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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.