Rising Leaders of Color Program

2017 Participants

In 2017, the Rising Leaders of Color program is supported by Meyer Memorial Trust and Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment. The RLC program formed a cohort of six exceptionally talented early-career leaders of color from Oregon - providing them with professional development and networking opportunities at the 2017 National Conference and beyond.


TJ Acena | Freelance Writer | Portland, OR

TJ Acena is a freelance writer living in Portland, OR. As he former arts reviewer for PQ Monthly, he covered the arts scene of Portland Metro, including theatre, dance, and literature. His prose has appeared most recently in Pacifica Literary Review and Somnambulist. As an associate artist with Action/Adventure Theatre since 2015, he has collaborated on devised work, serial plays and spoken word performances, He holds a B.A. in creative writing. www.tjacena.com.


Tracy Cameron Francis | Director, Producer and Interdisciplinary Artist | Portland, OR

Tracy Cameron Francis is a director, producer and interdisciplinary artist with a focus on international exchange and socially conscious work. She is a former TCG Global Connections grant recipient which she used to collaborate with Syrian writer Mohammad Al-Attar in Beirut. She is a core member of Theatre Without Borders, an associate member of SDC, member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, and holds a B.A. in Theatre and Middle Eastern Studies from Fordham and American University of Cairo. She is a writing coach for at risk youth with the Playwrite program and works as the lead coordinator of the Cascade Festival of African Film. She is currently developing a new devised work Exodo for Milagro Theatre.


Geno Franco | Production and Facilities Manager | Oregon Contemporary Theatre | Eugene, OR

Geno Franco is the production and facilities manager at Oregon Contemporary Theatre (OCT) in Eugene, OR. Other duties at OCT include community engagement and producing. Geno has held production management positions with The Hypocrites, The Raven Theatre, The New Colony and Steppenwolf Theatre where he was a Multicultural Fellow. Previously, he was a scenic artist at companies such as Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Portland Center Stage, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cincinnati Playhouse and South Coast Repertory. Geno is a graduate of the Pacific Conservatory Theatre (PCPA).


Madilynn Garcia | Freelance Production Manager | Portland, OR 

Madilynn Garcia is a native Texan and an alumna of The University of Oregon. She currently works as a freelance production manager in Portland, OR at companies such as Profile Theatre, Third Rail Repertory, and Action/Adventure Theatre. Garcia is an active member of USITT, serving on both the Finance Committee and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. For the past three years she has acted as coordinator of the Gateway Program, an initiative that fosters emerging members of production who are underrepresented int he field.


Jordan Schwartz | M.A. Candidate, Performing Arts Management | University of Oregon | Eugene, OR

Jordan Schwartz is finishing her M.A. in Performing Arts Management at he University of Oregon and looks forward to starting her new job as the Director of Literary Programs and Outreach at the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis. She received her B.A. in History from Bryn Mawr College in 2015. An Atlanta native, Schwartz became interested in the arts through community theatre. Noticing a significant cultural gap in her community, She founded the Bilingual Theater in 2004. After touring its first production through four local elementary schools, CBT gained 501c3 status and has produced several full productions and literacy events.


Samson Syharath | Artistic Associate and Instructor | Portland Actors Conservatory | Portland, OR

Samsosn Syharath is a multidisciplinary artist focusing on visibility of Asian-American artists and underserved communitiesd. After receiving a B.A. from the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, Syharath trained at the Portland Actors Conservatory where he is currently Artistic Associate and instructor, and assisting with their Equity Initiative. Syharath is also a founding company member of Theatre Diaspora (Oregon's only professional Asian American/Pacific Islander theatre company). Syharath is currently co-directing Refugee Dreams Revisited, a MediaRites production of true refugee elders' stories presented by local Asian/Pacific Islander youth. He is also creating an original autobiographical theatre piece using traditional Laotion arts. 

2016 Participants

In 2016, the Rising Leaders of Color program was supported by The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment and Weissberg Foundation. The RLC program formed a cohort of ten exceptionally talented early-career leaders of color from the DC, Baltimore, and Northern Virginia areas - providing them with professional development and networking opportunities at the 2016 TCG National Conference.



Annalisa Dias | Producing Playwright | The Welders | Washington, DC

Annalisa Dias is a performer, director, and playwright. She is an incoming producing playwright with The Welders, a DC playwright’s collective; and co-founder of the DC Coalition for Theatre and Social Justice. Her plays include Servant of the Wind, One Word More, To Defend Freedom, and others. Her work has been staged in Washington DC, New York, London and Glasgow. Most recently she has created new work with the Mead Theatre Lab Program, Signature Theatre, and the Atlas Intersections Festival. Annalisa also frequently speaks and teaches on coloniality, oppression, and the persistence of racism in the United States.


Paige Hernandez | Performer, Playwright and Educator | B-FLY ENTERTAINMENT | Capital Heights, MD

Paige Hernandez is a multidisciplinary artist who is critically acclaimed as a performer, director, choreographer, and playwright. As an AEA actress, Paige has performed on many stages throughout the country and internationally. She has received an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council, as well as two Helen Hayes nominations for choreography and performance. She has also been recognized as a “Classroom Hero” by The Huffington Post. Most recently she was named a Citizen Artist Fellow at the Kennedy Center. With her company B-FLY ENTERTAINMENT, Paige continues to develop and tour original work internationally.



Sadiqua Iman | Artistic Director | Earth Pearl Collective | College Park, MD

Sadiqua Iman is an interdisciplinary artist and activist who challenges preconceived notions of marginalized identities through theatre, as well as dance workshops and productions. She launched her youth arts program, Sister Stories, in 2015 with the support of her National Arts Strategist Community Arts Fellowship. In 2011, she founded her not-for-profit, Earth Pearl Collective, a queer womyn of color social justice arts organization. Sadiqua believes the arts are an imperative part of healing communities. “That unruly curl. That shapely, textured, shift of consciousness springing forward with bounce, giving non-linear expression to unspoken boundaries.”



Kristen Jackson | Connectivity Director | Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company | Washington, DC

Kristen Jackson is currently the connectivity director at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC. She earned her M.A. from University of Texas at Austin in Performance as Public Practice. Kristen has also worked on- and off-Broadway for Ostar Productions and Playwrights Horizons in the areas of producing and casting; and as a teaching artist and performer for the regional theatres Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and Actors Theatre of Louisville. Outside of theatre, she provided administrative and programming support for Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance. Kristen holds a B.A. in Theatre Studies and English from Duke University.



Bryan Joseph Lee | Director of Marketing and Communications | Round House Theatre | Bethesda, MD

Bryan Joseph Lee is the director of marketing & communications at Round House Theatre, a 400 seat LORT D regional theatre in Bethesda, MD, where he oversees earned revenue, institutional branding and audience development. He has a specific interest in building diverse audiences through authentic relationship-building and targeted cultivation strategies. In 2016, he was awarded a fellowship with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management. He has previously worked with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and Source Festival. Bryan is a graduate of Dartmouth College, and holds a degree in Latin American Studies and Theatre.


Ouida Maedel | Grants Manager | Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company | Washington, DC

Ouida Maedel joined Woolly Mammoth as grants manager in the summer of 2015. Previously, she led artistic producing efforts for Dance Exchange, a dance/theatre company known for devising innovative performance projects that engage communities and partners across wide-ranging disciplines. Specializing in experimental theatre and performance art, she has produced and performed in DC and New York City. Ouida has also worked in numerous applied theatre capacities at the intersection of theatre and social change in Ghana, Zambia, and the U.S. She holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, and an M.A. in International Communication and Arts Management from American University.


Ronee Penoi | Creative Producer (Incoming) | The Welders | Washington DC

Ronee Penoi is the (incoming) creative producer for The Welders, and the founder of Theatre from the District. Ronee was previously the National New Play Network producer-in-residence at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and part of the inaugural class of New Play Producing Fellows at the American Voices New Play Institute at Arena Stage, where she produced a national convening on devised work. Ronee was the assistant stage manager for Anna Deavere Smith’s national tour of Let Me Down Easy, the directing fellow for Arena Stage, and the artistic fellow for The Shakespeare Theatre. Ronee is currently writing a musical about Carlisle Indian School. She received her B.A. from Princeton University.


Amelia Acosta Powell | Artistic Associate and Casting Director | Arena Stage | Washington, DC

Amelia Powell is currently the artistic associate and casting director in residence at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. She is also a freelance producer, director, and casting director, and a member of the Casting Society of America. She is a regular teaching artist at The Growing Studio NYC, and has given master classes at Brown University/Trinity Rep, Catholic University, Howard, American, Messiah College, and Montgomery College. She holds a B.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies and a M.A. in Spanish Linguistics from Georgetown University. She is a proud alumna of the Allen Lee Hughes Fellowship.


Shayla Roland | Special Programming Manager | Ford's Theatre | Arlington, VA

Shayla Roland is the special programming manager for Ford’s Theatre where she has implemented and maintained innovative programming to further engagement with theatrical audiences, and encourages millennial participation. She assists in casting, dramaturgy, and works extensively with Ford’s Theatre’s director on correspondence for special events, including the Ford’s Theatre Annual Gala. Shayla coordinated the 150th Anniversary of the Lincoln Assassination commemoration, serving as a key contributor to the conception of the events, and working with partner organizations to execute 36 hours of programming. She’s an assistant producer for the Source Festival in Washington, DC.


Stephanie Rolland | Artistic Administrator | Center Stage | Baltimore, MD

Stephanie Rolland is the artistic administrator at Center Stage. Before arriving in Baltimore, Stephanie was the assistant managing director of Yale School of Drama and Special Events at Yale Repertory Theatre, the project manager for the first 'Krymov Lab at Yale' led by Dmitry Krymov, and the event manager of the first 'Inspiring Yale' (an evening of TEDx style talks delivered by elected Yale professors). Stephanie has also served as assistant managing director of Yale Repertory Theatre and associate managing director of the Yale Cabaret. She is a member of the LORT Recruitment sub-committee, part of the LORT Diversity Initiative. She received her MFA from the Yale School of Drama, and her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.