List of Participants

Round 4: Miami, FL | New York, NY

In 2019, the Rising Leaders of Color Program is supported by the Knight Foundation, the Howard Gilman Foundation, and The Hearst Foundations. The RLC program formed a cohort of ten exceptionally talented early-career leaders, providing them with professional development and networking opportunities at the 2019 National Conference and beyond.

Christina N. Alexander has a passion for addressing Diversity and Tolerance issues in both her work and everyday life. Her academic research has focused on chronicling Black American Music from the Slave Era to its present forms and its impact on the American Musical Culture. She founded the South Florida Kids Choir, a program for performers interested in quality vocal and musical theater training. Her original theatrical piece HATE: An American Love Story addresses issues of gender, sexuality, race, and faith. Presently, her work is centered on bridging the arts and education and not shying away from conversations about EDI.

Jordana De La Cruz is a Brooklyn-based director and creative producer who connects artists, activists, and neighbors in cross-cultural dialogue to expand the concept of community and question what it means to be free. In winter 2019, De La Cruz was appointed Co-Director of the OBIE Award-winning performance space, JACK. Before joining JACK, she held positions at The Story Pirates, Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company, 52nd Street Project, and INTAR Theatre. Most recently, as Program Manager of Park Avenue Armory, De La Cruz was instrumental in the creation of the institution’s Public Programs Series.

Gabriela Gutierrez is the current Production Manager at Signature Theatre. She is a Chilean immigrant who moved to Miami at the age of 12 and is currently living in New York City. Gabriela graduated with a B.F.A in stage management from the University of Central Florida. In addition to her current position at Signature, she is also part of their EDI committee, and will take over as co-leader starting in the summer. With Gabriela’s involvement, specifically in the hiring/recruitment/onboarding process, Signature has created and is working on new and ongoing EDI initiatives.

Jazmin Jones-Oliver is the Theater Director/Facility Manager at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, the nucleus of arts training for African Americans in Miami. She is also the Artistic Director of the African Heritage Youth Theatre, where she trains young thespians ages 9-17. Understanding that students can only achieve what they see, Jazmin’s main goal has been to expose her students to the arts. So when she is not in rehearsal, you may her find her and about twenty students in any theater house in Miami-Dade County. At home, Jazmin enjoys watching reruns of “The Big Bang Theory” with her husband.

Reynaldi Lindner Lolong is the Associate Director of Digital Engagement for The Public Theater, where he focuses on the strategic intersection of digital content, social media, and email communications. He has been a frequent presenter at the Tessitura Conference, speaking on a variety of subjects including revenue strategy, organizational collaboration, and community engagement. He has also been a guest lecturer at Julliard, and a grant panelist for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Reynaldi has his B.A. in Arts Marketing from San Francisco State University, and an M.F.A. in Theater Management from the Yale School of Drama.

Niurca Márquez is an artist/researcher working in film, site-specific work, and staged performance. Her work continuously examines the many intersections of roots and creation in flamenco informed by contemporary marginal practices in dance and theater, and is particularly interested in notions of identity, cultural memory and ritual, and the multiple layers of communication and understanding in the form that lead to liaisons with political and social discourse. She is Director of Cultural Arts Exchange, an organization dedicated to expanding the conversation and offerings of the arts community in South Florida and the Caribbean.

Cristina Pla-Guzman writes for as a Contributing Editor for Miami, Florida. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Florida International University with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in Theatre and earned her Masters’ in Special Education from St. Thomas University. She was honored with the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award in 2016. Cristina also was awarded Educator of the Year, the Cervantes Educator from Nova South Eastern University, the Varsity Brands National Top-Notch Teacher where her program was nominated for Performing Arts Achievement and the Spirit of Inclusion. For the last fifteen years, she has dedicated her life to theatre education. Currently, she is the Upper School Theatre Teacher at Miami Country Day School.

Erik J. Rodriguez is extremely happy to be chosen by the TCG as a Rising Leader of Color. Erik has been the Director of New Work and Community Relations at Miami New Drama since January 2018. He was also Literary Manager of New Theatre from 2014-2016. Some of his production credits include Body Awareness (Actor, Island City Stage), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Actor, What If Works) and Not Ready for Primetime (Playwright, New Theatre). Erik has produced One Act Festivals in South Florida and Line Produced the National New Play Network 2015 Showcase at the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center.

Vyana Rodríguez Preti is a Venezuelan theater director, writer, and educational & community leader. Her interest in theatre, community and social change has brought her to found a theatre school for kids and teenagers in Petare, one of the most dangerous favelas in Latin America, in 2011. During her tenure, over 300 students, most of them living in extreme poverty, graduated from the program – completely free of cost to them. She is also the writer of several children’s plays, where she explore issues as gender, inclusion and coexistence. In 2019, Miami New Drama gave Vyana the opportunity to become Director of Education to continue and expand their Educational Program.

Alyssa Simmons is a creative producer and manager. She currently serves as the Assistant General Manager at The Public Theater where her primary responsibility is the Under The Radar Festival. Her interests run the gamut from devised performance to new plays to musicals to immersive experiences and live events. She is a woman of two cities: her hometown of Los Angeles and her adopted city of New York. She is a member of the 2018-2020 WP Theater Producers Lab and produced the 2018 Prelude Festival. BA, Yale University; MFA in Theater Management, Yale School of Drama.

Round 3: St. Louis, MO | New York, NY

In 2018, the Rising Leaders of Color Program is supported by the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis, the Howard Gilman Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The RLC program formed a cohort of ten exceptionally talented early-career leaders of color from Missouri and New York - providing them with professional development and networking opportunities at the 2018 National Conference and beyond.

Sophie Ancival | Assistant Producer | New York, NY

Sophie Ancival is the outgoing Producing Fellow at Manhattan Theatre Club, having worked on Broadway and Off-Broadway productions including Saint Joan, In the Body of the World and Sugar in our Wounds. A producer of Afro-Caribbean decent, Sophie’s work focuses on giving theatre access to a larger audience, caring especially for equity, diversity and inclusion. Sophie holds a MBA from the Baruch College at the City University of New York and has a background in Marketing. Following her fellowship at MTC, Sophie is transferring to the American Repertory Theater as their new Assistant Producer.

Rosalind Early | Writer | St. Louis, MO

Rosalind Early is the associate editor for Washington University’s alumni magazine. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she traveled to Austria to teach English. She later earned a master’s degree in German literature from the University of Konstanz in Germany. She worked on staff at St. Louis Magazine for three years before joining the staff at Washington University. She has also written for American Theatre Magazine, Humanities: The Magazine for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and The Cambridge Companion to Boxing (forthcoming). She is currently working on a book with her dad about gentrification in Philadelphia.

Ariel Estrada | Producing Artistic Director, Leviathan Lab | New York, NY

Ariel Estrada is an actor, arts advocate, and Founder/Producing Artistic Director of Leviathan Lab, a NYC-based creative studio for Asian American theatre artists. As an actor, Ariel has performed in television, film, commercials, industrials, digital media, and on, Off-, and Off-Off Broadway. As an arts advocate, he is the outgoing Manager of Communications and Community Engagement and Interim Manager of Public Programs for the Asian American Arts Alliance, and the incoming Communications Associate for The Tank NYC, as well as the 2018 Marketing Director for Planet Connections Theatre Festivity. He is also an accomplished grant writer and professional graphic designer.

Bryce Goodloe | Analytics and Engagement Assistant, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis | St. Louis, MO

Bryce Goodloe is an interdisciplinary artist focusing on the African diaspora, LGBTQ identity, and community activism. He currently works as the Analytics and Engagement Assistant for Shakespeare Festival Saint Louis. He holds degrees in Theatre Studies & Dramaturgy (B.A.) and Business Administration (B.S.) from Webster University. He is also a graduate of the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission’s Community Art’s Training.

Pia Haddad | Producer/Actor | Brooklyn, NY

Pia Haddad is a Lebanese-American producer and actor focusing on new work reflecting the diversity of our world. She is the founder of 3K² Productions, a NY-based theatre and film production company dedicated to new projects created by multicultural artists. She has produced in NYC at HERE and is the associate producer of the interdisciplinary solo show Hope which premieres at the Wild Project this fall. She is currently working on a documentary on the inclusion of LBGTQ in Catholicism and is developing a female-centric project based in Lebanon.

Peter J. Kuo | Director, Producer, Cultural Activist | New York, NY

Peter J. Kuo is a New York-based director, producer, and writer focusing on raising the visibility of marginalized communities. Artistically, he’s worked at East West Players, South Coast Repertory, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and The Play Company, among others. EDI work: founding NSD: Affinity Groups, teaching “Acting Beyond Marginalization” at HB Studio, and coordinating the Asian American Directors List. Co-founder of Artists at Play, and recipient of a Drama League First Stage Residency. This summer; Directing Corps for Williamstown Theatre Festival, assisting Rachel Chavkin on Lempicka, a world premiere. MFA: The New School For Drama.

Carl Overly, Jr. | Artist | St. Louis, MO

Carl Overly, Jr. hails from Maysville, Ky and received his BA in Theater from Eastern Kentucky University. He was an intern with The Black Rep (2005-2007) Carl was a co-producer for The Every 28 Hour Play Festival. Some of his favorite roles include Lennie in SATE Ensemble's Of Mice and Men (Best Actor in a Drama nominee- 2018 St. Louis Theater Circle Awards) MacDuff in ERA's Trash Macbeth. Directing credits include Night, Mother and Prime's 24 Hour Play Festival. Carl has worked with numerous companies including Shakespeare Festival-STL, Theatre Nuevo, Upstream Theatre, Actor's Studio, Unity Theater Ensemble, and is also a teaching artist with Prison Performing Arts.

Anna Skidis Vargas | Artistic Director, Theatre Nuevo | St. Louis, MO

Anna Skidis Vargas is the founder and artistic director of Theatre Nuevo. She holds a BA in Performance from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and is currently earning a Directing MFA at University of Texas - Austin. She has produced and directed This is Not Funny, Orgullo, Acronyms, and HELL, all with Theatre Nuevo and Luchadora! with Mustard Seed Theatre in collaboration with Theatre Nuevo. As an actor and singer, Anna has performed with several companies in Saint Louis, receiving two STL Theatre Circle Awards for outstanding performances in Lizzie (Lizzie Borden) with New Line and Spring Awakening (Ilse) with Stray Dog.

Gabe Taylor | Associate Artistic Director, Equally Represented Arts (ERA), Theatre Nuevo | St. Louis, MO

Gabe Taylor currently serves as the associate artistic director for both Theatre Nuevo and Equally Represented Arts (ERA). He’s stage managed, acted, and directed with ERA, YoungLiars, Theatre Nuevo, New Line Theatre, among others. He most recently directed twelfth period and played Hubert in Snow White (ERA); designed lighting and sound for Theatre Nuevo’s HELL; and served as stage manager for YoungLiars Titus Androgynous. He’s currently the assistant director and stage manager for the regional premier of Luchadora! with Theatre Nuevo and Mustard Seed Theater and is directing a devised piece this fall as part of the 2018 Faustival, whither should I fly.

Jacqueline Thompson | Actor/Director | St. Louis, MO

Jacqueline Thompson is an actor/director passionate about creating art that intersects racial equity and community engagement. In March, the St. Louis Post Dispatch recognized her as one of six women shaping St. Louis Arts and entertainment. She was also noted as one of St. Louis’ most versatile performers. This year she received a St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama as well as a fellowship from the Regional Arts Commission. Thompson holds an M.F.A. from the University of Louisville and a B.A. from Clark Atlanta University. She is a proud member of Actors Equity Association.

Round 2: Portland, OR

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.


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. 

Round 1: Washington, DC | Baltimore, MD | Northern VA

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.