Talking Back 2
Cultural Worker, Writer, artEquity Core Facilitator
Nissy Aya is a Black girl from the Bronx. She and all her younger selves tell stories and tall tales—helping others to do the same. As a cultural worker and writer, we believe in the transformative nature of storytelling, placing those most affected by oppressive systems in the center, and examining how we move forward, shape new worlds, and end this world through healing justice, Afrofuturist frameworks, and practices of feeling good. Our creative work reflects those notions while exploring the lines between oral history, archives, and memory, detailing both the absence and presence of love, and giving all the life (and then some) to Black femmes.
Director, Facilitator, Producer, Advocate for Anti-racist (A.R.T.) Theatre
Nicole Brewer is a community-held single mother and passionate advocate for anti-racist theatre. She’s spent the last 13 years refining and practicing an inclusive method of theatre training and practices she calls Conscientious Theatre Training (CTT). Nicole is invited all over the United States and internationally to teach and facilitate antiracist theatre (A.R.T.) workshops. She’s authored four articles on HowlRound and American Theatre about the need for the theatre industry to shift from racist and oppressive models to those that are anti-racist and anti-oppressive.
Nicole is a board member of Parent Artist Advocacy League (PAAL) where she works to shift how the industry can become more proactive to the needs of caregivers.
She is one of the four producers of the COVID-19 freelance artist resource website, freelanceartistresource.com. The producing collective partnered with HowlRound in 2020 to produce six weekly webinars focused on the needs of freelance artists impacted by the pandemic.
Nicole has had the pleasure of working as an educator at every level of training and is currently full-time faculty in the acting department at the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale. She’s worked as faculty in the theatre department of Howard University; Northern Virginia Community College; Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a premier performing arts high school in Washington D.C.;and as visiting faculty at the National Theater Institute (NTI).
In 2022, Nicole was a part of the Kennedy Center Next 50, a cohort of 50 people across disciplines whose work creates positive social impact. In 2021 she was awarded the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Gold Medallion for her work training thousands of theatremakers in her anti-racist theatre approach.
Nicole's artistic bliss comes from her work as a director. She is a proud member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. Ms. Brewer is also an actor; she earned her MFA in Acting from Northern Illinois University and her BFA from Howard University
Executive Director of TimeLine Theatre
Mica Cole has worked as an arts administrator and changemaker for nearly two decades. She is currently the executive director of TimeLine Theatre in Chicago. Prior to her work at TimeLine, she worked as a national consultant providing executive coaching and strategic planning for cultural institutions working to embrace an antiracist leadership paradigm.
Mica served eight seasons as the repertory producer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). As a senior leader at OSF, she played a key role in guiding the company’s equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives, many of which now serve as foundational organizational models for institutions around the world. Mica has produced more than 80 shows, including a dozen transfers and national co-productions of new plays with theatres such as American Repertory, Seattle Repertory, South Coast Rep, Arena Stage, Portland Center Stage, and Berkeley Repertory.
She worked in Chicago as the executive director of Free Street Theater and as the director of education and engagement at Writers Theatre. Mica served on the advisory committee for the Latinx Theatre Commons and is a founding member of the Black Theatre Commons. She is a graduate of the Theatre School at DePaul University.
Executive Director of American Repertory Theater at Harvard University
Kelvin Dinkins, Jr. is the Executive Director of American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kelvin joins A.R.T. following a five-year tenure as the Assistant Dean and Assistant Professor Adjunct in Theater Management at the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University and the general manager of Yale Repertory Theatre. Prior to Yale, Kelvin served as general manager of Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey where he produced over 25 productions and 2 original cast albums, including Be More Chill. Kelvin currently serves on the board of directors for the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) and the board of trustees for the Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and the Graduate Board of Trustees for the Princeton University Triangle Club. Kelvin has served as the chair and co-chair of the LORT Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee since 2016 and has developed initiatives to influence organizational culture and representation of BIPOC leadership in executive leadership and the theatre industry at large. Kelvin is an inaugural member of the TCG SPARK Leadership Program for the professional development of leaders of color and was awarded TCG’s Leadership(U): Continuing Ed grant. Kelvin is a co-coordinator for the LORT-Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival ASPIRE Arts Leadership fellows program supporting the development of future theatre industry leaders. Kelvin developed his passion for theater management and producing while an undergraduate at Princeton University where he received his AB degree in English and received a certificate in theatre & dance from the Lewis Center for the Arts. Kelvin earned his MFA in theatre management & producing from Columbia University’s School of the Arts.
Playwright, Spoken-Word Artist, Author, Screenwriter
Alesha Harris is a playwright, spoken-word artist, author, screenwriter, award-winning, commissioned nationally and internationally, recipient of numerous fellowships, and a Black woman playwright.
Aleshea Harris’ play Is God Is (directed by Taibi Magar at Soho Rep) won the 2016 Relentless Award, an OBIE Award for playwriting in 2017, the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award in 2019, and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. What to Send Up When It Goes Down (directed by Whitney White, produced by The Movement Theatre Company), a play-pageant-ritual response to anti-Blackness, had its critically acclaimed NYC premiere in 2018, was featured in the April 2019 issue of American Theatre Magazine, and received a rare special commendation from the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.
Harris was awarded a Windham-Campbell Literary Prize and the Mimi Steinberg Playwriting Award in 2020 and the Hermitage Greenfield Prize in 2021. She has performed her own work at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Orlando Fringe Festival, REDCAT, as part of La Fête du Livre at La Comèdie de Saint-Étienne and at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles. Harris is a two-time MacDowell Fellow and has enjoyed residencies at Hedgebrook and Djerassi.
Lauren Turner Hines
Founder, Producing Artistic Director - No Dream Deferred NOLA , Co-executive Director of the Andre Cailloux Center for Performing Arts and Cultural Justice
Lauren Turner Hines' role in the arts is that of a community facilitator, director, producer, and advocate for justice and change. Lauren is the founding producing artistic director of No Dream Deferred NOLA, a community-anchored theatre production company that is dedicated to the development of new works originating in the South. Additionally, Lauren leads as co-executive director of the Andre Cailloux Center for Performing Arts and Cultural Justice. Lauren is driven by her interest in equitable, place-based, culturally relevant theatre especially as it pertains to the Global South. Lauren’s work lives where storytelling, community-building, and politics intersect. Lauren is an artEquity-trained Equity, Diversity and Inclusion facilitator and founder of Equity and Justice for Institutional Change (EJIC), an organizational development consulting firm. Additionally, Lauren provides executive strategic and wellness coaching for global majority art leaders working within predominantly/historically white institutions. She is a Round 4 recipient in the Leadership U: One-on-One grant program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group, designed to further develop prominent emerging leaders and change agents in the American Theatre. Lauren has also served as a Mellon Fellow through Tulane University’s Community Engaged Graduate Program, mentoring Tulane University graduate students who wish to implement community-engaged practices into their work. Lauren received her Master of Fine Arts in performance from the University of Southern Mississippi and her BA from North Carolina Central University. Lauren lives joyfully in New Orleans with her husband and their 3 children, Austyn, Elijah, and Nia.
Actor, Creative Producer, Educator, Facilitator
My name aptly weaves together parts of my grandparents' names. Be it to muster the courage to stand before witnesses onstage or on screen, as a raw nerve, in order to shine a light upon hidden parts of humanity, or to architect a world that ignites the imagination towards transformation, I am committed to collaborative processes that illuminate humanity through the craft of storytelling.
My work uproots classics and tethers itself to immersive ceremonies and rituals that center Blackness, Black-femininity. Calling on both the sacred and profane to locate that small (sometimes quiet) place where healing happens. I dedicate my practice to community, honest liberation, and building more just and joyous futures. Blissfully standing on the shoulders of those that come before me, I am a product of my grandmother’s prayers and the living embodiments of my ancestors, and their wildest dreams. Glory be.
Selected works include: TV: Grey’s Anatomy, recurring guest star, Season 19. Off-Broadway: The Steadfast (Slant Theatre Project); Dirty Blood (Billie Holiday Theatre). Regional: Fires in The Mirror, solo performer (LongWharf/Baltimore Center Stage); She A Gem (NYTW), The Bluest Eye (The Huntington Theatre); Cross That River the Musical (Marcus Garvey Amphitheater); and Black Odyssey (Trinity Rep). Film: Stay Here with Me (Tuli media), The Promotion (C1 Media), The Light (B.K.Lui.Horne), and Driving While Black Magic, Breaking Dawn: American Myth Project (The NET). Teaching: Yale School of Drama, Brown University, NYU-Playwrights Horizons/Meisner Studio, Vassar, and La Jolla Playhouse Student Conservatory. Facilitation: artEquity, co-program lead of the BIPOC Leadership Circle, BIPOC Surviving PWI Processing Space. MFA in acting from Brown University/Trinity Rep. BFA in theater arts from Boston University.
Ken-Matt Martin has worked in theaters across the country including Rites and Reason Theatre, Pyramid Theatre Company, Brown/Trinity Rep, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Goodman Theatre, The Playwrights Center, Baltimore Center Stage, and others. Ken-Matt is a co-founder of Pyramid Theatre Company in Des Moines, Iowa, where he served as executive director until 2018. Pyramid is the first and only theatre in the state of Iowa to produce plays by August Wilson including Martin’s productions of Fences and The Piano Lesson. Martin’s producing and directing credits in Des Moines have received numerous Cloris Leachman Excellence in Theatre Award nominations, including two awards for Best Play and a Special Honor in 2016. Martin previously served as producing director at Williamstown Theatre Festival where credits during his tenure include the Broadway transfers of The Sound Inside and Grand Horizons. Martin also served as associate producer at the Goodman Theatre where he co-created the Future Labs program. He is the former artistic director of Victory Gardens Theatre and was recently appointed the interim artistic director of Baltimore Center Stage. He received two degrees from Drake University and his MFA in directing from Brown/Trinity Rep.
Dominique Morisseau is the author of The Detroit Project (A 3-Play Cycle): Skeleton Crew (Atlantic Theater Company/Broadway), Paradise Blue (Signature Theatre), and Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem and NBT). Additional plays include: Confederates (Signature Theatre), Pipeline (Lincoln Center Theatre), Sunset Baby (LAByrinth Theatre), Blood at the Root (National Black Theatre), and Follow Me To Nellie’s (Premiere Stages). Her Broadway production of Skeleton Crew (Manhattan Theatre Club) is Tony nominated for best play and she is also the Tony-nominated book writer on the Broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations (Imperial Theatre). TV/film projects: She has served as co-producer on the Showtime series Shameless. She’s currently developing projects with Netflix and Maceo-Lyn (Kamilah Forbes, Ta-Nehisi Coates), and wrote the film adaptation of the documentary STEP for Fox Searchlight. Additionally, she has done rewrites for the films Terms of Endearment (Lee Daniels/Paramount), What’s Goin’ On (Mad Chance/Warner Bros), and is currently consulting on the Netflix animated feature, Tunga. Awards include: Spirit of Detroit Award, PoNY Fellowship, Sky-Cooper Prize, TEER Trailblazer Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, Audelco Awards, NBFT August Wilson Playwriting Award, Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, OBIE Awards, and the Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, named one of Variety’s Women of Impact for 2017-18 and a recipient of the 2018 MacArthur Genius Grant. In 2022, Dominique was awarded the key to the city by the mayor of Detroit.
Josh Wilder is a playwright and producer from Philadelphia. His work has been developed, commissioned, and produced at various regional theaters and festivals across the country including the Fire This Time Festival, Classical Theatre of Harlem, New York Theatre Workshop, True Colors Theatre Company, the Kennedy Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 2015 O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, PlayPenn, Company One, InterAct Theatre Company, and Yale Rep. Past awards include the Holland New Voices Award, the Lorraine Hansberry Award, the Rosa Parks Award, and the ASCAP Cole Porter Prize. Josh is a former Jerome Fellow and the first national recipient of the Jerome Many Voices Fellowship at the Playwrights’ Center. He has been in residence at the Royal Court Theatre, Sundance at UCross, and served as co-artistic director at the Yale Cabaret for its 50th season and co-founder/producer of the New Griots Black Arts Festival in the Twin Cities with Jamil Jude. Currently, he’s stationed on the East Coast leading the next generation of emerging writers at The Playwrights Workshop. MFA: Yale School of Drama. BFA: Carnegie Mellon.
A. Zell Williams
Playwright, Producer, Writer
A. Zell Williams is an award-winning playwright and TV producer whose work has been developed and performed at the Public Theater in New York, InterAct Theatre in Philadelphia, and the Royal Court in London. As a TV writer, he’s worked on such shows as the Fox drama, neXt; NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; BET’s American Soul, and FreeForm’s Good Trouble. He is currently a writer for season two of AMC’s critically acclaimed Interview with a Vampire. His play, Diversity, is currently being developed for its Broadway premier by the producers of Hadestown and The Piano Lesson with Samuel L. Jackson.