The Company EDUCATORS & ACTORS
Master Teaching Artist
For over thirty years Judyie Al-Bilali has been an innovator in the field of performing arts and arts education. As an actor, director and playwright she has performed and directed off-Broadway and in regional theater nationwide. She has taught at Amherst College, Hampshire College, University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea program and currently teaches at NYU’s Steinhardt School in Educational Theatre. She was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa where she established and directed Brown Paper Studio, an applied theatre company. Judyie received her BA in African American Performing Arts and her MFA in Theatre from the University of Massachusetts. She is the recipient of a Jacob Javits Fellowship in Arts and Humanities, along with grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. In the field of arts administration she has worked at Crossroads Theatre Company, New York State Council on the Arts, Actors Theatre of Louisville’s and served on the Kentucky Arts Council. She indie published a memoir about her years in South Africa entitled For the Feeling: Love & Transformation from New York to Cape Town.
Master Teaching Artist/Actor
Currently PerformingThe Bluest Eye
Piper Anderson is a performance artist, writer, healer, and arts educator. She holds a bachelors of arts from New School University where she was a Riggio Writing Democracy Fellow. She is the Arts Coordinator at El Puente Arts & Culture Center where she also teaches drama and creative writing. She has written curricula for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Blackout Arts Collective, and most recently Conscious Women Rock The Page: Using Hip Hop To Incite Social Change (2008). Anderson has also lectured and facilitated professional development trainings for educators and youth workers in partnership with Big Brother/Big Sister, Hip Hop Association, Urban Word, Columbia University, and Brooklyn College where she served as creative consultant and trainer for Lyrical Minded a critical literacy program training educators to incorporate popular culture in the classroom. Currently, Anderson is touring the country performing her latest one-woman show "In Her Memory" an autobiographical story of a young woman's journey to heal the wounds of relationship violence. The show, which premiered in New York City in 2006 to sold-out audiences has spawned the creation of a curriculum and a book, Seeking Wisdom: The In Her Memory Guidebook. Her writings have been featured in numerous publications and two books, How To Get Stupid White Men Out Of Office, and Growing Up Girl: Voices from Marginalized Spaces. To learn more about Piper Anderson and her work visit www.piperanderson.com.
As a community arts practitioner I make no distinction between facilitating a session with a group of students and creating my own artistic work. My ultimate goal both in the classroom, on the stage, and on the page is to create the opportunity for transformation to happen. That is my art.
Currently PerformingIncidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Previous Productions include: Well, The Old Settler, Seven Guitars, Intimate Apparel, Spunk, Splash Hatch On the E Going Down, Harlem Duet, Oak & Ivy, Beehive, Tambourines To Glory, The African Company Presents Richard III, NY Theaters include: Manhattan Class Company, Ensemble Studio Theatre, American Place Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, NY International Film Festival Regional Theatre: Yale Repertory Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, The Public Theatre (Maine),St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre, NY Stage and Film. Cabaret: The Best of the Genius of Ray, Cotten Club Review(Junteenth Legacy Theatre) Film &Television: Nowhere to Go But Up, Better Dayz, Law&Order:Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Trial By Jury, All My Children,various commercials.
Master Teaching Artist
Brendan Boland graduated in 2007 from Emerson College with a BFA in Acting. He then went on to earn his MA in Educational Theater from NYU and since then has worked as a teaching artist with Urban Arts Partnership, The Epic Theater Ensemble, PS3, and has also taught writing and acting workshops in Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Ireland. While in Ireland, Brendan also studied community-based theater making with the Upstate Theater Company and also assistant directed an original play at the Gaiety School of Acting. As an actor, Brendan has appeared in productions of As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, Measure for Measure, Macbeth, A Midsummer NIght's Dream, Hurly Burly, Stones in His Pockets, Cowboy Mouth, Equus, The Distance from Here, The Dwarfs, and is also a core member of The Outfit Theater Company. Brendan is quite pleased to be working with the Literature to Life program.
Master Teaching Artist
ADAM CRESCENZI has been a teaching artist in New York City for the past eight years, making theatre in a variety of creative capacities with public school students in grades K-12 through a number of arts-education organizations. Currently, he works for Theatre Development Fund, Theatre for a New Audience, Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, American Place Theatre, and Public School 3: The John Melser Charrette School, where he has been an Artist-in-Residence since 2009. His original children’s theatre plays featuring elementary-age performers at PS 3 include The Tortoise Strikes Back, It’s All Greek to Me!, A Midnight Summer’s Dream…Sort of, and The Tall Tale Trials (all with writing partner Brendan Boland); as well as Our Fabulous Folktales; A Day in the Life of Little Fox; Career Day; The Magic Tunnel; Community Day; and For the Love of Architecture. Adam piloted TDF’s after-school theatre program, the Youth Theatre Initiative, in 2008, and has directed five original plays written by teenagers: High School for Dummies, The Identity of We, In Our Own Words, Revolution, and The Day I Met You. For TDF’s Stage Doors program, he designs and leads interactive theatre workshops for high school students, for productions both on Broadway (Peter and the Star Catchers, Stick-Fly, War Horse, The Scottsboro Boys, Fela!, Memphis) and Off-Broadway (A Boy and His Soul, County of Kings, No Child). He also works for TDF’s New Audiences New York program, which provides diverse and underrepresented New Yorkers an opportunity to experience Broadway theatre. In 2011, Adam joined both of TFANA’s education programs, the World Theatre Project (teaching Shakespeare) and New Voices Projects (teaching playwriting). Earlier this spring, Adam wrote and directed an original musical adaptation of “The Amazing Race!” for FCCA, starring 3rd grade students at PS 184: The Flushing Manor School. Since 2008, Adam has been a Master Teaching Artist at the American Place Theatre’s Literature to Life program, where he has led residencies at Brooklyn’s City Polytechnic High School and The Ron Brown Academy, among others. He previously worked for the Mayor’s Office of Adult Education program, “We Are New York: Theatre for Change.” He has assistant directed the Off-Broadway premiere of Morris Panych’s Vigil (directed by Stephen DiMenna, starring Malcolm Gets and Helen Stenborg) and the world premiere of Rick Elice’s Dog and Pony (directed by Roger Rees). Adam holds a Master of Arts in Educational Theatre from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts in Drama from Vassar College. He has performed with the Upstate Theatre Company in Drogheda, Ireland, and studied with the late Nobel Peace Prize nominee Augusto Boal at the Centro de Teatro de Oprimido in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is the founder and facilitator of the Greenpoint Group of the Artist’s Way. He frequently returns to his hometown of Milford, Massachusetts, to lead creative writing and improvisation workshops for elementary and middle school students.
Currently PerformingThe Old Man and the Sea
George Tynan Crowley is a performer/playwright/director. He holds an MFA in Directing (1990) from Yale School of Drama where he studied with Lee Breuer and was awarded the John Badham Award for Directing. He has an MA in Performance Studies from Northwestern University (studied with Frank Galati), and he studied acting in New York City with Uta Hagen. As an actor in regional theatre, he has played Gabe in Dinner with Friends (Best Actor, Sarasota Theatre Arts Award), Oscar Wilde in Gross Indecency, Malcolm in Ten Unknowns, and Robert in Proof, all at Florida Studio Theatre. He has also performed with the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, CT, the Asolo, the Centennial Theatre in CT, Maine’s Public Theatre, the Colorado, New Jersey, and Princeton Shakespeare Festivals, the Studio Theatre in Washington, DC, and the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, where he played Oscar Wilde in the East Coast premiere of Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of Love. He has appeared in film and TV, including in Esther Bell’s independent films, frequently on the Sundance Channel, Godass and Exist. He has also written 3 full-length plays and, in a semi-professional capacity, 3 plays for young people to encourage meditation, and he has taught playwriting and acting through the City University of New York system.
Vanessa Davis Cohen
Master Teaching Artist
Currently PerformingThe Poetry of Emily Dickinson
Vanessa Davis Cohen is an actress and teaching artist who has performed in over thirty productions, including seven shows for children and one original solo piece. A member of Actors’ Equity Association, she received an MFA in Acting from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has studied with Wynn Handman. She has taught theatre and movement for children, teens, and undergraduates in NC, PA, and NYC in a variety of settings. Vanessa is currently teaching with American Place Theatre, Roundabout Theatre, Queens Theatre in the Park and Making Books Sing.
I loved to read novels, plays, and poetry in high school and middle school, and I'm sure it was in reading a wide variety of classics that I developed in part my skills as an actress and teaching artist. But I especially loved poetry, for its ability to reveal the essence of a feeling or experience through imagery, figurative language, and sound...If actors are "highly suggestable," as Wynn has often said, I reveled in the suggestions found within poems.
Master Teaching Artist
Margot Fitzsimmons is a puppeteer and
teaching artist. She holds a bachelors of arts from Dickinson College
where she majored in Spanish Literature and Theatre Arts. She
received her Masters of Arts in Educational Theatre from New York
University with a focus in Applied Theatre. Margot has taught various
subjects using active learning methods. Some of her favorite
locations have been Virginia working with migrant workers and their
families and Uganda where she worked with Invisible Children Teacher
Exchange working with youth and teachers. She is also currently
working as a teaching artist in New York City for The New Victory Theatre, The American Place Theatre,The Leadership Program and Shadow Box Children's Theatre. Her passion is bringing social awareness and social change through theatre.
Currently PerformingThe Glass Castle
Sarah Franek grew up studying dance and performance art in the Appalachian hills of West Virginia. Sarah currently stars in the One-Woman world premiere of The American Place Theatre's “Literature to Life” presentation of The Glass Castle, from the memoir by Jeannette Walls, adapted and directed by Wynn Handman.
This past year, in addition to The American Place Theatre, she has performed The Glass Castle in the tri-state area in such venues as the Bushnell Theatre, The Museum of Art & Design, The Donnell Library and many more. She has appeared in several short films, including the recent Middletown with Loren Dean (Apollo 13, Gattaca), Happy Trails, a two-hander with Gareth Saxe (currently starring in The Homecoming on Broadway). Sarah’s private rehearsals with acclaimed director and co-founder of The American Place Theatre (winner of over 30 Obies) Wynn Handman have been repeatedly filmed for the upcoming documentary, “Wynn, Place, Show” directed by Kim Ferraro. Sarah also recently appeared in I Stand Before You Naked, a collection of female monologues by Joyce Carol Oates at the 29th Street Rep in New York City. She is excited to join the L’ORAGE team.
The theme I love most about The Glass Castle is that with enough tenacity, grit and a mad dash of humor the human spirit can soar above every hardship.
Master Teaching Artist
Patricia Hicks is an artist, writer, storyteller, youth community advocate and proud member of the American Place Theatre Company. A passionate educator for twenty years, her purpose is to enrich the world through art and the transformative power of language. After eight years full-time in the elementary classroom, she transitioned to the dynamic and creative field of teaching arts. In this capacity, Patricia has taught with and developed literacy curricula for numerous organizations, independent and public schools, at every grade level, including: The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, SummerBridge San Francisco, Harlem RBI, Liberty LEADS at Bank Street College, College Now CUNY, and Good Shepherd Services. Patricia's philosophy is deeply informed by the National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum where she was trained as a seminar leader by Peggy McIntosh. Her facilitation work includes mentoring developing teachers, grassroots community building and integrating varied arts with literature and writing. She currently works for Urban Word NYC, Reel Works Teen Documentary Filmmaking, The Cooper Union Saturday Outreach Program and the Professional Performing Arts High School where she teaches Gender and Media Studies. Books are her first and forever love.
Cheryl Howard has toured and performed extensively throughout the United States and Europe. She is currently working with the American Place Theatre company where she will be performing as Zora Neale Hurston in their production entitled: “Zora” Throughout the tri-state area and nationwide. She was recently seen at the MCC theatre reading of “Black and White” as Kali. Regionally, she has starred as the witch in: “Into the Woods”, Mazeppa in “Gypsy”, Pattie Mae in: “Home, the Musical” LaLa in: “The Colored Museum” Josephine Baker in: “Lucky in the Rain” Miss Monisha in: “Tin Pan Alley Rag”, and Muzzie in Thoroughly Modern Millie. She was seen on Broadway as Bebe in: “Dance a little Closer.” Cheryl has starred as Deena Jones in: Dreamgirls in Berlin Germany, and starred as Josephine Baker in: “Josephine: The Musical” which toured throughout Europe, and won her a Golden Heart Award for best actress in a Musical, As well as an award for best musical. She has taught Musical theatre workshops at the Stages Performing Arts academy in St, Louis MO, to high school and Junior High school students. Cheryl holds a B.A. in theatre arts from Rutgers University and a Masters degree in Drama from Washington University in St. Louis.
Heidi McAllister Jackson
Master Teaching Artist/Actor
Currently PerformingTo Kill A Mockingbird
Heidi Jackson is thrilled to be returning in her third year as a Literature to Life Master Teaching Artist with The American Place Theatre. Having been encouraged by her acting teacher, APT’s founder and artistic director Wynn Handman, Heidi has been working as a teaching artist, both locally and nationally, with many different age groups and communities for the past four years. An actress herself, the program has been a perfect extension of Heidi’s philosophy on the power of honest performance to reach across boundaries and communicate in a way that is accessible to a wide audience. In high school, having been a student who sometimes had difficulty with traditional learning methods, Heidi performed excerpts from her favorite books, such as The Color Purple and Sophie’s Choice. Before coming to New York from her native Seattle, Heidi worked as a residential counselor and assistant director of the performing arts program at the DeSisto School in Stockbridge, MA, a boarding school for emotionally challenged adolescents. While at the school, Heidi worked with the students and artistic director on mounting an original play which ran off Broadway. Heidi works as an actress in NYC, is a member of Subjective Theatre Company’s CoLab, just completed a run in a play she co-wrote, Tell, and also tours the country with “Wheel of Fortune” as their traveling Vanna White
Ana Maria Jomolca
Currently PerformingThe House on Mango Street
Poems & Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe
Ana Maria is a Cuban-American writer, director and actress. Her plays have appeared Off Broadway and her film, everygirl, was screened at film festivals in New York and Chicago. TV appearances include; Without a Trace, The Jury, directed by Barry Levinson, Law & Order: Trial by Jury and Rescue Me and 30 ROCK. She has been published in The Sun Magazine, The New York Press, National Geographic’s ‘Glimpse Abroad’ and GLEE magazine. She recently received her MFA in Fiction Writing at Hunter and her short story, Twin Bed, in Sisters: An Anthology is out now in bookstores.
She currently performs the stage adaptation of Sandra Cisneros’s novel, The House on Mango Street (one woman show) as part of The American Place Theatre’s Literature to Life Program. Her most recent play, Chiquitina, debuted (and shall soon return) in New York in 2009.
"The theme of overcoming shame has deep residual connotations for me. I was raised in an environment where I was constantly concealing the financial deprivation of my family. I rarely invited friends over, terrified they would see that my house was falling apart; six-inch holes in the tile walls of our bathroom, broken tools piling up in the back yard, huge cockroaches marching across our living room like a Mariachi band. I was also terrified they would see the cheap shampoo, soaps, cheap, thin paper towels, government issued cheese and milk, and the knock-off brands of Fruity Pebbles and Nestle Quik. Even our light bulbs were second hand. Today, the penury and frugality that marked my childhood has become the central force behind my writing and has produced the richest of characters and narratives.
As MAMA told Esperanza, "Shame is a bad thing, you know. It keeps you down." But when you resurface from that shame, you have the power to transform it, build strength from it. It becomes your ally, propelling you to take action toward better, and to defy shame’s permanence. To insist on a change of scenery.
And then sometimes, what once shamed me as a child, now becomes a source of pride. Today, when I see a cockroach scurrying across the sidewalk cracks, I salute them and whisper, “Gracias”.
Master Teaching Artist
Erin R. Kaplan is an actor, teaching artist, workshop facilitator, playwright, activist and poet currently living in Brooklyn New York. She holds BAs from the University of Michigan's Residential College in Drama, English Literature and Political Science and an MA in Educational Theatre in Colleges and Communities, with a focus in Applied Theatre from New York University's Steinhardt School. In the summer of 2007 Erin was fortunate enough to study at the Center for Theatre of The Oppressed in Rio De Janeiro with Augusto Boal and carries his belief that "We are all actors" through all of her work. Erin is currently working as a Master Teaching Artist for various theatres, community centers, schools and arts-in-education organizations in New York City and New Jersey. In the Fall of 2011 she began her Ph.D. in Theatre, with an additional certification in Women's/ Gender Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research interests include Theatre of the Oppressed, Feminist Human Rights Theatre and Shakespeare.
Master Teaching Artist
Michael López-Sáenz is an actor, director, playwright and teaching artist in New York City. In the summer of 2010 his play Möbius premiered at the New York International Theatre Festival. He has appeared off-Broadway in James Sherman’s comedy Affluenza! and has also played Iago in the Milk Can Theatre Company’s production of P.O.V. As a teaching artist, he has worked in schools throughout New York and New Jersey. Michael comes to New York City from Massachusetts, where his most recent acting credits include Working at Emerson College, Tuck Everlasting with the Wheelock Family Theatre, The Winter’s Tale with the Publick Theatre in Boston, Dew Point and Dealer’s Choice at the Gloucester Stage and Lady in the Dark with the Boston Academy of Music. Michael has also taught high school drama for twelve years, both in Cambridge and NYC. He is originally from San Antonio, Texas.
Billy Lyons, New York, NY, is a graduate of Ithaca College (B.F.A. Acting). Credits include The Things They Carried (dir. Wynn Handman, The American Place Theatre, NYC). The Laramie Project, Die Fledermaus, The Cherry Orchard (Ithaca College), The American Dream (Icarus Theatre Ensemble, Ithaca, NY) Billy currently studies at the Wynn Handman Studio and is Mr. Handman's studio assistant.
Currently PerformingTeacher Man
Michael trained at the Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College, Dublin and with Wynn Handman- the Wynn Handman Studio at Carnegie Hall. He has worked with Michael Joyce- Assistant Director to Samuel Beckett on the world premier of Footfalls at the Royal Court on 20th May 1976. Michael’s work has been seen at The Abbey Theatre, Dublin, Project Arts Centre, Everyman Palace, Cork. In New York: Provincetown Playhouse, The Kitchen, Dixon Place, NYU’s Skirball Center and lots of Classrooms.
"I’m truly blessed to be allowed do this work and Wynn Handman has given me that precious gem of a gift to see that it is a journey from the head to the heart. I’m indebted to him. Thanks Wynn."
Currently PerformingThe Kite Runner
Off-Broadway: The Fever Chart (Public, dir. Jo Bonney) Queens Blvd (Signature, dir. Davis McCullum) Masked (DR2), American Pilot (MTC, dir. Lynne Meadow), Apartment 3A, The Kite Runner (dir. Wynn Handman) and Homebody/Kabul (BAM, dr. Frank Galati). Regional: Homebody/Kabul (Steppenwolf), As You Like It, Othello (Utah Shakespearean Festival) TV: "MONY" (Series Regular, dir. Spike Lee), all the "Law & Order's", "Six Degrees". Films: The Christians (upcoming), Arranged, Church Story. Arian is a Waterwell co-founder, he has acted/devised 9 drops including The Persians…, Marco Millions (based on lies) and last summer’s hit show The/King/Operetta. www.waterwell.org
Currently PerformingThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Elvis Nolasco was born and raised in New York City. From a young age Elvis was drawn to entertainment, when as a young boy he would spend evenings dancing to Latin music in his family home. His love of Salsa led to an interest in break dancing, where he spent nights dancing with legendary break dancers, Soul Sonic Rockers and Rock Steady Crew. His dance ability and style would later help to open doors to establish a solid career that spans film, theatre and television. Soon after arriving in Philadelphia to study acting, Elvis began winning a succession of leading roles in theatres around Philadelphia including the Arden, Freedom Theatre, Walnut Street Theatre and American Musical Theatre Festival. It was not long before Elvis was picked to co-star in the hit comedy I Like It Like That with Lauren Valez and Academy, Grammy Tony and Emmy winning actress Rita Morena. Soon Elvis was cast by Spike Lee for the film Clockers with Mekhi Phiffer and Delroy Lindo. Elvis began building a line of great performances in several independent hits. Including his critically acclaimed role in the film In Search of a Dream, the first all Spanish speaking cast sanctioned by the Screen Actors Guild and the number one grossing independent Latino film. Elvis has generated a stream of memorable film characters including roles in The Kitchen, Rock Steady, Vodka Rocks, Inconsolable Memories, I’m Not Rappaport, Prison Song, Philadelphia, and Secuestro on the Showtime network. Also, Elvis recently starred in the film White which will premiere in Spring 2011 on PBS. Elvis has guest starred in several television series including Law & Order, NYPD Blue, Law & Order SVU and Third Watch. He appeared in the recurring role as Abe in the Spike Lee series, Miracle Boys. Elvis continues to appear on stage, working both off Broadway and regional theatre including New York Theatre Works, Baltimore Center Stage, Young Playwright Festival, INTAR and New World Stage's off-Broadway smash hit “Celia: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz.” Elvis worked for many years as a teaching artist for The Manhattan Theater Club, The Children's Aid Society, Philadelphia Family Services and The Young Playwrights Festival. He finds his work with The American Place Theatre extremely gratifying because he gets to utilize his tools as an artist and educator to inspire and help young people.
Currently PerformingFahrenheit 451
Rich Orlow - Rich is very honored to be a part of The American Place Theatre’s Literature to Life program. He is a longtime student of the director Wynn Handman, and has performed in Off-Broadway and regional productions, independent films, television shows and over a thousand voice-overs for radio, television and animation. This year, he can be seen in an upcoming episiode of Law and Order; Criminal Intent and the comedy pilot Neerja. In 2007, he was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for his work as the Narrator and all the characters in Discovery Education’s The Icons of Science.
Master Teaching Artist
Sarah Pencheff is an actor, writer, and teaching artist residing in New York City. She holds a BA in Theatre Performance and Spanish from Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, and an MA in Educational Theatre from NYU Steinhardt. During her studies, she was fortunate enough to marry her passions for education and travel, studying at the University of Exeter (Exeter, UK), Trinity College (Dublin), and with Augusto Boal at the Centro de Teatro Oprimido (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). Sarah has worked as a teaching artist with the Classic Stage Company, the Park Avenue Armory, a variety of Summer arts camps, and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. In addition to teaching, Sarah performs with companies throughout the city, and is a founding member of Collectivitis, an arts collective dedicated to creating and producing new works for both stage and film. She is in the process of completing her first full-length play; designs masks, make-up, and costumes; takes lessons on the flying trapeze, and is always looking to expand her artistry as both an individual and an educator.
Master Teaching Artist
Tom is an actor, singer, writer, and teaching artist in New York City. He holds and MFA in Acting from Case Western Reserve University and a BGS in Theatre from the University of Kansas. As a performer, he has been seen around town understudying and performing in the premiere of Unnatural Acts (Classic Stage Company), as well as Le Gourmand or Gluttony! and Bards (3 Sticks Theatre – New York Fringe / Dixon Place), Much Ado About Nothing and Island (New York Shakespeare Exchange), as well as appearing in monthly cabarets with his fellow midwesterners at Mama Rice and Friends at Public Assembly in Williamsburg. Other credits include Angels in America, Arcadia, All’s Well that Ends Well (Case Graduate Ensemble), Inherit the Wind, Emma (Cleveland Play House), Caught in the Net, Grease (The New Theatre) as well as the solo works When I Wake Up and Looking Up: Songs for an Ordinary Guy. Tom has worked as a teaching artist with Classic Stage Company, and as a residence director and teacher for Exploration Summer Programs at the Yale University campus. He is originally from Overland Park, Kansas.
Master Teaching Artist
Erin Ronder received her M.A. in Educational Theatre and NYS Teaching Certificate in Theatre for Grades K-12 from New York University. She is currently a Theatre Teaching Artist at The American Place Theatre, The Center for Arts Education, Disney Theatrical Group, The DreamYard Project, TDF- Theatre Development Fund, and Manhattan New Music Project. In addition, Erin is an Adjunct Instructor in City College of New York’s Graduate Program in Educational Theatre. She proudly sits on the Teaching Artist Affairs Committee of The Arts in Education Roundtable, the Support Committee for The Arts in Special Education Consortium, and is an Associate of Teaching Artist Group (TAG). Erin is also a regular presenter and attendee at local and national conferences focusing on arts in education. Erin is dedicated to creating connections between students with disabilities and the performing arts and making the arts accessible to everyone. Erin is also a guest lecturer at NYU, CCNY and for The Career Development Program at The Center for Arts Education.
Erin continues to perform throughout NYC and was last seen as Cynthia in Wild Blue (Access Theatre). Other Off-Broadway NY Theatre Credits: Tragedian in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (MITF Festival- Outstanding Production of a Play and Outstanding Ensemble Awards), Alice in Next Week on Spring Valley (59E59), Jane in Manhattan Comedy (Abingdon), Narrator in Butterflies Are Free (Theatre Row 42nd St.), The Mother in The Giver (Player’s Theatre). Regional: Athena in The Eumenides (NYU). www.erinronder.com
Master Teaching Artist
Manuel Simons brings more than 20 years of experience as a professional actor, writer, director, producer, and educator to his theatre and teaching artistry. His acting credits include national and regional tours of Driving Miss Daisy, The Stone Guest (based on Moliere’s Don Juan), and Murder at Café Noir. His New York theatre credits include Suzan-Lori Parks’ El Silencio Grande at The Public Theater, Faux-Real Theatre Company’s William Shakespeare’s Haunted House at The Public Theatre, Not in My Name with The Living Theatre, and Shakespearean roles as diverse as Hamlet, Richard III, and Malvolio. Amongst his many on-screen credits, he played Watergate villain Jeb Stuart Magruder in Spike Lee’s She Hate Me, and has appeared on Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, and Sex and the City. Manuel’s screenplay, Unlikely Cowboys, was a New Century Writers Award Quarter-Finalist. His solo play, Queer in the U.S.A., was developed on the stages of The Provincetown Playhouse and The American Place Theatre, and will begin touring this summer at the Kansas City Fringe Festival. In New York City, London, and Buenos Aires, Manuel has taught theatre for youth and adults in public schools and conservatories. As a Literature to Life Master Teaching Artist, he works locally and tours nationally to conduct arts-integrated classes, workshops, and residencies for K-12 and college students. In professional development settings, he teaches educators to create innovative curriculums with dramatic activities. Manuel is a professor at New Jersey City University and The Borough of Manhattan Community College where he teaches Speech, Creative Writing, and Literature & Film. He holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Theatre and a Bachelor’s Degree in Acting, both from New York University.
Terrell Donnell Sledge
Master Teaching Artist
Terrell Donnell Sledge was born and raised in San Diego, CA where he first fell in love with theatre at the age of 6 and never looked back. A graduate of Yale University, Terrell received his B.A. in Theatre Studies in 2008. While at Yale, Terrell performed in productions of The Piano Lesson, and The Wiz and directed productions of Betrayal, Sally’s Rape and more. The time spent pursuing his M.F.A. have been years that will always be cherished. Performances in The Crucible [Giles Corey/Mercy Lewis], Vieux Carre [Tye], The Lady From Dubuque [Oscar], Blood Knot [Zachariah], The Duchess of Malfi [Ferdinand], We Are Proud to Present… [Black Man], Look Homeward, Angel [Dr. Maguire], and The Hot L Baltimore [Mr. Katz/Cab Driver], stand out and will always be remembered. Terrell has also been fortunate to have opportunities to perform in The Commonwealth Shakespeare Co.’s production of Othello in Boston, as well the opportunity to work as a program advisor for The Annie E. Casey Foundations: Making Connections Providence, as well as the Yale-Dixwell Community Learning Center. Having founded a youth leadership and advocacy program in San Diego, youth empowerment and education have always been one of Terrell's passions and he is proud to continue those efforts working with American Place Theatre: Literature to Life.
Tarantino is very excited to have this wonderful opportunity to perform Richard Wrights "Black Boy". The experience that he has gained from working on this piece, and well as working side by side with Wynn Handman, has been immeasurable. Not only has this show forced him to deal with his own issues from living in the South and the North.But, it has also proven to be the challenge that he was looking for as an actor.
Master Teaching Artist
Chris Snock graduated from West Chester University in PA with a degree in secondary education. He is an acting student of artistic director Wynn Handman and came into the Literature to Life program through Wynn. He received a full scholarship to act/write with the esteemed LAByrinth Theatre Company out of the Public Theatre in NY. A Master Teaching Artist with Literature to Life for the past several years, Chris has toured nationally with productions of "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," and "The Kite Runner." His focus now is on teaching and writing, and he is currently working on his third play.
My favorite book is "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien and I believe writing doesn't get much better then this. A compelling element of the novel is the thin tightrope O'Brien walks between fact and fiction. As he tells of his experience in Vietnam, he sways, leans, and even leaps from one side to the other, constantly challenging the reader to try to figure what's was real and what wasn't. He'll open a passage saying, "This really happened" and we'll give over our trust, getting lost in his story. Our emotional tide rises, and a response builds within, only to have O'Brien stop short by claiming that, "That this never did happen." This thin veil between fact and fiction mirrors the war and O'Brien's personal experience in Vietnam.
It's a great read, which I've done four times. And it leads to deeper questions of the nature of memories and stories. What is the real truth of a story? How much truth must a story contain? Does it matter? Is there an eternal energy to a great story? And memory. Are memories frozen and unchanging? Or do they change as we change? O'Brien keeps us guessing. But along the way we are guided with a fierce pulse and razor prose. All of this leads to a great post-show discussion with our students. And as I hear his story, think about the war in Vietnam, think about the nature of stories and memories, I look around, realizing I'm on the tightrope as well.
Robert Spaulding - Robert spent most of his early life playing sports and still considers himself an athlete. Theatre didn’t happen until much later in life, and by accident. He auditioned on a whim and to his great surprise was cast in a lead role in college. Robert graduated from Indiana University with a Major in Theatre in Drama in 2005. He then moved to NY and has been studying with Wynn Handman. He feels very blessed to be working with Wynn on Flight, and also the opportunity to speak directly with the Audiences after the performances. Robert is also blessed to have a great deal of support from his Family and Friends.
Currently PerformingThe Giver
Mara Stephens is a graduate of University of Vermont. She has been performing on Broadway, Off Broadway and regionally for the past 15 years. Her first professional show in 1995 was “Coming Through” with The American Place Theater, directed by Wynn Handman. She was in the original cast of the Broadway musical, Titanic. Other New York theater includes shows at Dance Theater Workshop, Clubbed Thumb, Cherry Lane Theater, New York Theater Workshop, Soho Rep & NY Stage & Film. Regional: George Street Playhouse, Cape Cod Theater Project, Cleveland Play House, Denver Center Theater and Prince Music Theater where she originated the role of Charlotte in, ‘Charlotte: Life or Theater? written by Elise Thoron; also performed in Washington D.C., and Amsterdam. Film/TV: Law & Order, Slings & Arrows, Cold Feet, King of the Corner. Mara is also a Sign Language interpreter. She currently resides in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with her husband, Eli, and 2 children, Vera, 5 and Roy, 4.
Master Teaching Artist
By way of Philadelphia, Lisa Strum has been a Teaching Artist in NYC for six years. As an actress, she has performed at Lincoln Center Theatre, The Public, The Classical Theatre of Harlem, New Federal Theatre, The Intiman, and ACT Seattle. She also had a recurring role on "Law & Order: SVU" as child social worker, Tonya Majeski. As a writer, Lisa has written original theatre for young audiences (which she also directed) with the Henry Street Settlement's Summer Arts Camp. Lisa is an MFA graduate in Theatre from the Univerity of Washington.
Currently PerformingThe Kite Runner
Most recently, Sorab garnered rave reviews for his performance of Hussein al-Mansour in Jihad: The Musical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2007 and for his Ali Hakim in the US national tour of Trevor Nunn's production of Oklahoma!. NY Credits: The Kite Runner (APT), Faces of War (BIMA-NY), Fear Up (NY Fringe), Big Shoot (Lark Theatre), Night Out (Producers’ Club). US Regional: Edwin Drood, Candide, Madame Butterfly, Magic Flute, Falstaff, Midsummer Night's Dream. International: Ligeia (France), Marriage of Figaro (Italy), Ariadne auf Naxos (Israel), P-3 (Japan); Merchant of Venice, Doongaji House, Plaza Suite, and Antigone (India). Films: Suburban Girl; Hiding Divya. TV: 30 Rock; The Chappelle Show. Sorab was born in Bombay, India, and lives in New York City.
Emily Joy Weiner has been working with the American Place Theatre for the past five years. For the past ten years she has also been the Director of Performance for ENACT, a drama-in-education organization serving New York City public schools. There she has been designing curriculum and conducting workshops for a diverse population of students ranging from grades K-12, oftentimes working with children with special needs as well as being a key facilitator of both teacher and parent workshops.
Emily also has served as an actor/trainer at the Morchand Center for Clinical Competence at Mount Sinai hospital (among other hospitals) for the past eight years. Here she works with medical students training them in sensitivity and communication skills.
In 2002 Emily co-founded Houses on the Moon Theater Company whose mission is to dispel ignorance and isolation through the theatrical amplification of unheard voices.
New York theater credits include OTHELLO at the West End Theater, COMING THROUGH at the American Place Theatre, TARA’S CROSSING at the Lower East Side Tenement Theater and the Lucille Lortel, FINDING THE WORDS at the Lucille Lortel, HENRY V at the Bank Street Theater, AN EPIDOG with Mabou Mines, and DE NOVO (currently touring nationally). Regionally she has been seen in THE CRUCIBLE at Madison Repertory Theatre, FEFU AND HER FRIENDS and THE THREEPENNY OPERA at Williamstown Theater Festival. Film credits include PLAGUE (3 Point Productions), THE EIGHT (Madison Film Festival), and HELLO FROM BERTHA (Circle Pictures). She was awarded the Craig Hardesty Best Female Actress award for her performance in Houses on the Moon’s pilot play, BUILDING HOUSES ON THE MOON
The first long novel I remember not just reading but falling in love with was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I got lost in it and forgot about it being something I had to read vs. couldn't stop reading. That idea of falling in love with a book is why I love The American Place Theatre and Literature to Life. Being a part of a program that has the potential (and often realizes it) of giving that gift to a young person is extremely satisfying.
Currently PerformingThe Secret Life of Bees
Denise Wilbanks is an actress, writer, and musician. She has performed in numerous theater, television, and film projects, concerts and commercial campaigns. Her past work has been selected and honored at The Cannes International Film Festival and The Hampton’s International Film Festival. Denise is beginning her fourth year of performing "The Secret Life of Bees" with the addition of new national tour programs and finds this new national outreach to be a shining example of the unprecedented potential the presence of theatre can have in a community: To offer an experience that goes beyond the stage but integrates into and lifts the life force of the community. Her current projects include developing a new adaptation and production of Ibsen’s “The Master Builder”, writing a book with Wynn Handman documenting his directing approach in creating and bringing a performance from the page to the stage, and continuing her research on creative inspiration after accepting the invitation to present her workshop entitled "The Fire Within: Accessing and Nurturing Your Own Creative Inspiration" at The Kennedy Center Festival, where she also continues to serve as a judge for The Irene Ryan Acting Competition. In between projects, Denise works with Marni Nixon as an accompanist and can often be seen teeing off on The Bobby Jones Golf Course in Sarasota, FL… as often as she possibly can! As for "Lily Owens", she sends a warm embrace to all of her new friends and a special wish ... May we all continue to believe in the goodness of imagination!
"You have got to find the mother inside yourself. We all do. You have got to find that part of yourself inside.” All the power you need lies right within you. What a magnificent discovery! It never fails to take my breath away when I say these words. At each performance, I look out on the faces of each person in that audience and I wish from the bottom of my soul to breathe that belief into each one of their hearts ... the power lies within you."
Master Teaching Artist
Jennifer Wintzer is a classically trained actor and singer. She holds a BFA from the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University, a certificate in Arts Education from Marymount Manhattan College and is a proud member of the Actor’s Equity Association. As an actor she has worked regionally in theatre, television commercials and print. Jennifer is a member of The Chekhov Theatre Ensemble, a NYC-based company of actors trained in the methodology of Michael Chekhov. CTE shows include: Between Worlds, Trojan Women, The Odyssey, Labryinths, Macbeth and The Poe Project. As a teaching artist Jennifer works with Lincoln Center, MCC Theater Youth Company, The American Place Theatre, The American Globe Theatre, Stages of Learning, and the US Performing Arts Camps. She is a certified yoga instructor with a private teaching practice and finds joy in bringing a “feeling of ease” to students of all ages! www.jwintzer.com
Master Teaching Artist
Jackie Wolff is a professional director, performance artist, oral historian and educator. Her work has taken her to Brazil, Guatemala, the Czech Republic, California, Chicago, New York City (where she currently lives) and now Wickenburg, AZ! Jackie holds a Masters degree in Educational Theatre from New York University and a BFA in Acting and Directing from Miami University. Jackie loves world music, dance, yoga and has recently discovered her inner-cowgirl!
About Our Company
The American Place Theatre's family of artists includes over 30 of the nation's most talented actors and teaching artists. These dedicated, outstanding individuals not only share the riches of their experience with the Literature to Life participants they serve, but also their sincere passion for promoting the mission of The American Place Theatre. The following photos and bios are complemented by a personal statement of connection to the work; we hope you enjoy getting to know these artists as much as we have.
Get In Touch
If you have any questions or comments about The American Place Theatre of any of our programs, please don't hesitate to ask. You can email us by clicking the link below.
Email Our Company Members