Challenging ingrained prejudices through subversive theatrical productions and drama therapy outreach programs.
Through new plays and reworked classics, arts education and drama therapy outreach programs, we endeavor to spotlight artists and advocate for communities that have been silenced and exploited in American theater.
Who We Are
Ryan Cupello is a New York City-based actor, director, producer, and social activist. He holds an MFA from the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University. He holds a Certificate in Acting from the world-renowned Moscow Art Theatre in Russia and has studied at the Ludwik Solski Academy for the Dramatic Arts in Kraków, Poland. He has performed professionally in NYC, Boston, Moscow, and in the National Tours of Fiddler on the Roof and Dirty Dancing. He has produced and directed in Boston, Buffalo, and NYC. This summer he helped produce PlayOnline: an online reading series for Soho Shakespeare Company for which he directed a reading of The Tempest starring Jack Wetherall (Showtime’s Queer as Folk).
He has volunteered with and raised money for Common Cause, RAICES, QORRN, Black Trans Advocacy Coalition, and various political campaigns. He believes theater is a powerful tool that can uplift and empower, educate and inspire and he endeavors to use his skills to work towards a world that supports everyone's rights.
Cris Eli Blak
Cris Eli Blak is an award winning and internationally produced writer. His work has garnered him a Bronze Remi from the Worldfest Houston International Film and Video Festival, the Christopher Hewitt Award in Fiction, a Pushcart Prize nomination and honors from Vectis Radio, Negro Ensemble Company, Clocktower Players and A is For. His work has been produced, performed and/or published around the world, from Off-Broadway (Urban Stages and Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre), West Coast (Theatre of NOTE, Theatre West, Common Ground Theatre, Left Edge Theatre and Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble), Collegiate (Columbia University, York College, Academy of Arts University and Wellesley College), London (The Quean's Theatre and Flawstate), Australia (Melting Pot Theatre), and Ireland (Eva's Echo). He is developing new work with Derby City Playwrights, The Road Theatre, Imaginarium Theatre Company, Teatro Milagro and Et Alia Theater. He continues to strive to create work that reflects the world that we live in, with all of its different and diverse colors, creeds, and cultures.
Mara Lee Gilbert
Mara Lee Gilbert explores the lines between beauty and the grotesque, seeking to unravel taboos. Much of her work draws on stories of violence, sexual expression and power dynamics in intimate relationships.
She is a New York-based, award-winning actor, filmmaker, writer, and coach. She has a Master's Degree in Forensic Psychology and worked for many years with incarcerated and institutionalized populations. During college, she helped run a three-month drama therapy program with inmates at Bayview Women’s Correctional Facility. As well, she was later tasked with running the first ever drama therapy group inside the notorious Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center for the criminally insane. These experiences strongly influence the focus of empathy in her work.
Besides acting in film and on stage, she has also combined her background with her acting to teach empathy and communication skills to medical professionals and the New York City Police Department.
American society has been built in conjunction with oppressive policies that allow certain powers to expand their political, economic, and cultural influence by extorting communities based on their race, religion, gender, sexuality, ability, health, wealth, education, and citizenship. We pledge to institute DEI and Anti-Racist training for our staff and as part of each rehearsal process. We will institute intervention and disruption protocols for harmful moments that may arise from our staff, collaborators, and audience members. We understand that this is an ongoing commitment to re-examining our own prejudices and to taking responsibility for our failures as we do this work. We know that theater has the power to educate, inspire, and challenge each of us and are committed to doing the long-overdue, uncomfortable work to dismantle these oppressive systems and create change in the world and within ourselves.
We are committed to supporting communities that have been exploited, silenced, or underrepresented by showcasing their stories, creating a safe space for artists to develop and exhibit their individual voices, and offering therapeutic, non-presentational acting and writing classes. We pledge to create a leadership team and staff that represents the communities we aim to support.
We pledge to work with multi-disciplined artists and technicians to constantly challenge our understanding of what theater is. We are committed to questioning how we tell stories on stage and experimenting with theatrical forms and performance styles while maintaining high-quality and meaningful storytelling. We will expand our exposure and work beyond the predominant American theater traditions.
We believe theater is a communal experience and that it should be accessible to everyone. Like the groundlings of Shakespeare’s theatre, we encourage the audience to interact with the stories we tell and pledge to shatter the barrier between actor and audience. We are committed to making admission affordable and to engage communities whose stories we amplify.