Storytellers

/Storytellers
Storytellers 2018-06-26T12:40:46+00:00

Storytellers

Zakiyyah Alexander

WRITER / ACTOR

Zakiyyah Alexander is the author of several plays including 10 Things To Do Before I Die (Second Stage Uptown), and Sick? (Summer Play Festival). A native New Yorker, former resident member of New Dramatists, a graduate of the Yale School of Drama (MFA in playwriting) and, most recently, a writer on the television show Grey’s Anatomy, her work has been seen and developed all over the country. She is currently working on a musical with composer, Imani Uzuri (featuring the poetry of Sonia Sanchez).

Neetu Badhan-Smith

LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE

Neetu S. Badhan-Smith is a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge. She previously worked at the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office (13 years) and the Southern California Housing Rights Center (2 years). She also sits on the Board of Directors for Cornerstone Theater Company. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from UCLA, and law degree from Southwestern University School of Law. Thank you for allowing me to be part of a project that recognizes and empowers women!

Joan Blades

ATTORNEY / ACTIVIST

Joan Blades is a co-founder of LivingRoomConversations.org an open source effort to rebuild respectful civil discourse across ideological, cultural and party lines while embracing our core-shared values. She is also a co-founder of MomsRising.org  and MoveOn.org. She is a co-author of The Custom-Fit Workplace, winner of a Nautilus book award in 2011 and The Motherhood Manifesto, which won the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize in 2007. A mediator (attorney) by training and inclination, she is a nature lover, artist and true believer in the power of citizens and our need to rebuild respectful civil discourse while embracing our core shared values.

Jesse Bliss

PLAYWRIGHT

Jesse Bliss is a playwright, poet, director, producer, actress and veteran arts educator. Her plays have been produced in the United Nations, Edinburgh Festival, Occidental College, SPARC, UCLA, among others. She has taught/teaches with Center Theatre Group, Geffen Playhouse, Skirball Cultural Center and Inner-City Arts to name a few. Her graphic book and Companion Manuel created for incarcerated girls,  I LOVE MYSELF GOLDEN, is available in stores statewide. She is Producer of KPFK’s THINK OUTSIDE THE CAGE and Founder and Executive Director of The Roots and Wings Project, a project-based theatre company with a mission to provide stage and space for voices of the unnamed, unspoken and misunderstood.

Elisa Bocanegra

DIRECTOR / PRODUCER / ACTOR

Elisa Bocanegra is Producing Artistic Director of Hero Theatre, a company she formed with the help of her mentor Olympia Dukakis. Most recently she produced Festival Irene, Celebrating the Legacy of Cuban-American playwright María Irene Fornés. Bocanegra is also an accomplished stage actress who has performed at major theaters around the U.S. Most recently she was named one of TCG’s Leadership U grant recipients, a grant awarded to visionary leaders in the field. Please visit Hero Theatre for more information about her work.

Loyce Braun

TEACHER / SALES

Loyce Braun taught 4th grade in Oakland, Chicago and Los Angeles and then went to work temporarily for her family’s architectural woodwork company. 28 years later she retired from it. In 1994, just for fun, she joined the historic women’s club, the Ebell of Los Angeles, found there was a great deal to it worthy of commitment, and 22 years later became its President for a two year term. The subject of her video, Mrs. Strong, was the first President of the Ebell of Los Angeles, founded in 1894.

Wendy Calhoun

WRITER / EXECUTIVE PRODUCER

Wendy Calhoun is a writer and executive producer with an overall deal at Warner Bros. Television Studios. Most recently, she served as Consulting Producer for ABC’s STATION 19. She has developed new series pilots with Netflix, FX, 20th TV Studios, and ABC Signature. Her past credits include Co-Executive Producing and writing the historic first season of Fox’s megahit series EMPIRE. In addition, she’s written and produced for ABC’S NASHVILLE, FX’s JUSTIFIED, ABC’s REVENGE, and NBC’s LIFE. Calhoun wrote and directed the virtual reality short, LEFT BEHIND, sponsored by Google, and honored as “Best in VR” at Digital Hollywood. She served as the Narrative Consultant for Electronic Arts’ BATTLEFIELD HARDLINE video game. Calhoun received a 2010 Peabody Award and WGA Best New Series Nomination for JUSTIFIED. She received her second WGA Best New Series Nomination in 2012 for NASHVILLE. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Calhoun studied film and television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Juliette Carrillo

DIRECTOR / WRITER

Juliette Carrillo is a nationally recognized theatre director, writer and award-winning filmmaker from Los Angeles, CA. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, Juliette is most known for directing her productions of LYDIA by Octavio Solis. Carrillo’s screenplay, SuperChicas was one of four feature projects selected nationwide for the National Association of Latino Independent Producer’s (NALIP) Latino Producer’s Lab in Santa Fe.

Ruth Cusick

ATTORNEY

Since 2011, Ruth has served as the lead Education Rights Attorney for Public Counsel’s School Pushout Reversal Project. There she serves individual clients in fighting inappropriate school exclusion and collaborates with community organizers to reform local and statewide policies that criminalize low-income students of color. Ruth received her BA in Politics, International Relations and Economics from Scripps Women’s College in 2003 and her J.D. from City University School of Law in 2008.

Sylvie Drake

TRANSLATOR / WRITER / POET

Sylvie Drake is a translator, writer, poet and a former theatre critic and columnist for the Los Angeles Times. A directing graduate of the Pasadena Playhouse, she was born and grew up in Alexandria, Egypt, and most recently served as Media Relations and Publications Director for The Denver Center for the Performing Arts. She is a contributor to culturalweekly.com.

Gaby Dunn

WRITER / COMEDIAN

Gaby Dunn is a writer, comedian, actress, and YouTuber living in Los Angeles. Her 2017 young adult novel I HATE EVERYONE BUT YOU was a NYT Best-seller. Her financial podcast BAD WITH MONEY will be a book in Fall 2018. She can be found on YouTube at Just Between Us.

Photo Credit: Robin Roemer

Susie Landau Finch

WRITER / PRODUCER / DIRECTOR

Susie Landau Finch is a Writer-Producer-Director with a background in film and theater production. She has studied in London, at Hampshire College, and in the Department of Dramatic Writing at NYU. She has worked extensively for American Zoetrope in all aspects of film production under the aegis of Francis Ford Coppola’s LA and SF studios. Her producing credits include: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Spirit of ‘76, Traveling Light, and Wake, which received a Prism Commendation award. Recently, she has adapted the feature The Doctor’s Wife from a novel of the same name, which she will direct with Fred Roos and Patrick Cunningham producing. She has served as US president for Vision Picture Co, an Australian Film Company and is a board member for the Blank Theatre Company in Hollywood and the Melrose Hill HPOZ. She teaches acting to directors at Chapman University.

Cyndi Finkle

ENTREPRENEUR

Cyndi Finkle is a multi-entrepreneur who has traveled the world as a photojournalist, fed crews on television shows such as Hell’s Kitchen, Wipe Out and The Biggest Loser, owns an art studio that offers camps and classes for kids and adults, and owns a cafe in Hollywood called Coffee + Food. She and her husband Temple like to build things and have renovated several homes across the country, including their current loft in Hollywood. Their 15-year-old daughter Sullivan makes life extraordinary.

Ellen Gavin

WRITER / PRODUCER / ACTIVIST

Ellen Gavin is a writer, producer and activist. She was the Founding Artistic Director of the Brava Theater Center, a nationally-recognized venue focused on women, playwrights of color and youth, and is a cultural anchor in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Tamar Halpern

WRITER / DIRECTOR

Tamar Halpern directed the doc Llyn Foulkes One Man Band about an LA painter rediscovered by the international art world at age 77, as well as the feature films Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life (starring Mira Sorvino, Joe Pantoliano and Michael Urie) and Shelf Life (“a whip smart film that taps into a new source of American comedy.” – Variety). She’s penned scripts about legendary journalist Nellie Bly, forgotten civil rights figure Clyde Kennard, and has adapted two books for screen by New York Times bestselling YA author Wendy Mass. Recently named a Film Expert for the US Department of Education, Halpern is a proud alumna of Hedgebrook, a writing residency where women author change.

Jane Hirshfield

POET / ESSAYIST / CO-TRANSLATOR

Jane Hirshfield is the author of eight books of poetry, two essay collections, and four books collecting and co-translating the work of poets from the past, including The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu. Hirshfield’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has been a visiting poet at U.C. Berkeley, Stanford, a UCSF neuroscience program, and the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest. Her work appears in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Poetry, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, and eight editions of The Best American Poems. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Sonay Hoffman

WRITER / PRODUCER

Sonay Hoffman was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Growing up, books were some of her best friends. Sonay attended California State University, Long Beach with a major in Theatre Arts, after which she landed an internship with David E. Kelley Productions that led her into the world of TV production. On Gray’s Anatomy, she worked as post production assistant and as Shonda Rhimes’ assistant before landing her first staff writing job on Private Practice. In 2014, Sonay landed one of the coveted spots in the Fox Writers Intensive. Sonay is currently a Producer on ABC’s critically acclaimed show American Crime, created by John Ridley.

Olga Holtz

MATHEMATICIAN

Olga Holtz is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of California-Berkeley and a Visiting Professor of Applied Mathematics at Technical University Berlan and Berlin Mathematical School. She received her PhD in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has received several awards, including a Sofja Kovalevskaja award and two Von Neumann Fellowships. She is also an award-winning screenwriter and film director.

Felicity Huffman

ACTRESS

Felicity Huffman earned an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Transamerica, as well as a Golden Globe Award and Independent Spirit Award for the same role. Huffman has also been honored with an Emmy and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role on “Desperate Housewives.” Most recently Huffman can be seen on the ABC series “American Crime” for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Emmy and Golden Globe for her portrayal of Barb Hanlon in the premiere season, Leslie Graham in the second season and Jeanette Hesby in the third season. Huffman is a founding member of the Atlantic Theater Company, an off-Broadway theater company where she was also featured in numerous plays. She resides in Los Angeles with her two children and her husband, William H. Macy.

Lucia Jacobs

PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY AND NEUROSCIENCE

Lucia Jacobs is a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Berkeley. Trained in biology (1986 Ph.D., Princeton), she studies how an individual’s cognition and brain are adapted to its environment.

Jill Klein

ACTOR / DESIGNER

Jill C. Klein: actor; designer; mentor; director; writer; girl-who-was-bat mitzvahed; singer; dancer; aunt; coach; costumer; bad pianist; editor; been to Turkey; grew-up-in-Jersey; seems to be thick-skinned but actually a mushball; painter; cohort with Julie for Look What She Did; currently teaching playwriting classes and debate classes to high school kids; and an identical twin.

Grace Lee

DIRECTOR / WRITER / PRODUCER

Grace Lee is an independent director, writer and producer based in Los Angeles. Her credits include American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, Janeane from Des Moines, Makers: Women in Politics and others.

Roberta Levitow

PRODUCER / DIRECTOR

Roberta Levitow is a producer, director, dramaturg, writer and teacher; presently the Senior Program Associate/International for the Sundance Institute Theatre Program and the Co-Founder and Director of Theatre Without Borders; and formerly a Fulbright Specialist in Hong Kong, Romania and Uganda.

Farrel Levy

EDITOR

Farrel Levy was trained as an artist at Cooper Union but has made a career as a film and television editor with credits including: Dirty Dancing, NYPD Blue, Primal Fear, Damages and Nashville. She has also been a television director and teaches editing at The American Film Institute. She is the mother of two daughters who never cease to make her proud.

Laural Meade

PLAYWRIGHT / EDUCATOR / MUSICIAN

Laural has been making music and theater throughout Los Angeles, and occasionally in far off places like Phoenix and Amsterdam, her whole life. Her plays for adults center on American politics around the turn of the 20th Century and her plays for young people are told mostly with sound and images. In addition to her work with theater students at Occidental College, she’s the Choir Director for The Secret City, an arts organization that presents salon-ceremony-peformance celebrations of everyday creative life.

Ann-Sophie Morrissette

ACCOUNT DIRECTOR / ADVOCATE

Ann-Sophie is an Account Director at Fenton, a social change agency, where she supports nonprofits and foundations to elevate their strategic communications on issues ranging from affordable housing to healthcare to education. Previously, she served as Director of Communications and Policy at the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC), a nonprofit serving homeless and low-income women in downtown LA’s Skid Row. She has held positions at Cornerstone Theater and Center Theatre Group, and spent several years in London as part of the founding team of ROSA, the UK’s first women’s foundation.

Brighde Mullins

POET / PLAYWRIGHT

Brighde Mullins is a poet, playwright and professor at the University of Southern California. She lives in Los Angeles.

Laurel Ollstein

WRITER / DIRECTOR / TEACHER

Laurel is a writer, director and teacher, thrilled to be a part of Look What She Did!

Jan Oxenberg

WRITER

Jan Oxenberg is an independent filmmaker turned television writer. Her film Thank You and Good Night screened at the Sundance film festival and was released theatrically in 1992. She went on to be a writer/producer on TV series including Parenthood, Pretty Little Liars, Cold Case, and many more. On the ABC series Nothing Sacred, Oxenberg wrote the first prime time episode on which a main character had an abortion since Maude and on Relativity, she wrote the first network series lesbian kiss! She won Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Award for an episode of Cold Case featuring a woman associated with the “underground railroad” Jane, an organization which helped women get safe abortions. Oxenberg is currently developing her own TV series, Jerry’s World and serves on the Board of Directors of the Writer’s Guild Foundation.

Julie Sgarzi

PUBLIC POLICY CONSULTANT / MENTOR / LECTURER

Julie has a background in strategic planning, business development and marketing, and currently mentors mid-career professionals. She also lectures on contemporary issues from a Jungian perspective.

Anna Thomas

SCREENWRITER / DIRECTOR / PRODUCER

Anna Thomas is an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, as well as a producer, director and author. Her principal credits include the film EL NORTE (writer and producer), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and was elected to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress; MY FAMILY, MI FAMILIA; FRIDA; and A TIME OF DESTINY. She has also written episodes for the Emmy-nominated PBS one-hour drama series AMERICAN FAMILY. Thomas made her first feature in 1977 when she wrote, produced and directed THE HAUNTING OF M as her Master’s thesis film at UCLA. She recently ventured into documentary film as a producer of INFINITE SPACE: THE ARCHITECTURE OF JOHN LAUTNER. Thomas is a founder of the IFP West, now FilmIndependent, and heads the Screenwriting Discipline at the American Film Institute.

Renée Threatte

ACTOR / WRITER

Renée is an actor, writer and proud member of SAG-AFTRA as well as a member of LA’s InHouse Theatre. Originally from Upstate New York, Renée trained with Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Boston Conservatory before attending Syracuse University where she graduated cum laude with a BFA in Drama. While at SU, Renée trained in London with Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre during Mark Rylance’s artistic directorship. While living in New York City, Renée studied with Upright Citizens Brigade while also writing and producing sketches and videoblogs with the comedic duo Cue Black Girls. Since relocating to Los Angeles, Renée has continued to make people laugh onstage, online, and with Ms. Thang Comedy. Her work has been featured on blogs like The Jane Dough, The Apiary, and Funny Not Slutty.

Alice Tuan

PLAYWRIGHT / TEACHER

Alice Tuan is a playwright, teacher and Los Angeles-American.

Melinda White

CEO BLACK WALNUT VENTURES

Melinda White is the Chief Executive Officer of Black Walnut Ventures. She’s been honored by The NY Chapter of NOW as a “Woman of Power and Influence” (2012), by Fierce Telecom as a “Woman in Wireline to Watch” (2014) and has been recognized as a Portland “Orchid Influential Woman Leader” (2015).

April Wolfe

WRITER / FILMMAKER

April Wolfe is a novelist, journalist, filmmaker and the lead film critic at LA Weekly. She’s a fellow of the USC LA Institute for the Humanities and the nonprofit literary hub A Public Space and is the founder and producer of One Axe Plays, a film and theater collective for women writers, directors, and performers. Her work has been published and screened many places, which you can find on her website.

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