TCG Announces Recipients of Rising Leaders of Color Program

Cohort of Six Oregon-Based Leaders Includes an Arts Journalist

New York, NY – Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theatre, is pleased to announce the participants who have been selected to participate in the second round of the Rising Leaders of Color (RLC) Program, supported by Meyer Memorial Trust and Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment. Building on learnings from the 2016 Washington, DC program, the second round of RLC will focus on early-career leaders from Oregon, this year adding a theatre criticism/journalism track. This cohort will be featured in programming at the June 2017 TCG National Conference in Portland, and participate in a year-long curriculum designed to provide professional development and networking opportunities. RLC is part of TCG’s commitment to changing the face of the theatre field by nurturing and supporting an intergenerational network of leaders of color at various stages in their careers.


“We’re thrilled to connect this new cohort to an expanding network of leaders of color as well as our broader theatre movement at our National Conference in Portland,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG. “This new cohort brings a diversity of professional perspectives--from production staff to educator to producer to journalist--reminding us that our field thrives when leadership is honored and supported throughout all professional roles and personal identities.”/p>


TJ Acena is a freelance writer living in Portland, OR. As the former arts reviewer for PQ Monthly, he covered the arts scene of the 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 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 BA in Theatre and Middle Eastern Studies from Fordham and the 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 is the production and facility manager at Oregon Contemporary Theatre (OCT) in Eugene, Oregon. 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 is a Native Texan and an alumna of The University of Texas at Austin. She currently works as a freelance production manager in Portland, Oregon at companies such as Profile Theatre, Third Rail Repertory, and Action/Adventure Theatre. Madilynn is an active member of USITT, serving on both the Finance Committee and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. For the past 3 years she has acted as coordinator of the Gateway Program, an initiative that fosters emerging members of production who are underrepresented in the field.




Jordan Schwartz is finishing her M.A. in Arts Management at the 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 a 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 Children’s 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 is a multidisciplinary artist focusing on visibility of Asian-American artists and underserved communities. After receiving a B.A. from the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, Samson trained at the Portland Actors Conservatory where he is currently Artistic Associate and instructor, and assisting with their Equity Initiative. Samson is also a founding company member of Theatre Diaspora (Oregon’s only professional Asian American/Pacific Islander theatre company). Samson 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 Laotian arts.


“TCG is a highly respected national organization and we are happy Oregon's arts community will host this year's conference,” said Candy Solovjovs, director of programs, Meyer Memorial Trust. “Our support for the Rising Leaders of Color Program acknowledges the unique role that theatre can play in transforming culture and dismantling systemic barriers to equity. We look forward to following the impact these leaders will contribute to their communities, and to a flourishing and equitable Oregon.”


“For theatre to thrive it must be relevant, and relevance includes reflecting the diverse tapestry of our audiences on and off stage,” said Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony, executive, creative & advanced development, Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment. “The Walt Disney Company is proud to support the Rising Leaders of Color Program and its commitment to a future of inclusion, designed to help sustain theatre in America for years to come.”


This RLC cohort will take part in an orientation meeting and attend all professional development workshops and events in Portland from June 4-11, where they will be highlighted as part of Spotlight On activities. The program will then offer a year-long professional development curriculum designed to strengthen their leadership skills. Participants will explore concepts of equity, diversity and inclusion, engage in dialogues about the state of the field and the next generation of theatre leadership, and create a personal strategic plan. RLC is a part of TCG’s multi-year, six-point Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Initiative to transform the theatre field into a more equitable, inclusive, and diverse community. Learn more about the Rising Leaders of Color program here, and the EDI Initiative here.


“These early-career leaders will help to shape a more progressive future for the theatre field through their commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion,” said Emilya Cachapero, director of artistic & international programs. “Their potential to impact the field is undeniable, and TCG is proud to nurture and support these exceptionally talented leaders of color. RLC along with the SPARK Leadership Program will form an intergenerational network of support and sharing that will empower participants to continue and expand the movement towards a more equitable theatre field for the future.”


This year’s theatre criticism and journalism track is likewise designed to help widen and deepen the talent pool of voices documenting, reflecting, and challenging the field. “Many candidates for high-profile jobs in theatre criticism and journalism, including at American Theatre, are still predominantly white and male,” said Rob Weinert-Kendt, the magazine’s editor-in-chief. “Including early-career theatre journalists of color in this cohort recognizes that journalists and critics are leaders too--leaders who can benefit both from the equity, diversity, and inclusion curriculum alongside other leaders in the field, and from the year-long professional development opportunities.”


RLC builds on the learnings and momentum of the Young Leaders of Color Program (YLC) and the SPARK Leadership Programs. From 2008-2013, YLC brought 79 leaders of color to TCG National Conferences. RLC expands and re-envisions that community as part of an ongoing national network of leaders of color. From 2014-15, the SPARK Leadership Program assembled a cohort of ten leaders of color for a focused, year-long professional development curriculum. Through RLC and SPARK, TCG will support a variety of professional development and networking programs to meet the diverse needs of theatre leaders of color at various stages of their career. Learn more about SPARK here and YLC here.


To learn more about the program, please visit:


Meyer Memorial Trust is a private, Oregon-focused foundation dedicated to expanding opportunities through grantmaking and social investment in education, the environment, affordable housing and communities. Since 1982, Meyer has awarded grants and PRIs in excess of $700 million to more than 3,300 organizations. Today, Meyer focuses on work in four areas Oregonians have identified as crucial to making the state better for all of its residents: housing, education, the environment and building community. Meyer also funds ongoing initiatives related to affordable housing, the Willamette River and, to buttress education policy, research and engagement by the Chalkboard Project.


Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment imagines, creates and delivers live entertainment inspired by Disney’s heritage and shared across generations and cultures. From an awe-inspiring nighttime spectacular to a hug from a beloved princess, WDI-CE creates magical, lifelong memories for the guests of Disney’s parks, resorts and cruise ships around the world.


For over 50 years, Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theatre, has existed to strengthen, nurture and promote the professional not-for-profit theatre. TCG’s constituency has grown from a handful of groundbreaking theatres to nearly 700 member theatres and affiliate organizations and more than 12,000 individuals nationwide. TCG offers its members networking and knowledge-building opportunities through conferences, events, research and communications; awards grants, approximately $2 million per year, to theatre companies and individual artists; advocates on the federal level; and serves as the U.S. Center of the International Theatre Institute, connecting its constituents to the global theatre community. TCG is North America’s largest independent publisher of dramatic literature, with 15 Pulitzer Prizes for Best Play on the TCG booklist. It also publishes the award-winning American Theatre magazine and ARTSEARCH®, the essential source for a career in the arts. In all of its endeavors, TCG seeks to increase the organizational efficiency of its member theatres, cultivate and celebrate the artistic talent and achievements of the field and promote a larger public understanding of, and appreciation for, the theatre.


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