Dahlak Brathwaite (Playwright/Performer) is an award-winning dramatic auteur: playwright, composer, performer, director, and filmmaker. His work has been presented at The Smithsonian, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, REDCAT, MCA Chicago, Ars Nova, The Public Theater, The Apollo, SXSW, by Creative Time, and on HBO’s last two seasons of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. Dahlak’s trilogy of works - Spiritrials (solo play), Try/Step/Trip (musical), Adapting History (documentary film) - take a personal look into the criminal justice system and the relationship between Black American music and Black American subjugation. Development of the work has been supported by CalArts, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Victory Gardens, and Montalvo Arts Center. Dahlak has received awards and support from NEFA, the Doris Duke Foundation, The U.S. State Department, NYU Tisch, and MAP Fund. He was a Creative Capital finalist and a United States Artist nominee. Most recently, Dahlak was invited by The Public Theatre's Under the Radar Festival to join their 2023 Devised Writing Group. He is a graduate of NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, where he was awarded the Dean’s Full-Tuition Fellowship, and served as the Assistant Director for the national tour of the Tony-winning revival of Oklahoma!
Dion Reiner-Guzman (DJ/ Sound Designer) better known as Dion Decibels, was born into music. With his father, a professional drummer, and his mother, a samba and flamenco dance instructor, Dion was steeped in sound from his earliest days. He discovered the turntables in 2001 and fell in love with the ability they gave him to shape, transform, and extend his favorite songs. He has since become a major force in the Bay area music scene and is highly respected as a DJ, engineer, producer, and artist. From parties to concerts to award-winning theater performances across the country, there’s no environment untouchable to this dynamic DJ. Dion has performed at the Nokia Theater, Fox Theater, and Lincoln Center, DJ’d alongside Saul Williams, J.Rocc, Digable Planets, Rahzel, and George Watsky, to name a few. In the theater world, he is best known as the musical director & DJ for celebrated playwright Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s masterwork Word Becomes Flesh. He is a renaissance man. Dion’s seamless mix of hip hop, soul, and funk, with some latin and house sprinkled in have made him a favorite of devoted fans in every area code. His mixes, beats, and eclectic take on postmodern music have earned him a well-deserved reputation as a sound engineer whose skill set and crates are limitless.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph (Director) is the 1999 National Poetry Slam champion, the 2011 Alpert Award winner in Theater and one of 21 artists to be named to the inaugural class of Doris Duke Artists in 2012. He is the founding Program Director of the exemplary non-profit Youth Speaks, and is a co-founder of Life is Living, a national series of one day festivals designed to activate under-resourced parks and a peaceful urban life through hip hop arts and focused environmental action. Spiritrials is the latest piece he’s directed with Youth Speaks/Campo Santo having most recently helmed Chasing Mehserle and Mirrors in Every Corner by Chinaka Hodge and Dennis Kim’s Tree City Legends to acclaim. Mr. Joseph is currently completing new works for Creative Time, the Philadelphia Opera, the Chautauqua Symphony and South Coast Repertory Theater while serving as Chief of Program and Pedagogy at Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. bamuthi.com/@bamuthi
Sean San José (Director) is the new Artistic Director of The Magic Theater and is co-founder of Campo Santo, the award-winning ensemble theater company in San Francisco. He also conceived the theater project Pieces of the Quilt, a collection of short plays confronting the AIDS epidemic. San José organized and created the AIDS Service Arts organization Alma Delfina Group-Teatro Contra el SIDA, to distribute funds and present benefit performances. As Founding Director he has worked, commissioning these pieces and then presenting the plays in theatres, schools, libraries, clinics and community centers. He has recently been awarded one of the Audrey Skirball-Kennis TIME Grant Awards to support the development of his new work. He has also been awarded a San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Artist Commission, two residencies at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts from the Wattis Artist Residency, a Bay Area Critics’ Circle Award, the DramaLogue Award, Backstage West, the Cable Car Award, and the Bay Guardian Goldie Artistic Achievement in Theatre Award. Productions he has conceived, created and produced have also garnered numerous awards in excellence, including; the Bay Area Reporter Best of the Season, Cable Car Award, DramaLogue and Bay Area Critics’ Circle Award.
Joan Osato (Video Projection Design/Producer) For the past 20 years she has played a pivotal role in local and national theater and been Producing Director of The Living Word Project since its inception with Artistic Director Marc Bamuthi Joseph in 2001. She’s brought a multiplicity of producing and design talents to Living Word Project Repertory works such as The Break/s, Word Becomes Flesh, Scourge, Tree City Legends, Mirrors in Every Corner and Chasing Mehserle amongst many others. She has designed plays for Campo Santo including The River by Richard Montoya, and Alleluia by Luis Alfaro, directed by Jonathan Moscone. She recently received the Theatre Bay Area Award in Video Design for Berkeley Rep’s (Tribes, by Nina Raine), directed by Jonathan Moscone. Joan’s current work includes a state-wide community engagement project called Califas (2013 Rockefeller Mapfund) with Calshakes and Intersection for the Arts, Reflections of Healing with muralist Brett Cook, Nogales (Mapfund 2014 recipient with Richard Montoya, Sean San José and ASU’s Department of Film, Theatre and Dance), Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s /peh-LO-tah/, directed by Michael John Garces, as well as Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival and Life is Living, a community development project centered around neglected parks in urban centers around the country.
Brittany White (Production Manager) has approximate knowledge of many things and it seems to have made living life in and for theatre feasible. In most instances she plays the role of Prop Artisan, sometimes that role extends out to Production Manager, Director's Assistant, Set Designer, Stage Manager, Set Dresser, Storyboard Artist, Scenic Carpenter, or whatever duty gets thrown at her. She has worked on a few theatre, film and/or dance productions around the Bay Area with Campo Santo, CuttingBall Theater, TheatreFirst, California Shakespeare Theater, Marin Theater Company, Bay Area Children's Theater, HEIST, DelinaDreamProductions, FaultLine Theater, African American Shakespeare Co., Aurora Theatre, and K*STAR Productions, and has served as Production Manager for Youth Speaks. Brittany White stays behind the scenes. Technical theater background, mainly as a Prop Artisan but will cover most roles. Member of SF based theater group, Campo Santo. Happy to be alive and doing theater nationally and internationally for 10+ years. Yee!
Darl Andrew Packard (Lighting Designer) is a Bay Area lighting and video designer who is also the co-founder of Collage Theater (www.collagetheater.com). He is incredibly excited to be making this project his lighting debut with The Living Word Project’s Spiritrials. His video design work has been seen in collaboration with Collage Theater, Amara Tabor-Smith/Ase Dance, and Jayne Wenger’s Winter Bear Project. His lighting credits include collaboration with Killing My Lobster, Wolfgang Wachalovsky, Megan Finlay/ Rapid Descent, Laura Arrington Dance, FACT SF and Jesse Hewit/Strong Behavior among others. He has previously served as the production stage manager for Josh Kornbluth’s Citizen Josh, the Touring Technical Director for Word for Word Performing Arts, and the Theater Manager at CounterPULSE. He has apprenticed with Bay Area designers David Szlasa and Allen Wilner, and served as Technical Director on Living Word Project’s red, black and GREEN; a blues by Marc Bamuthi Joseph.
The Living Word Project is a theater commissioning, developing and producing company, whose work crosses disciplines integrating photography, film, visual arts and new media into its creations. As a collective of designers, performers, directors and technicians, our work endeavors to break open new modes of narrative, employing emerging aesthetics and techniques that push the possibilities of storytelling and theatre. We commission, develop, premiere and tour our Repertory works such as The Break/s, Word Becomes Flesh, Scourge, red, black and GREEN; a blues, Nogales, /peh-LO-tah/, Moving & Passing, Chasing Mehserle and Translating Selena by Richard Montoya. Upcoming work includes Rashomon by Sean San José, directed by Mina Morita, Last Days a Pu’unene Mill with Tanya Orellana, and The Travelers by Luis Alfaro and the The Magic Theatre. Works currently on tour include Try/Step/Trip by Dahlak Brathwaite, directed by Robera Uno, Prieto by Yosimar Reyes, Kat Evasco and Jose Antonio-Vargas, Peoples Kitchen Collective’s EARTH SEED, and Cristal Chanelle Truscott’s Plantation Remix.
Brent White is a lifelong Philadelphian and jazz enthusiast. Mr. White understands Philadelphia's rich cultural community; its leaders, history, musicians, connectors, and politics. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Widener University, a Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies from the University of the Arts, and a certificate in non-profit management from LaSalle University. He has toured nationwide and internationally as a freelance trombonist to the world’s largest Jazz festivals, yet possesses the local field experience, and relationships with many of Philadelphia’s non-profits with a career focus that can be summarized in one word—Jazz. Previously, Mr. White has worked as the Education Program Manager at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, designing and implementing outreach education programming for Philadelphia students. Mr. White has taught jazz in the Philadelphia Prison System, the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, in the Camden New Jersey City School system, and as Director of Jazz Orchestra at Drexel University. Residencies included the Juilliard School of Music outreach Department (Bay Area Tour), where he provided jazz workshops in juvenile detention centers, children’s hospitals, and schools in the San Francisco Bay area.
As a trombonist, Mr. White has toured with the likes of John Legend (Indonesia), Kindred Family Soul (South Africa), and the Sun Ra Arkestra (Europe). Mr. White has been welcomed to the stage by Lady Alma, and has recorded in-studio for Patti Labelle. Mr. White is no stranger to the Philadelphia and New York jazz scenes where currently, he performs with Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band, Josh Lawrence and Color Theory, and the Fresh Cut Orchestra, among other ensembles.
Lauren Putty White has an MFA in dance from Montclair State University and a BFA in Modern Dance Performance from the University of the Arts. Having performed internationally with Parsons dance company and PHILADANCO, White has also choreographed for Ballet X, Grace Dance Theatre, Bryn Mawr College, and Drexel University. She has taught at the University of the Arts, Stockton University, Temple University and for the School District of Philadelphia. White co-founded Putty Dance Project, with her jazz musician husband, producing socially conscious critically acclaimed works. They have presented at the Kimmel Center, Baltimore Dance Invitational, Boston Contemporary Dance Festival and San Francisco’s Virtual Pathways. Most recently, White was the featured dancer with the Sun Ra Arkestra at Carnegie Hall and a guest teacher at Cornell University. She currently teaches workshops in her methodology Physical Listening for Free Form Body Motifs, specializing in movement improvisation to Free Jazz music. An emerging dance writer, she also writes for Philadelphia’s thINKingDANCE . White is currently dance faculty at Stockton University.
Orrin Evans: During his kaleidoscopic quarter-century as a professional jazz musician, pianist Orrin Evans has become the model of a fiercely independent artist who pushes the envelope in all directions. Evans upholds that reputation on his 20th album, Magic of Now (Smoke Sessions), on which he helms a multi-generational A-list quartet through an eight-piece program that exemplifies state-of-the-art modern jazz. From first note to last, the members, convening as a unit for the first time, display the cohesion and creative confidence of old friends, mirroring the leader’s predisposition for finding beauty in the heat of the moment.
Although he’s never had the support of a major label, Evans has ascended to top-of-the-pyramid stature on his instrument, as affirmed by a #1-ranking as “Rising Star Pianist” in the 2018 DownBeat Critics Poll. Grammy nominations for the Smoke Sessions albums: The Intangible Between and Presence, by Evans’ raucous, risk-friendly Captain Black Big Band, cement his bona fides as a bandleader and composer.
Evans bedrocks his speculative sensibility with virtuoso command of the piano and deep assimilation of the fundamentals. A deft tune deconstructor, he commands vocabulary across a broad timeline of swinging, blues-infused hardcore jazz and spiritual jazz/avant garde jazz dialects, as well as the Euro-canon, and conveys his stories with the intuitive spontaneity of an ear player. He projects an instantly recognizable sound, sometimes creating flowing rubato tone poems, sometimes embodying the notion that the piano comprises 88 tuned drums.
Evans’ stylistically polyglot compositions – influenced by the expansive, individuality-first Black Music culture of his native Philadelphia and by a decade playing Charles Mingus’ beyond-category music in the Mingus Big Band – similarly postulate an environment of “structured freedom” that instigates the personnel to push the envelope in all his multifarious leader and collaborative projects. These include the Eubanks Evans Experience (a recent venture with eminent guitarist Kevin Eubanks); the just-formed Brazilian unit Terreno Comum; Evans’ working trio with bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Mark Whitfield; Jr.; and Tar Baby (a collective trio of 20 years standing with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits).
One of Tar Baby’s two 2022 releases will be released on Evans’ imprint, Imani Records, which he founded in 2001 and relaunched in 2018.
An influential educator, Evans is devoted to passing the torch to new generations. His students include the outstanding young alto saxophonist and Blue Note artist Immanuel Wilkins, and the prodigious, Grammy-nominated teenage pianist Brandon Goldberg.
Ian Macaulay is a guitarist, composer, and producer originally from Woonsocket, RI. Over the past 15 years, Ian has made a name for himself in the Philadelphia r&b and jazz scene, performing and recording with John Legend, Estelle, and Eric Roberson, as well as jazz artists Clark Terry, Ray Vega and Joe Lovano.
Recently, Ian was featured on Brent White’s album Broken Toy, which also featured pianist Orrin Evans and bassist Luques Curtis, as well as on drummer Wayne Smith, Jr’s soon-to-be-released debut album, for which he also served as mixing engineer. Ian is also a member of the band Maiden Seoul, who just released the first single, Verve, from their debut album, Cinematic, set to be released in the spring.
In between maintaining a busy touring schedule, Ian is also getting ready to release his first record as a leader, which will show off his diverse range of influences, from jazz to R&B and progressive rock.
Wayne Smith Jr.: Nurtured in the legendary Philadelphia jazz scene, Wayne Smith, Jr.’s career as drummer is as promising as it is eclectic. After graduating from the famed Creative and Performing Arts High School, he went on to study at the world renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston. Eager to advance his music career, Wayne began performing regularly at staples of the Philadelphia jazz community including Chris’ Jazz Cafe and Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus. As his reputation grew, he branched out, performing in New York, Baltimore and Washington D.C alongside such well known musicians as Donald Byrd, Orrin Evans, Duane Eubanks, John Ellis, Stacy Dillard and Bootsie Barnes. He teamed up with Victor North (saxophonist) and Lucas Brown (organist) to form Three Blind Mice and the trio still performs together to this day. After being tapped to join the legendary Sun Ra Akestra, Wayne toured Europe, Canada, and Australia, which would prove instrumental in his development as an artist.
During his travels, Wayne was exposed to a variety of musical genres and styles that piqued his interest and stimulated his musical growth. He began to explore a blossoming interest in rock music, anchoring a group that went on to do multiple recordings. He also began to pursue relationships with other musicians. It was during this time that he reunited with a former band mate, pianist George Burton. "I've known Wayne since I was about 16 years old. He was the first drummer I used regularly. Over time, I started using different cats to try to get a different feel on my music. But, the problem with that is that after every gig I always thought ‘if Wayne had played, he would have murdered it’, so I always went back."
With a heightened passion, Wayne developed his now signature playing style that revels in the dynamic interplay between musicians. His experimentation inspired a new musical sensibility; one that remains grounded while still ferociously ambitious. Tim Warfield (acclaimed tenor saxophonist and Temple University professor) has described Wayne as an “inventive drummer who displays an in-depth musical consciousness, quite willing to embrace the moment, yet never losing himself nor the tradition in the search." Jazz guitarist Steve Giordano agrees, stating “I love playing with Wayne as his natural feel and energy always adds to my compositions in his unique way. Even when he just lays it down, his feel is so good that the music always swings.”
Nimrod Speaks: Born in Philadelphia, Pa, Nimrod Speaks is a well-trained bassist, composer and educator both on electric and double bass. He began playing at the age of 16 on an electric fender bass while in high school under the tutorship of Ricardo Jackson. He later was introduced to the double bass during his first semester in college. He brings his individual soulful tone to many styles of music. Much of his musical studies in classical and jazz concentration include training with Ben Blazer, Ralph Bowen, Douglas Mapp, Conrad Hewig, Maria Cadieux, Scott Lee, Kevin Kjos, Mike Richmond, Victor Lewis, Vic Juris, and Stanley Cowell. While obtaining a B.A in Music Education from Kutztown University and a Masters in Jazz Studies from Rutgers University, these schools landed him opportunities to play with renowned artist of today. Some include Boostie Barnes, Ronnie Burrage, Doc Gibbs, Hannible Lokumbe including performance at premier jazz venues such as the Blue Note in NYC and the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.
Dr. Baz Dreisinger: Dr. Dreisinger works at the intersection of race, crime, culture and justice. She earned her Ph.D. in English from Columbia University, specializing in American and African-American studies. At John Jay she is the Founding Academic Director of John Jay's Prison-to-College Pipeline program, which offers college courses and reentry planning to incarcerated men at Otisville Correctional Facility, and broadly works to increase access to higher education for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals.
Dr. Dreisinger's book Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World (2016) was heralded by the New York Times, NPR and many more, and was named a notable book of 2016 by the Washington Post. Professor Dreisinger moonlights as a journalist and critic, writing about Caribbean culture, race-related issues, travel, music and pop culture for such outlets as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, and producing on-air segments about music and global culture for National Public Radio (NPR). Her first book Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture (2008) was featured in the New York Times and on NPR and CNN. Together with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Peter Spirer, Professor Dreisinger produced and wrote the two nationally aired documentaries about hip-hop, criminal justice and the prison industrial complex. She regularly speaks about justice reform and prison issues on popular news media and in international settings.
Dr. Dreisinger was named a 2017-2018 Global Fulbright Scholar and is working to internationally replicate the Prison-to-College Pipeline, with a focus on the Caribbean and South Africa. She is currently working on a road map for how prison-to-college pipelines and restorative justice can replace mass incarceration as a system of justice.