’s a theatre that easily sees a black son of South Central Los Angeles or a Chicana daughter of the Rio Grande Valley helming the largest resident theatre in America as easily as it does their white counterpart. It’s the finer world I dream of often and now is the moment for us to wake and make it our reality.
ABOUT J.J. EL-FAR
J.J. El-Far is an Arab-American producer and interdisciplinary artist in Harlem. She is the Founding Executive Director of Hybrid Theatre Works and Founding Creative Director of the Harlem Arts Festival. Contributing theater critic for Uptown Flavor. JJ has worked with Theatre Without Borders as a Core Team member producing the “Acting Together on the World Stage” conferences; Ted X Harlem; LaGuardia Performing Arts Center; Berkshire Theatre Festival; and Jerash Festival of Arts and Culture in Amman, Jordan. She attended La MaMa International Symposium for Directors in Umbria, Italy. B.A. from Brandeis University in Theater Arts and International Global Studies.
“I want to see theater that challenges the notion of what theater can be, and who it can reach. I am interested in the theatrical experience, immersive events, and attracting new audiences. I am interested in creating and supporting international collaborations between artists who can share resources, inspirations, and stories. In creative collaboration we actively practice cultural diplomacy, and peace building by sharing our common humanity. I am interested in theater about relevant global issues that can create social transformation, uplift, heal and educate. I believe theater should be intelligent, thought provoking, and subversive but never take itself too seriously.”
ABOUT ALFRED HEARTLEY
Al is originally from North Carolina and grew up in Atlanta, GA. He attended Florida State University where he graduated with a BA in Theater with Honors. While at Florida State, Al concentrated in Directing and Theater Studies. He directed several productions including, Jitney, Doubt, a parable, and The Brothers Size which was funded by the Atlantic Coastal Conference Fellowship. Al served as the Casting Intern for Steppenwolf Theater Company and recently finished being the Theater Management Apprentice where he was also a Multicultural Fellow. Al currently serves as the Associate Artistic Director of Sankofa Theater Company, a new storefront committed to diversity, in Chicago.
“I like the idea of reclamation in theater. A theater that seeks to reclaim and examine its own identity constantly throughout its organizational lifetime. A place where artists are nurtured, supported, and given the utmost of respect. I fight for a truly diverse theater, a theater that senses that racism is still an issue when it comes to diversity (not just adding Black and that equals diversity). A theater that fights for every voice. A theater that rises and lifts others with them in their success. A theater that teaches. A theater that mingles new work with old work. Multifarious, honest, willing to say yes, willing to fail, willing to have boulders thrown at the stage.”
ABOUT MAILE HOLCK
Maile has worked as an actor and sometimes teaching artist with Honolulu Theatre for Youth since 2008. Prior to that she lived in New York and worked with the National Asian American Theatre Company, Pacific Performance Project East, Yara Arts Group, La MaMa, Etc. as well as regionally. Internationally, she has worked in Germany and Japan. Maile holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Washington. She is about to enter her fifth season with HTY and is currently working on an original piece of her own which she hopes to produce early next year.
“My goal is to continue to work with Honolulu Theatre for Youth creating theatre that directly connects with children in Hawaii by working as an actor or arts administrator. I wish to create work of my own for adult audiences that connects with various communities in Hawaii in a similar way. The theatre I seek to create on my own would be non-linear in nature, stark in production needs, experimental in movement and text, and rich in human story. I seek to use theatre as a tool to enrich, awaken, connect, perhaps change and even enlighten those who see it.”
ABOUT ELBERT JOSEPH (EJ)
Elbert decided to be an actor at age 12 after seeing Peter Pan. He wrote the casting director for the Wheelock Theater, she cast him as a munchkin in the Wizard of Oz. The theatre transformed his life. It taught him that there are many kinds of people in the world and he no longer felt so alone. Ever since, he has been taking acting training at Wheelock, Project Shakespeare, and Pah! Deaf Youth, Huntington Theatre and performing at local theatres. He is also an American Sign Language theatrical Interpreter/Coach.
“I'd contribute my experiences with the obstacles of being a black and hard of hearing actor, as well as my experiences as an American Sign Language theatrical Interpreter and share how equal access was important in shaping my experiences in theater. I would like a chance to convey that interpreters reach another part of their audience by communicating the color of emotional depth of their character for Deaf/Hard of Hearing patrons. I'd love the opportunity to bridge the gap that exists between the hard of hearing and the hearing community. Also, I would like to help with directing and/or casting.”
ABOUT ANDRE LANCASTER
Andre Alexander Lancaster is the founding artistic producer at Freedom Train, an award-winning NYC-based theater that advances new understandings of our shared humanity through plays spotlighting the perspectives of black queer characters. At Freedom Train, which he founded in 2006, and later at The Public Theater and Oregon Shakespeare Festival he has produced or dramaturged the work of Jesse Cameron Alick, Sharon Bridgforth, Oded Gross, Patricia Ione Lloyd, Ayanna Maia, Jerome A. Parker, Harrison David Rivers, Betty Shamieh, and a number of other established and emerging playwrights. Distinguished honors include the NYC Social Justice Fellowship Award (Soros Foundation/NYU Wagner), Nathan Cummings Young Leaders of Color Award (Theatre Communications Group), and the Early Career Dramaturg Travel Grant (Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas). Freedom Train has been recognized with the Fruitie Award from Fresh Fruit Theater Festival and the Otto Rene Castillo Award for Political Theater from Castillo Theatre and has been featured in Time Out New York and NY Daily News. In April, Andre completed a Literary Apprentice Residency at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and starting in the fall he will be the 2012-13 Thomas Proehl Producing Fellow at The Foundry Theatre. BA in Theater Arts, State University of New York at New Paltz. www.cargocollective.com/alancaster
“The theater that whets my appetite mixes in a little of Chekhov and Shaw’s old school social activism with healthy portions of perspectives that resonate personally with me. Case in point: Jerome A. Parker is a close collaborator. We worked together at The Public and Freedom Train. He will be in an anthology of new black queer theater that I am co-editing. The grit and the greatness of the Bronx and Christopher Street piers live in his adaptations of Wagner and Genet. I simply think Jerome is the black gay version of Sarah Kane, and the archetype of the urban artist I go to bat for.”
ABOUT JACQUELINE E. LAWTON
Playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist, Jacqueline received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Anna K; Blood-Bound and Tongue Tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; The Hampton Years; Ira Aldridge: The African Roscius; Love Brothers Serenade and Mad Breed. Recently nominated for the Wendy Wasserstein Prize and a PONY Fellowship (Lark Play Development Center), Lawton was named one of 30 of the nation’s leading black playwrights by Arena Stage’s American Voices New Play Institute. She is a Professor of Theater at the University of the District of Columbia.
“As a DC-based playwright, dramaturg and teaching artist, I've taken full advantage of the many diverse and exciting theatres doing original work, including serving as an actor, director, and producer on occasion. These experiences have given me a deep awareness and profound understanding of how to develop new work. I think it's essential to share what I’ve learned with other writers of color. As an Artistic Director, my mission would be to commission, develop and premiere the work of playwrights of color as well as steward their second and third productions to other theaters across the nation. My ultimate dream is to found and run a Writer's Colony for playwrights of color.”
ABOUT QUI NGUYEN
Qui is a playwright, fight director, and Co-Artistic Director of the OBIE Award-winning Vampire Cowboys of New York City. Recent premieres include The Inexplicable Redemption of Agent G (Ma-Yi Theater & Vampire Cowboys), She Kills Monsters (The Flea), Lush Valley (HERE), and Krunk Fu Battle Battle (East West Players). He is a proud member of New Dramatists, The Playwrights’ Center, Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and an alumnus of Youngblood. His company, Vampire Cowboys, is the only theatre company officially sponsored by NY Comic Con.
ABOUT ARTISTIC VISION
“I make "geek theatre". I write and create using the language of the arcade, the comic book, and the Hollywood blockbuster. And I do it all in the service of both entertainment and artistic exploration. I'm fascinated by the fine line between low and high brow art. I'm a rabid geek who loves creating spectacle and pushing the boundaries of what "low-brow humor" can do. And I do this with a focus on female, racially diverse, and LGBT heroes because I think everyone deserves a chance to see themselves kick ass onstage.”
ABOUT YOLANDA WILLIAMS
Yolanda is a native of Jackson, Mississippi. She received her B.A. in Drama from the University of Dallas, her M.F.A. in Directing from the University of Southern Mississippi and completed a directing internship with Georgia Shakespeare. She is a faculty member at Jackson State University, adjunct faculty at Tulane University and directs at various theatres in the Mississippi area. She has directed a variety of shows that include: Mojo: A Black Love Story, The Bald Soprano, Intimate Apparel, Waiting for the Parade, Noises Off, It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Antigone and For Colored Girls…
“I envision a not-for-profit theatre in Mississippi with a primary focus on experimental works that reflect all aspects of society, which are often suppressed or ignored. My plan is to break the censor shield that dominates Mississippi for the greater good of the artists and the audience. There exists an audience base eager to receive these productions. My goal is to push past preconceived notions of presenting the typical Southern acceptable play and offer a venue for artists to create, innovate and communicate freely to their community and shared society.”
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!