Playwright Annie Baker has had three works produced for the stage. Baker’s first play, Body Awareness, premiered in 2008 and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Best Play and an Outer Circle Critics Award. Her 2009 play, Circle Mirror Transformation, won the 2010 Obie Award for Best New American Play and a New York Drama Critics Special Citation Award. She shared these awards with her 2010 play, The Aliens. All three plays take place in a small town in Vermont, and Baker says she is interested “in celebrating the strangeness of everyday life.”
Lutherville Timonium, MD
Considered one of the greatest guitarists working today, Manuel Barrueco began playing at the age of eight, studying at the Esteban Salas Conservatory in Santiago de Cuba. Barrueco immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1967, completing his studies at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, where he now teaches. Barrueco has played in some of the most important musical centers of the world and has worked with a diverse range of musicians, from Plácido Domingo and Seiji Ozawa to Al Di Miola and Andy Summers. He performs the work of both classical and more contemporary composers.
Theater director, filmmaker, writer, and teacher Lee Breuer is also the co-founding artistic director of Mabou Mines Theater Company in New York. Now an avant-garde institution, Mabou Mines, established in 1970, was instrumental in merging the theater and art worlds and pioneering performance art. In his earliest productions, Breuer collaborated with conceptual artists, musicians, and dancers, and he is well known for his productions with puppets. His adaptations of Samuel Beckett, Sophocles, Henrik Ibsen, and J. M. Barrie have won him numerous awards, including 14 Obies for Performances as well as for Writing, Directing, and Overall Achievement. Breuer has also directed internationally, and he won a MacArthur Fellowship in 1988.
Modern dance choreographer Donald Byrd has choreographed over 100 works since 1978, both for companies he has directed—Donald Byrd/The Group (1978–2002) and Spectrum Dance Theater in Seattle (since 2002)—as well as others including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Joffrey Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and Aterballetto. He also choreographed the Tony Award-nominated The Color Purple on Broadway (2005). Many of his works deal with social issues or revolve around ideas of love and intimacy. In 1992, Byrd received a Bessie Award for The Minstrel Show.
Mary Ellen Childs composes concert work, often with a strong visual element, for a variety of instrumental ensembles, including solo accordion, string quartets, and chamber groups. The creator of many multi-media works, Childs is best known for her “visual percussion” pieces for her percussion group CRASH, in which she incorporates the movements of the bodies of the performers. Childs has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Kitchen, and the Walker Art Center, among others.
New York, NY
Nora Chipaumire is a choreographer, director, and dancer. She attended the University of Zimbabwe School of Law before moving to the U.S. in 2000 to study dance at Mills College, Oakland, California. Chipaumire’s work is informed by her self-exile from Zimbabwe, and she is devoted, in her words, “to shifting the central point of view of Africa from being solely the holder of traditional forms, and not a place of innovation.” She has danced with Urban Bush Women and Molissa Fenley and Dancers, among many national and international companies. Her choreographic work has been presented in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Québec. Chipaumire received a Bessie Award for choreography in 2008 and for performance in 2007 for her work with Urban Bush Women.
Tze Chun is a screenwriter and director whose films, in his words, “look at universal issues through the lens of culturally specific, character-driven narratives.” Chun’s short, Windowbreaker, played at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival as well as over 30 other international festivals and won the audience award at the 2007 New York City Short Film Festival. His first feature film, Children of Invention, recounts the tale of two Chinese-American children who must fend for themselves when their mother is arrested for taking part in an illegal pyramid scheme. The movie, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, screened at over 50 film festivals, winning 17 festival awards including eight Grand Jury or Best Narrative Feature prizes.
Sonya Clark creates textile works, sculptures, installations, and photographs. Clark is known for her work with hair as a material to address race and identity issues. She has extended the idea of cloth to include hairdressing, in particular traditional African techniques such as cornrows and Bantu knots, in sculptures such as the Wig Series (1997–2000) and Hair Series (2001–present). In the Beaded Prayer Project (1998–2009), she collaborated with 4000 people from 35 countries who each contributed a beaded amulet. Clark is the Chair of the Craft and Material Studies department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
New York, NY
John Collins is the Artistic Director and Founder of the Elevator Repair Service (ERS) Theater in New York. Founded in 1991 with a group of actors, ERS is now one of the most acclaimed experimental theater companies in New York. In describing the company’s work, Collins says, “ERS pieces incorporate a great variety of narratives, forms, and ideas but they all have in common their inappropriateness for the stage.” An example is the highly praised Gatz, a seven-hour play in which the actors recite the entire F. Scott Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby with the actors morphing into the characters in the book. The play won a Lucille Lortel Award for Best Alternative Theatrical Experience in 2011, and Collins was nominated for Outstanding Director, among other honors.
New York, NY
Mexican-American singer-songwriter Lila Downs was raised between three cultures—the Mixtec Oaxacan world of her mother, as a Mexican national, and in the Minnesota home of her father. Downs studied at the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Oaxaca, Mexico, as well as the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. She grew up singing ranchero music and studied opera in college, combining these traditions with jazz, Native American, and Afro-Caribbean music in her compositions, which address contemporary social themes around migration, gender, and race. She has recorded eight CDs.