Contributor Bios Issue 4

Lavanya Chakradhara (“The Harlem I Know”) is a freelance writer based in New York. Writing and speaking remain close to her heart and so do causes like women empowerment, leadership and diversity. As a panelist and writer of several books on these topics, she believes in walking the talk.

Isabelle Chirls (“Pre-Mortem”) is a writer from New Jersey studying English and Theater at Wesleyan University. Her work usually takes shape in the form of prose or plays, which often focus on themes of creation and fulfillment.

Zachariah Ezer (Blaxploitation) is an M.F.A. Playwriting Candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a UT Michener Fellow for the class of 2023, a 2020 Town Stages Sokoloff Creative Arts Fellow, a 2018 BUFU EYEDREAM Resident, a 2015 Wesleyan University Olin Fellow, and a member of The Tank’s LIT Council. He is also a dramaturg (for The National Black Theatre,  Merde, foolsFURY, and The Workshop Theater, where he is currently in residence), an essayist (published by Gizmodo/io9, HuffPost, Bubbleblabber, and elsewhere), and a performer (in alternative rock band Harper’s Landing).

Louis Fantasia (“World Class”) has directed nearly 200 plays, musicals, and operas world-wide, and was the first American to direct on the reconstructed London Globe stage in 1996. His books include Instant Shakespeare; Tragedy in the Age of Oprah; and Talking Shakespeare: Notes from a Journey. Louis has served on panels on education and cross-cultural development at both the Beijing and Shanghai Film Festivals, and has lectured and given workshops at the Beijing Film Academy and the Shanghai Theatre Academy, as well as the New York Film Academy, where he was Dean of the Faculty. In 2003, the Council of Europe named the theatre collection at its library in the European Parliament in honor of Louis Fantasia, who holds both U.S. and European Union passports. In 2016 he was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to German culture and theatre. Dreams from a Sleep to Come is his first play.

Michael Galligan (“F***boi Healing Circle”) is a playwright, actor, and teaching artist based in Brooklyn and the Adirondacks. Michael’s work has been developed and performed at Irondale Center, The Deep End, 59E59 Theater, the Upper Jay Art Center, The Hollows, and ZOO at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. His first play, Solarplexus, an eco-cyberpunk sci-fi comedy utilizing a self-powering bicycle generator, made its international debut to positive critical reception (“…of considerable wit and guile,” said The List in a four-star review) at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2018. His work draws on elements of clown, Bouffon, commedia d’ellarte, and LeCoq mask; combining them with a focus on ensemble development to create dynamic and highly collaborative movement-based pieces.

Elizabeth Gjelten (“Big Breath”) is a playwright, poet, teacher, and community arts worker. Her full-length plays include “Hunter’s Point” (at the St. Boniface Church Theater; developed at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival), “What the Birds Carry” (at the Pear Avenue Theater and the Mae West Fest), and “Dance Lessons” (at Venue 9 and the Working Women Festival). Several of her short plays and solo pieces have also been performed around the Bay Area and nationally, including “Big Breath,” which was presented in Alleyway Theatre’s Digital Theatre Festival in November 2020. As part of her civic engagement work, Elizabeth was an Artist Investigator with Triangle Lab/California Shakespeare Theatre and the lead artist in “Home/Cooking,” a community-based storytelling project with formerly homeless women. A winner of Theatre Bay Area’s TITAN Award, she received the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Honorary Fellowship at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in 2014. She has an MFA in Playwriting from SFSU; has trained  with Cornerstone Theatre Company and the Center for Performance and Civic Practice; has taught at New College of California, San Francisco State University, and JFK University; and was a longtime student in poetics with Diane di Prima.

William Harper (“IS”) is a writer from Glasgow, living in London. He has published short stories in The Galway Review, Swimmers Club at Dostoevsky Wannabe independent press, and poetry in Amaryllis, Ink, Sweat and Tears & Art and Letters.

Jen Huszcza (“The Burger King”) is a female playwright based in Los Angeles. Her work has been produced  in California, Arizona, and Texas. “The Burger King” was performed online as part of a We The People Theatrical Action during the pandemic in 2020. Twitter: @playwrightjen 

Coni Koepfinger (“Josie Divine in the Bardo”), a 2021 recipient of the Olwen Wymark Award by the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain, is currently playwright-in-residence at both Manhattan Rep and Cosmic Orchid and has worked with several other notable NYC companies such as Theatre for the New City, The Secret Theatre, the New York Unfringed Fest, Broadway Bound Festival and Pan Asian Rep. She has connected hundreds through her virtual programs Airplay and Determined Women. She is a member of the Dramatist Guild, a former board member of the International Centre for Women Playwrights (ICWP) and a chair for the League Professional Theatre Women (LPTW) and currently sits as Media Advisory Board of the Lifeboat Foundation. As a very prolific indie artist, Coni’s work has been published and produced all over the globe.

Michelle Kuchuk (“The Moochers”) is an NYC-based playwright, director, and performer. As a playwright, Michelle has written original plays for Daytime Moon Creations, a nonprofit that brings theatre to individuals with special needs. Her play, This Is Why, had its AEA Showcase NYC premiere in 2018; This Is Why was then produced by Isle of Shoals Productions in 2020 as part of the Lance Series (in which only five plays were selected to be a part). Directing and assistant directing credits include Beautiful Thing with Nicu’s Spoon Theater and Sons of the Prophet, by Stephen Karam, with Roundabout. Recent performing credits include Marcia in Our Lady of 121st Street and Varya in The Cherry Orchard. Michelle also works in suicide prevention, mental health, and behavioral finance.

Vladan Kuzmanović (Excerpt of 50 Conceptual Pieces) (Belgrade, 1977) conceptual multimedia artist with pioneer research in fields of exoacoustic and macrotonal music. Choreograph and playwright, founder of Neoconceptualism and New Conceptual Art Theatre. ember of Experimental Sound Society EXSOSO, Experimental Music Society EMS ACA and IEMA.

John Ladd (“Intestate: A COVID-19 Monologue”)is currently living in a small town in upstate New York where he is working on a number of projects. Prior to this, he lived in Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina before moving to New York City where he spent a considerable amount of time writing and having his plays produced at Off-Off Broadway- and other NYC- venues. When he is not writing, he farms, part-time, with his coonhound buddy, Roma. His pieces have been produced at No Frills Theater Collective, Manhattan Repertory Theatre, The Short Play Lab, NYC Equity Library/Piney Fork Press Theater, ActSense Theatre Company, and the Bad Theater Festival among other venues. Also, John Ladd has had “An Afternoon of John Ladd Plays” (9) produced at the Piney Fork Press Theater in Manhattan. Finally, John Ladd has been a Resident Playwright at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre.

Donna Latham (“Lunch Lady”) is an award-winning playwright based in Houston. Her plays have been produced coast to coast in the US and in Northern Ireland, Ireland, England, France, Scotland, and Indonesia; and published in 2016’s Best Ten-Minute Plays and She Persisted: New Plays By Women Over 40, 2021. A resident playwright at Rising Sun Performance Company in NYC, a member of Honor  Roll Playwrights, and a script reader for Houston’s Alley Theatre, Donna’s a proud member of the Dramatist Guild. 

Aaron Leventman (“The Boy”) attended Columbia University’s Graduate School for film, where his thesis screenplay was given a professional reading at the Union Square Theatre in Manhattan. He moved to Santa Fe from Provincetown after his involvement as a writer/director/actor with the Provincetown Theatre Company. When living in Santa Fe, he performed with most of the local theatre companies in both classics and original plays. He’s also appeared in industrials, commercials, short films, and features and is currently represented by Phirgun Mair Worldwide in New Mexico. He was proud to have been recently chosen as a fan guest host on Turner Classic Movies. Aaron has enjoyed over 30 productions of his plays all over the country, many of which are published and available on Amazon.com. He co-produced an evening of his own short works that met with tremendous acclaim including the Mayor declaring LGBT Theatre Day in Santa Fe on opening night for the first time in the city’s history. He was the producer of a monthly online LGBTQ+ short play series through his company Almost Adults Productions which has been bringing together talent and audiences from all over the world. Aaron is also a playwriting, screenwriting, acting, and film history instructor. https://aaronleventman.com

John Paul Mandryk (The Sword of Kenau): I am a 71-year-old, married, father of four, grandfather of five After a thirty-five-year professional life of data and numbers, dollars, and cents, I am rediscovering my love of the  written word. I have an undergraduate degree in English which was held captive all those years  by life’s supposed urgencies. Now in the years of my last chapters, I wish to disguise my life’s lessons in the performance of words, characters, and actions. In pursuing my advocation to build a traditional Dutch ice yacht, I learned about humankind’s struggle during Europe’s little ice age and the concurrent movements for religious and personal freedom. These are woven into the background and themes of my work.

Saeb Mir (“The 40th Man or the 28th Woman”): I am Saeb Mir. Born on October 23, 1991. Iran. I entered the theater at the age of fifteen. I first appeared as an actor and almost 15 years ago I was looking for other Desire in myself. I tried to create and write different theaters around me.  With my first theater piece (2015), I won the award for best director of the Iranian Short Theater Festival. I have written fifteen plays, six of which I have directed. The theater piece you are reading is my first theater to be accepted at international theater festivals in Russia, India, Ukraine, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Germany and Iran. I won the Best Theater Award on November 2019 at the St. Petersburg Theater Festival in Russia for avant-garde theaters. I also wrote my latest play as a theatrical dance, which participated in the American Open Dance Festival and the St. Petersburg Dance line Festival, and won the Best Dance Award from the viewers’ point of view. An artist works for his soul. It does not matter what he has done so far, what matters is what he will produce from now on. For his soul.

Jessica Durdock Moreno (“Funeral”) is currently an MFA candidate in the Department of Dramatic Writing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her first play “To Richard!” premiered at the 2019 Hollywood Fringe Festival, where it won the Encore Producers Award and was nominated for the Inkwell Theater Playwright’s Promise Award. She began her writing training at Los Angeles City College, where she won the 2019 Cinema and Television Department’s Best Screenplay Award for her television pilot “Filly.” She was selected as a finalist for the Theater Masters Take Ten 2020 Festival for her play “Shooting Stars,” and as a semifinalist for the Athena Project’s 2020 Plays in Progress Series for her play “Georgie D.” She recently participated in the Workshop Theater Fall 2020 Playwriting Intensive, also with “Georgie D.” In 2021, she will participate in the Full Circle Theatre Collaborative’s New Works Festival with her plays “Shooting Stars” and “Funeral.” She won the Most Unleashed Performance Award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, the Outstanding Theatre Performance Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and was nominated for a Stage Scene LA Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Lead Actress in a Comedy. She graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University with a B.A. in Socio-Cultural Anthropology (focus on North American Settler Colonialism). Jessica studied Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and classical ballet and Swedish in Stockholm. She grew up in New Milford, Connecticut, where she danced professionally as a teen with BLUDance Theatre and as a guest artist with Pilobolus.

Jennifer O’Grady (“Closet Cat”) is a playwright and poet whose plays have been produced across the  U.S. and internationally. Her plays include Charlotte’s Letters (2020 Rising Artists Award; Henley Rose Award; NEWvember Festival Dublin; O’Neill Semifinalist and other honors); Juggling with Mr. Fields (2020 Southwest Theatre Productions Finalist); Paranormal Love (MTWorks Newborn Winner; NEWvember Finalist; 2019 Pandora’s Box Honorable Mention, 2020 Southwest Theater Productions Semifinalist); and Ellery (included in The Best Women’s Stage Monologues and a 2019 Bechdel Group selection). Her plays are published or forthcoming in The Best 10-Minute Plays 2021, The Best New Ten-Minute Plays 2021 and 2019, The Bet Ten-Minute Plays 2017 and 2016, Best Contemporary Monologues for Women and other anthologies. She is also the author of the poetry books White (Mid-List First Series Award for Poetry) and Exclusions & Limitations (MadHat Press). Her poems are published and reprinted in numerous places including Harper’s, The New Republic. Poetry, The Writer’s Almanac, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily and American Poetry: The Next Generation. Education: MFA in Poetry, Columbia University; AB, Vassar. (www.jenniferogrady.net)

Lindsay Partain (“The Lipstick”) is an internationally published and produced Oregon playwright and member of the Dramatists Guild. She holds her BA in Theatre from Pacific University and is a resident artist of Theatre Viscera. Her play “Sabrina and the Thunderbird” was a finalist for the 2020 Annual Parity Commission and the 2019 Portland Civic Theatre’s New Play Award. Recent publications include: “Siren Songs” (Next Stage Press); “Best New 10-Minute Plays of 2020”, “Best New Men’s” & “Women’s Monologues from New Plays, 2020” (Applause); and “Best Men’s Monologues of 2021” (Smith and Kraus). Lindsay’s work can be found on New Play Exchange.

Javin Pombra (“The Recommendation”): Hello! My name is Javin and I’m a current third-year at Harvard University. I’m a South Asian male originally from the San Francisco Bay Area in California. My hobbies include running, finding cool coffee shops, movies, and escape rooms. My favorite plays are Robert O’Hara’s Barbecue, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Suzan-Lori Park’s Topdog/Underdog. I am passionate about plays that cover BIPOC experiences, technological ethical challenges of the twenty-first century, and two-person dramatic dialogue. In this short ten-minute piece, I aim to reflect on challenges caused by modern recommendation systems in the digital age. Not only has social media and virtual consumption increased during this COVID-19 outbreak, the intense reliance on recommendation systems can be considered an outbreak in itself.

Monica Raymond (“13 Short Plays for Elijah McClain”) writes poetry, prose, plays and lyrics from a big old house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She’s held fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Jerome Foundation (at the Playwrights’ Center), and the MacDowell Colony. Raymond taught writing and interdisciplinary arts at Harvard, CUNY, and the Boston Museum School. 13 Short Plays for Elijah McClain was written in response to Erik Ehn’s call for plays of under 25 words each for what would’ve been McClain’s 25th birthday, February 25th, 2021.

Lavinia Roberts (“The Birds Are Watching Us”) is an award-winning  playwright and educator.  She is published with Applause Books, Big Dog Plays, Brooklyn Publishers, Eldridge Publishing, Heuer Publishing, Plays: The Drama Magazine for Young People, Pioneer Drama, Redleaf Press, Smith and Kraus, and others. She has received productions in all 50 states and internationally in Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and The United Kingdom.

Dane Rooney (“Faustus and the Soliloquy”) (any pronouns) is a playwright, director, and teacher originally from Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, and now resides in New York City. Playwright: Anonymous Recipes (Winner of Best Play in the Woodside Players 2020 Summer Festival, NYC, Babe, We’re Late to the Fucking World Premiere of Beethoven’s Seventh (28 Plays Later Reading Series, London), No Place (Alvina Krause Theatre, Pennsylvania), Craven (The Drama Book Shop, NYC), The Groomsman and A One-Man Show (with Another Character… and a Cat in Drag) (Maslow Reading Series at Wilkes University). Faustus & the Soliloquy was selected for the Queens Library 2020 Summer Festival, NYC. Other notable productions: Third Rail Project’s Ghostlight and Halloween Met Gala (immersive ensemble), John Cheever’s The Country Husband and Inspector Descending (director/AD, The Secret Theatre, NYC). Dane also directed and choreographed plays and musicals at Shenandoah Valley High School for eight years, including West Side Story, Chicago, The Producers, and Monty Python’s Spamalot. MFA in Playwriting from Wilkes University of Pennsylvania.

Marina Koestler Ruben (“Outbreak/Breakout”)is a writer, editor, and educator who lives in Washington, DC, with her husband, three children, and two cats.

Rich Rubin’s (“What We Did in Quarantine”) plays have been produced throughout the U.S., as well as in Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico. Full-length plays include PICASSO IN PARIS (winner, 2020 Julie Harris Playwright Award) and KAFKA’S JOKE (finalist, 2020 Woodward International Playwriting Prize). 

Juliette Sigmond (Kind to the Dead) is a writer and graduate of the University of Iowa. She now lives with her family in Chicago, where she loves reading things that chill the spine and writing things that warm the heart. Kind to the Dead is her first published screenplay.

Bryan Starchman (“The Canaries”) is an author, published playwright, and public school teacher living in San Francisco, California. His short fiction was recently featured in The Saturday Evening Post, After Dinner Conversation, and the literary magazine In Parentheses. His non-fiction essays have been featured in the national print magazine ROVA and his latest book, United Scenes of America: Travel Essays in the time of COVID-19 and other wanderings, is now available at Amazon.com. Learn more about Bryan at http://www.bryanstarchman.com, or follow him on Instagram @bryan.starchman.

Elijah Vazquez (“Exhibit 2020: The Truth Hurts, Doesn’t It?”) is an Orlando based playwright who graduated from Niagara University with a B.F.A in Theatre Performance. Some previous experience with playwriting includes several readings, publications, productions and completing an advanced playwriting independent study course focused on the dramatic form, the Theatre of the Absurd. He has taken many philosophy classes that influenced his writing as well, along with a theatre criticism classes which he analyzed and commented on many theoretical manifestos from Brecht to Grotowowki to Hugo to Esslin, which helped shape his thoughts about the essence of theatre and the manner on how to construct plays. All he wants is to provide glimmers of hope, wherever it may be.

Rafael Duarte Oliveira Venancio (“Zoom is not spontaneous: a psychodramatic approach to virtual theater”) is a Brazilian writer, playwright, university professor, journalist, cartoonist and filmmaker. He was a Postdoctoral fellow and holds a PhD in Audiovisual Media and Process (Meios e Processos Audiovisuais), both at Escola de Comunicações e Artes da Universidade de São Paulo (ECA/USP). He has several books published as an independent author and by traditional publishers in four languages. He has plays produced in three countries and in three languages. His most frequent themes are historical fiction and reimaginations, metadramaturgy, sports drama, and philosophical storytelling.

Julie Weinberg’s (“Buttercup’s Lament) Bad Daughter received The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Comic Playwriting. Face It, a full-length comedy,wasfeatured in the 2019 Actors Studio New Works Festival.Julie’s short pandemic dramedy, Buttercup’s Lament, has been in two recent reading series – part of the Quarantine Series/Dallas and in Open Eye Theater’s short play series.Among Julie’s award-winning one act comedies are The Eleven O’clock Number, The Teller’s Tale and FaultYou’re Not the Type, commissioned by the Edna Ferber Estate, was part of Five by Ferber produced by NJ Rep in 2018, published by Smith & Kraus. Is It Cold in Here? won Arizona’s Bechdel 2.0 Short Play Prize and will be published by Applause in 2021. Pet Peeves, an evening of short comedies, mostly about cats, had a reading at the Workshop Theater last spring. Julie has been produced by ATHE, The Warner Theater Festival, Ramapo College, Brooklyn’s Gallery Players among others. A founding member of the 9th Floor, a Playwright/Actor Collaborative, proud member of Dramatists Guild, graduate of Lesley University’s MFA Program in Writing for Stage and Screen. http://www.Julieweinbergplaywright.com

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