In celebration of our 25-year mark, NET has launched a year-long series to ignite the imagination: Inspiration On-Demand: Creators in Conversation. Each month, NET’s very own board members will join their own mentors and other artists they admire in conversation.
The most recent event was held on Friday, July 16th with NET board member Michael Rohd (Co-Founder and Ensemble Member, Sojourn Theatre; Author of Theatre for Community, Conflict, and Dialogue) in conversation with Ping Chong (Founder and Artistic Director, Ping Chong + Company; theater director, choreographer, and video installation artist).
Michael Rohd is a co-founder and ensemble member of the national, ensemble-based Sojourn Theatre. In 2015, he received an Otto Rene Castillo award for Political Theater and The Robert Gard Foundation Award for Excellence. He is an Institute Professor at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design & the Arts and is is author of the widely translated book Theatre for Community, Conflict, and Dialogue. He is an artist for Civic Imagination at Center for Performance and Civic Practice (CPCP), which he co-founded in 2012. CPCP is a national team of artists who believe that with the right approach, the same tools and capacities that artists use to make art can be utilized to transform systems and improve the impacts of government and community-driven efforts and programs. Recent/Current projects with CPCP and Sojourn include collaborations with ArtPlace America, Goodman Theater, LISC, Kansas City Mayor's Office, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Cleveland Public Theater, Americans for the Arts, Nashville’s MetroArts, City of Santa Monica, CA, United Way, Flint Youth Theater, Catholic Charities USA, Cook Inlet Housing Authority Alaska, Jackson Medical Mall Foundation Mississippi & Steppenwolf Theater.
Ping Chong is a theater director, choreographer, and video installation artist. Born in Toronto and raised in New York City’s Chinatown, he is a seminal figure in the Asian American arts movement and a pioneer in the use of media in theater. His theatrical works bring his unique artistic vision to bear on major historical issues of our times and focus on bringing unheard voices and underrepresented stories to the stage. Encompassing puppetry, dance, documentary theater, sound, and other experimental theater forms, his works have explored a wide variety of subjects, from a hidden genocide in Africa to modernization in China to the experiences of Muslim youth in post-9/11 America. Throughout, the common thread has been a unifying commitment to artistic innovation and social responsibility.
Since 1972, as founder and artistic director of Ping Chong + Company, he has created over 100 productions which have been presented at major theaters, festivals, and museums worldwide. Major interdisciplinary works include Collidescope: Adventures in Pre- and Post-Racial America (with Talvin Wilks; University of Maryland, 2013; University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2015; Wake Forest University, 2017), Throne of Blood (Brooklyn Academy of Music, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 2010), Cathay: Three Tales of China (John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2005), Kwaidan (Center for Puppetry Arts, Jim Henson Festival, 1998), Deshima (Mickery Workshop, 1990), Nosferatu (La MaMa, 1985/1991), Angels of Swedenborg (1984/2011), among many others.
In 1992, he created the first Undesirable Elements production, an ongoing series of community-based oral history projects, working with real people to explore issues of culture and identity. Representative works in the UE Series include Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity (LaGuardia Performing Arts Center and touring, 2015) Inside/Out: Voices from the Disability Community (Kennedy Center, 2008), Cry for Peace: Voices from the Congo (Syracuse Stage, 2010), and Gaijin (Yomiuri Prize, Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, 1995). His puppet theater work ALAXSXA|ALASKA premiered in August 2017 at the University of Alaska Anchorage and will be presented at La MaMa in October. Theatre Communications Group has published two volumes of his plays, The East/West Quartet and Undesirable Elements: Real People, Real Lives, Real Theater. Chong is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a USA Artist Fellowship, two Bessie Awards, two Obie Awards, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, and a 2014 National Medal of Arts. He lives in New York City.
This conversation was on Friday, June 25, 2021. NET board member Alison De La Cruz (executive arts leader, facilitator, cultural organizer, producer, multi-disciplinary theatre artist, educator, contemporary ritualist, and yelder) was in dialogue with Rose Portillo (theater artist: actor, writer, director, educator).
Alison De La Cruz (she/he/they/DeLa) is an executive arts leader, facilitator, cultural organizer, producer, multi-disciplinary theatre artist, educator, contemporary ritualist, and yelder. De La Cruz is honored to be a Foundling and co-Artistic Director for the newly emerging Outside In Theatre. De La Cruz has spent the last 20 years building a cultural organizing, facilitation, and creative producing practice that engages multi-generational artists, producers, and audiences. DeLa collaborates with a range of artists and producers from emerging to traditional folk artists to professionalized artists and those artists transitioning between one part of their growth to the next.
Since the Fall of 2020, De La Cruz has been collaborating with Artivist & Facilitator Quetzal Flores as they engage staff, board and community stakeholders from Self Help Graphics in Cultural Convening Methodologies towards strategic planning and community-engaged models of sustainability. De La Cruz is also a trainer for the ArtChangeUS Cultural Community Benefits Trainings and in June 2021, De La Cruz was an actor/facilitator in the digital world premiere of Mark Valdez & Ashley Sparks’ The Most Beautiful Home...Maybe (Mixed Blood). De La Cruz served as Executive Producer of the LA premiere of the Broadway musical Allegiance (2018, EWP & JACCC) at the historic Aratani Theatre followed by the world premiere of Tales of Clamor (2019, JACCC & NCRR) in the Aratani Theatre Black Box. De La Cruz was previously the Vice President of Programs at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center where they oversaw programming in Performing Arts, Culinary Arts, Visual & Cultural Arts, Community Engagement, and Neighborhood Placekeeping work with Sustainable Little Tokyo. De La Cruz has led at the intersections of dramaturgy, adaptation, youth development, generative processes, community organizing, dialogue, workforce investment and playwrighting on over 10 Youth Arts productions by Shakespeare Center Los Angeles, About Productions and East West Players. DeLa has also created original solo and collaborative performance work since 1999, sharing intersectional stories of bigger-bodied queerness of color in De La Cruz’s shows.
Rose Portillo is a renowned theater artist- actor/writer/director/collaborator/educator. A 40+ year veterana of stage and screen (large and small); a community-builder; an art-maker of altars and mosaics (rosaics); an innovator, initiator, intuit; a maverick; dedicated to breaking new ground and smashing stereotypes. Rose is a 40 yr Veterana of theater, film and television.
Her career began with a lead role in Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit creating the role of Della (original L.A. production, Broadway, and film), and more recently appeared in its LA revival as Mama Reyna. As Associate Director of LA’s acclaimed theater company About…Productions (1992-2016), Rose partnered with Theresa Chavez on more than 9 critically acclaimed theater productions as co-author/co-director and actor. A respected master teaching artist, Rose also founded About…Production’s Young Theaterworks, creating programs which target youth in Continuation/Options schools and which have been featured in the LA TIMES and on NPR. At the invitation of Pomona College (2007-present), Rose designed, and continues to teach and direct ‘Theater with Young Audiences’ in which college students engage with middle and high school students from the city of Pomona to create original work and witness the power of theater to transform. She has also created devised work with youth through Pomona College’s P.A.Y.S. program and Pitzer College’s Native Youth to College program.
Photo Credit for both Alison and Rose: Michael Palma
This conversation was held on Friday, May 28, 2021. NET board member CarlosAlexis Cruz (Producing Artistic Director of the Nouveau Sud Circus project; Associate Professor of Physical Theatre and Diversity Coordinator; University North Carolina at Charlotte) was in dialogue with Rosa Luisa Márquez (Puerto Rican theater artist and pedagogue).
CarlosAlexis Cruz is the Producing Artistic Director of the Nouveau Sud Circus project; a circus for social change company in service of intercultural and cross cultural communication in the urban region of Charlotte, North Carolina.
The company is currently invested in the creation of Bestia, a circus take on the journey of central American immigrants. Cruz’s Nouveau Sud was just awarded a NEFA National Theatre Project Creation and Touring grant for Bestia. Other awards: Knight Foundation- Celebrate Charlotte Arts, Princess Grace Foundation 2017 Works in Progress Award for the development of Pícaro with the support of the Baryshnikov Arts Center in NYC and the 2014 Arts and Science Council’s McColl award for the development of new, socially-engaged work. With the latter the Nouveau Sud project was developed.
Cruz is the Associate Professor of Physical Theatre and the Diversity Coordinator for the College of Arts + Architecture at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Rosa Luisa Márquez is a Puerto Rican theater artist and pedagogue; she specializes in contemporary theater. Rosa Luisa started her teaching career at the theater department of the University of Puerto Rico in 1978. She developed the current curriculum of Drama Activities, which she teaches in her workshops at schools, prisons, rehab centers, women's shelters and community centers. Her directing projects include Romeo(s) y Julieta(s), Historias para ser Contadas, La Leyenda del Cemí, Procesión, Waiting for Godot, Jardín de Pulpos, Absurdos en Soledad, El León y la Joya, among others. Published books include Brincos y saltos: el juego como disciplina teatral and Historias para ser contadas, montaje de Rosa Luisa Márquez. She is a member of the board of directors and pedagogical team for the EITALC´s International School of Latin American and Caribbean Theater. Ongoing artistic collaborators include Gilda Navarra and Antonio Martorell (Puerto Rico), Grupo Malayerba (Ecuador), Grupo Yuyachkani (Peru), and directors Peter Schumann (Bread & Puppet Theater, U.S.A.) and Augusto Boal (Theater of the Oppressed, Brazil). Publications in 2020: memorias de una teatrera del Caribe, Cuentos, cuentos y más cuentos de Gerard Paul Marín: Montaje en dos tiempos: 1979, 2004
On May 4, 2021, NET gathered in community as we looked towards the most critical areas of need to help plan for a shifting landscape and field.
We explored the following questions:
The latest conversation in this series was Friday, April 23, 2021. NET board member, Todd London (artistic director, educator, essayist, and theater chronicler) was in conversation with André Gregory,(director, actor, writer, teacher, and painter) co-creator and co-star of the legendary My Dinner with André. This is Not a Memoir is a collaboration between Gregory and London which reflects on a life lived for art.
Todd London's books include An Ideal Theater, The Importance of Staying Earnest, and his most recent novel If You See Him, Let Me Know. An artistic director, educator, essayist, and theater chronicler, he is a winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism and was the inaugural recipient of Theatre Communications Group's Visionary Leadership Award for his contributions to the American theater. He is a proud member of the NET board.
André Gregory has been directing in New York for more than half a century. He has collaborated on film versions of his theater productions with Wallace Shawn, Louis Malle, and Jonathan Demme. Gregory, Shawn, and Malle created the now-legendary My Dinner with André. Gregory is also an actor, a writer, a teacher, and a painter.
Our second conversation was Friday, March 26th. For this conversation we were joined by NET board member Carrie J. Cole and Co-Artistic Directors of Submersive Productions, Ursula Marcum and Glenn Ricci.
Carrie J. Cole is associate professor, Producing Director, and Assistant Chair, in the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. As a scholar, her work concentrates on current and future trends in US theatre, performance, and popular culture, specifically staging science fiction and the fantastic. Dr. Cole’s recent theatre credits include creating a new adaptation of Wedekind’s The Awakening of Spring, directing Sarah Delappe’s The Wolves, Lauren Gunderson’s I and You and Ray Bradbury’s adaptation of his own Fahrenheit 451. She also devised and directed Electriad, which explored the repercussions of war from the perspective of the warrior, the home front, and the displaced. In addition, her reimagining of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, which reflected the events of the second Mars Rover exploration, was staged as part of the Tucson Festival of Books by Arizona Theatre Company. She also has served as Company Manager and Festival Dramaturg for KO Festival of Performance, where she also appeared as part of the ensemble of Katie Pearl’s OK OK. As an advocate for new plays, Dr. Cole regularly produces and directs “Flash Play Festivals”—readings of ten-minute plays written by award-winning authors at both the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts and the Other Words Conference. Dr. Cole joined the Board of NET with an amazing cohort in 2020 and is honored to serve as secretary for the organization.
Ursula Marcum is a performing and visual artist who is fed by two distinct practices: one consists of being a part of highly collaborative works on a grand scale, while the other resides in independently creating artwork that is personal, quiet, and celebrates the wonder to be found in small, everyday things. Each practice informs and balances the other. Originally trained as a designer for theater (B.A., Catholic University) and museum exhibitions (M.F.A, George Washington University), she is inspired to tell stories that are a mixture of both the magical and the ordinary.
As the Co-Artistic Director of Submersive Productions, she works with teams of wildly imaginative people to create original, site-specific, immersive worlds where artists and audiences engage together at the intersection of histories, mythologies and the immediate experience. As a puppeteer and visual artist, Marcum works in a small scale in order to establish an intimate, personal connection with audience members. Her puppets and glass artworkzs are grounded in materiality, and celebrate quiet and contemplation.
She believes in the power of art making within a community to imagine something better, together, and bring it into existence. Helping to build a supportive, just and equitable artistic environment in Baltimore is key to her practice, whether large or small.
As a composer, sound designer, performer, lighting designer, and video artist, Glenn Ricci has been working with time-based media for over three decades. As a founder and Co-artistic Director of Submersive Productions, Glenn has engaged with over one hundred Baltimore artists in a unique and evolving collaborative process that melds design, performance, and world-building to create unique, impactful audience experiences. For the past seven years, Glenn has focused on creating fully immersive artworks and their potential as an unexpected and memorable form of storytelling. By creating experiences that can be explored from many perspectives at once, his work is in constant conversation with the audience, bringing them into the center of the meaning-making process and letting them each construct their own narrative.
Our first conversation was Friday, February 26th. Kicking off this series was NET board member, Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr. in conversation with Leslie Ishii.
Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr. is the new Artistic Director of HartBeat Ensemble, Hartford’s Public Theatre. He is also co-founder of Civic Ensemble, a community-based theatre company in Ithaca, NY. For Civic, he directed Eugene O’Neill’s All God’s Chillun Got Wings and The Next Storm, and appeared in My Children! My Africa!, Fast Blood and his adaptation of Mike Daisey’s The Trump Card. Godfrey was Producing Artist in charge of New Artist Development for Off-Broadway’s Epic Theatre Ensemble, appearing in A More Perfect Union, Widowers' Houses (which Godfrey co-adapted with Ron Russell), and Measure for Measure, among other plays. At Epic, he also co-wrote and starred in a documentary play about the election of President Barack Obama, Dispatches From (A)mended America. Additional New York theatre credits include The Old Settler (Primary Stages), Betty’s Summer Vacation (Playwrights Horizons), Free Market (Working Theater), Leader of the People (New Georges), and microcrisis (Ensemble Studio Theater). Godfrey is a 2012 TCG/Fox Fellow, a participant in the TCG SPARK Leadership Program, and a lifetime member of Ensemble Studio Theatre.
Leslie Ishii (AD, Perseverance Theatre) has directed at Perseverance Theatre, Pangea World Theatre, East West Players; Artists At Play; and more; Oregon Shakespeare Festival:API 2x2 New Works Residency Founder/Co-Producer, Dramaturgy, FAIR Program Recipient, and facilitator OSF’s E/D/I/A Initiative; Native Voices Dramaturgy, Northwest Asian American Theatre.
(Actor) Penumbra; Theatre Mu; Northwest Asian American Theatre; El Teatro Campesino; American Conservatory Theater; Southcoast Repertory Theatre; Broadway.
(National Scope) Consortium of Asian American Theatres & Artists: Board President, Co-Chair Steering Committee: 5th and 6th National Asian American Theatre ConFest; National New Play Network, Membership Committee; National Cultural Navigation Theatre Project for the sustainability BIPOC artists and theatres, Founder; artEquity, core faculty.
Fitzmaurice Voicework, conference organizer, Barcelona, Spain and Vancouver, Canada.
(Affiliations & Awards) Arts For LA ACTIVATE Alumni; Los Angeles County Supervisors’
Cultural Equity Inclusion Initiative Work Groups; Founder/Director, National Cultural
Navigation Theatre Project; New England Foundation for the Arts Capacity Grant; Doris Duke Charitable Foundation National Theatre Grant Recipient; James P. Shannon Leadership Institute; Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Integrity Award; Los Angeles County Teachers Making A Difference Award; SDC E/D/I Standout Moments, 2016, 2017. SDC, AEA, SAG-AFTRA.
On Friday, January 22nd, NET hosted a Community Forum: Beginning to Heal Through Connection. As we turn towards reopening, NET is mindful of the role ensemble can and needs to play in the healing inside our own community and with broader society. We heard from a group of our Spring 2020 NET/TEN Remote Connection Mini-Grants recipients about the activities they embarked on last year and then opened up the discussion to dialogue with one another.
Featuring Remote Connections Made By Individual and Ensemble Members:
Jessica Bauman, Adam Cooper-Terán, Duke City Repertory Theatre, Paul Flores, Honest Accomplice Theatre, Ko Festival of Performance, Last Call, Pratik Motwani, SuperGeographic Ensemble Theatre and Rowen Haigh with Women's Theatre Festival
Facilitated by Patricia Garza, NET's Director of Programs & Engagement
Facilitated by Alisha Tonsic, Executive Director, NET
THIS EVENT HAS PASSED
Facilitated by Todd London (Board Member, NET; Director of Theatre Relations, Dramatists Guild of America; Head of the MFA Playwriting Program, School of Drama, The New School) and Corinna Schulenburg (former NET Board Member; Co-Founder/Creative Partner,Flux Theatre Ensemble; Director of Communications, Theatre Communications Group)
Facilitated by Claudia Alick, Board Co-President, NET and Executive Producer, Calling Up; and Leah Cooper, Artistic Director, Wonderlust Productions
As our communities manage the spread of COVID-19, and many limit non-essential travel, it's important to make sure the knowledge-sharing doesn't stop, and we take advantage of our technology tools to keep us connected.
While we had to cancel much of NET's EMFUSA2020 activity in Albuquerque during Tricklock's Revolutions festival (and the festival itself was also severely impacted (please see the company's statement on Facebook), we used our platform to host a Virtual Town Hall on March 14th, in partnership with Tricklock, to hear our community's concerns, and begin to assess where NET can be most supportive during this challenging time.