Robert John Connor, award winning director, has worked in the arts and entertainment industry for over 30 years as an actor, singer, writer, director and producer. A graduate of Morehouse College, Robert studied music, radio, film and television. Robert went on to pursue acting and music, and has appeared in a variety of stage productions including: 110 in the Shade, Once on This Island, Camelot, Crowns, The Club, Urinetown, Queen of the Blues, Higher Ground, Come out of the Rain, Tyler Perry’s I Know I’ve Been Changed and Jezebel. Some of his film and television credits include: Greenleaf, A Different World, The Cosby Show, the film Glory, and Showtime at the Apollo. As a musician Robert has recorded and arranged vocals for a variety of artists, jingles for national and international products and has sung with a variety of artists including: Michael Buble, Gladys Knight, Barry Manilow, Byron Cage and Cassi Davis. Robert went on to earn a Masters of Fine Arts in Performance and Dramatic Media from the University of Georgia, and has directed productions including: Jar The Floor, Dreamgirls, The Amen Corner, Romeo & Juliet, Execution of Justice, Black Nativity, Hairspray, Miss Saigon and the world premiere of the amateur production of The Color Purple.
Lisa B. Thompson is an artist/scholar and Associate Professor of African & African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of numerous articles and the book, Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class. Her plays have been produced and developed by Brava for Women in the Arts!, New Professional Theatre, The Vortex Repertory, Theatre Rhinoceros, Crossroads Theatre, National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa, Company of Angels Theater, New African Grove Theatre Company, Black Spectrum Theatre, FronteraFest, Austin Playhouse and the National Black Theatre Festival. Her plays include Single Black Female (LA Weekly Theatre Award best comedy nominee), and Underground (Austin Critics Table David Mark Cohen New Play Award), Monroe, The Mamalogues, Dreadtime Stories: One Sista’s Hair, I Don’t Want to Be (Mamie Till), as well as the afro-futuristic trilogy of short plays: Watch, Mother Nature, and Mother’s Day. Thompson’s creative work has been anthologized in Contemporary Plays by African American Women: Ten Complete Works and Catch the Fire: A Cross-Generational Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She has received fellowships and awards from a number of institutions including Hedgebrook, The Millay Colony for the Arts, Harvard University’s W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute, the Humanities Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, and Stanford University’s Michele R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research. She is currently writing a book about contemporary black theatre and a play about culture clashes within the African Diaspora.
Composer and artist Kathryn Bostic is known for her work on award-winning films, TV and live theater. She is a recipient of numerous fellowships and awards including the prestigious Sundance Institute Time Warner Fellowship, Sundance Fellowship for Feature Film Scoring, Sundance/Skywalker Documentary Film Scoring, BMI Conducting Fellowship, and Best Music in Film by the African American Film Critics Association. Her scores can be heard in several films by award winning directors including Ava DuVernay, Justin Simien, Sam Pollard, Stanley Nelson and Kirsten Johnson. In 2016 she became the first female African-American score composer in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Bostic has written for Broadway, most notably collaborating with the award-winning playwright August Wilson on “Gem of the Ocean” and various productions of his last play “Radio Golf” as well as the Mark Taper production of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” directed by Phylicia Rashad. Because of her collaboration with Mr. Wilson, Bostic was asked to score the PBS American Masters program “August Wilson – The Ground on Which I Stand.” Reflecting on Mr. Wilson’s career, this documentary inspired her to write“The August Wilson Symphony” and song “State of Grace”, which received a world premiere in January 2018 by the Grammy award winning Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra helmed by Grammy award winning conductor and composer Lucas Richman who was instrumental launching the premiere.
In addition to her work with August Wilson, Bostic’s work on Broadway includes “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” with Robin Williams, by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph. Her score of music and ambient textures in “Bengal Tiger” garnered a Drama Desk win in the Sound Design category for this collaboration. She has been nominated for several additional awards including the Ovation Award, NAACP Theater Award, and a Drama Desk nominee for “Outstanding Music in a Play.”
As a vocalist and artist Bostic has toured and recorded with several renowned artists including Nas, Ryuchi Sakamoto, and Dave Byrne. She has also performed at various festivals and clubs including The Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scott’s, The Pori Jazz Festival, Cape May Jazz Festival, Birdland (NYC), Catalina’s (Los Angeles.)
A native of New Orleans, Jackie Alexander is an award-winning actor, writer, producer, director, former Artistic Director of The Billie Holiday Theatre, and current Artistic Director of The North Carolina Black Repertory Company, producers of The National Black Theatre Festival. His debut feature film Joy, on which he served as actor, writer, and director was awarded Best Feature Film by the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. The film also earned Best Actor and Best Screenplay honors for Jackie on the festival circuit. Jackie’s debut novel, Our Daily Bread, was published by Turner Publishing in the fall of 2012.
After a sixteen-year relationship working as an actor, writer, director, and producer with The Billie Holiday Theatre in New York, Jackie was named Artistic Director of the theatre in 2013. As Artistic Director, he oversaw a redesign of the theatre’s website, expanded programming to include a reading series, developmental workshops, film screenings, and topical community discussion panels, and launched new fundraising initiatives like the Back the Billie campaign and a 2014 cultivation event that attracted high profile guests such as filmmaker Malcolm Lee, actors Wendell Pierce and Michael Potts, and Publicist Terri Williams. Publicity from this event substantially raised BHT’s profile to kick-off the 2014-2015 season, resulting in coverage by the New York Times and other NY media, partnerships with The Brooklyn Historical Society and BRIC Media Arts, and attendance by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray at BHT’s 2015 production of Brothers from the Bottom. During Jackie’s two-year tenure as Artistic Director, BHT was awarded a prestigious Mellon Grant, the first private funding awarded to the theatre in over thirty years and nominated for an astounding seventeen AUDELCO awards for excellence in Black Theatre; taking home the top prize nine times.
In in first season as Artistic Director of The North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NC Black Rep), Jackie established partnerships on productions with the Wake Forest Baptist Sticht Center on Aging, Susan G. Komen, N.W., The North Carolina ALS Association, and the Winston Salem Symphony. Additional partnerships with The Gantt Center for African-American Culture in Charlotte and An Appalachian Festival in Boone allowed NC Black Rep to expand its artistic footprint in North Carolina with productions in both cities. During the 2017 National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF), NC Black Rep’s signature event, Jackie directed two productions, Angelica Cheri’s The Sting of White Roses and Cheryl Davis’ Maid’s Door and produced a city-wide Health Fair focusing on disparities within the African American Community. His inaugural Artistic Director Meet and Greet at NBTF 2017 connected festival playwrights and directors with producers from across the country, including Broadway producers Stephen Byrd, Alia Jones-Harvey, and Ron Simmons.
Stage directing credits include the World Premieres of his critically acclaimed plays Brothers from the Bottom, The High Priestess of Dark Alley, The Legend of Buster Neal, The Right Reverend Dupree in Exile, The Desire, and Birthright. Additional directing credits include the New Orleans premiere of Jelly’s Last Jam (Five Big Easy Awards including Best Musical), Lemon Meringue Façade by Ted Lange, Losing The Light, The Waiting Room by Tony Nominee Samm-Art Williams, The Resurrection of Alice, and world premieres of Finding Home, Fati’s Last Dance, Maid’s Door (Seven AUDELCO awards including Best Drama), Plenty of Time, The Sting of White Rose, Storm Stories—True Stories From Hurricane Katrina, and Matisse’s Self Portrait by OBIE winner Charles Mee. Jackie’s direction of Plenty of Time and Maid’s Door was honored with productions at the 2005 & 2015 National Black Theatre Festivals, while his plays The High Priestess of Dark Alley and The Legend of Buster Neal received that distinction in 2009 and 2011.
A short list of stage acting credits include: Plenty of Time, Acted Within Proper Departmental Procedure, Losing The Light, Imperfection Flawed, The Death of Bessie Smith, Romance, Revolution, & War, Tell Pharaoh, The Authors Voice, which he produced on Theatre Row, and the originating role of “Prophet Solomon Jones” in Raisin’ Hell, a musical premiere by Motown Legend William “Smokey” Robinson. Jackie has also been featured on two recordings Spoken Melodies and the critically and socially acclaimed The Price of Freedom-The Amadou Project, both produced by the late jazz great Weldon Irvine.
The OBIE and AUDELCO award-winning Billie Holiday Theatre in New York devoted its entire 2010-2011 season to Jackie’s work; commissioning him to write three new plays and making him the only playwright in the storied history of the theatre to receive that honor.
Habib Iddrisu is an actor, dancer, musician, and historian from Northern Ghana. He received his PhD from Northwestern University. Born into the Bizing family of court historians of the Dagbamba/Dagomba people, Dr. Iddrisu has been principle performer with the top national groups across Ghana. He has toured the world extensively with musical and theatre groups, and has diverse experience as a performer, teacher, choreographer, and a scholar. One of Dr. Iddrisu’s performance and research concepts is to develop the concept of a “total performance experience” that comes out of his experience of African performance in traditional and modern contexts. He combines theatre, dance, music and storytelling with the intent to bring African styles to a global world. He is an assistant professor of ethnomusicology and Dance, and African studies executive committee member at the University of Oregon.
Dafina is the Co-Founder of Crux, the first platform dedicated to ensuring that Black creators and their stories gain a strong foothold as the VR/AR/MR space continues to grow and evolve. She was previously a Program Officer on the arts team of Bloomberg Philanthropies, where she managed Bloomberg Connects, a digital engagement initiative, and the Arts Innovation and Management program (AIM), a capacity-building supporting more than 260 small and mid-sized arts organizations in six U.S. cities. She recently served as the Director of Communications & Conferences for Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service organization for not-for-profit theatre. In 2012, Dafina was integral in launching TCG’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Initiative to support organizations and artists nationwide. Prior to joining TCG, Dafina served as the Associate Managing Director of Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, MN. She’s held numerous leadership positions at global public relations agency GCI Group (now Cohn & Wolfe) in New York. Dafina also consulted with the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on marketing and community engagement initiatives. Dafina is an alumna of the Kennedy Center’s International Arts Management Fellowship in Washington, D.C. She is a proud native of Houston, Texas.
Soul-stirring, interdisciplinary work has garnered Al Letson national recognition and devoted fans. In 2008 Letson created, hosted, and executive produced State of the Re:Union (SOTRU). Every episode SOTRU examined America through the lens of community. The program aired on more than 300 NPR stations, receiving critical acclaim, and numerous awards, including a Peabody Award (2014), three consecutive National Edward R. Murrow Awards (2012, 2013, 2014).
In 2015 SOTRU ended production and Letson joined the Center for Investigative Reporting to help launch and host public radio’s first hour-long investigative journalism show, Reveal. Reveal’s first pilot, The VA’s Opiate Overload, won a Peabody Award (2013). Since that time Reveal has gained a large audience and is heard on over 400 public radio stations and over 1 million downloads a month. In 2016 Letson launched his own podcast, showcasing a little bit of errthang. Errthang is just that, everything: storytelling, radio drama, pop culture reviews, and interviews. Letson is basically taking all the things that are floating in his head and turning it into a mixtape of delight for listeners.
A true renaissance man, Letson got his start on stage as a performance poet where he established himself as a heavyweight in the Poetry Slam community, being a featured on venues such as HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, and CBS’s 2004 Final Four PreGame. Drawing on his background as a performance poet, Letson seamlessly weaves spoken word into the fabric of his theatre work. Several of his plays produced on stages across the country. His solo performance Summer in Sanctuary opened at the Abingdon Theatre company off-Broadway in the summer of 2012 and ran for nine months at the Marsh in San Francisco.
A self-described comic nerd, in 2017 Letson was picked by DC Comics to join the DC Comics Writer’s Workshop. The workshop trains writers to work for DC Comics, writing iconic characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Independently, Letson’s been working on a graphic novel, “Imperfect”, with artist Pier Brito, which will be released in 2018. While it may seem like his interests are varied, they are all aspects of who Al Letson is, a storyteller for the new millennium.
Abba. T. Makama is the award winning writer and director of Green White Green. Green White Green is the most traveled film in Nigerian film history. Having its 2016 world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival, since then it has screened in over 20 international film festivals including Stockholm international Film Festival, Berlin Critics Week, New York African Film Festival. Green White Green won Best Nigerian film at 2016 African International Film Festival and was nominated for two African Academy Awards in 2017. Green White Green was also distributed on 3 international airlines (Air France, Emirates and Ethiopian Airline) Green White Green is currently streaming on Netflix worldwide. Abba Makama is also an Alumnus of the 2018 Berlinale Talents.
Abba has also directed documentaries for Al Jazeera and has created content for brands like Google, Backberry, Hennessey and Ciroc Vodka.
Sharon is a proud member of the Dartmouth Class of 1981. She has been a working actress on stage and screen for almost 30 years. She recently added playwright to her resume with the debut of her solo play Feeding the Dragon. Sharon completed the play at Dartmouth during her New York Theatre Workshop summer residency in 2015, having previously spent several summers participating as an actor. She started on the acting path after spending lots of time, even though a Government major, on stage in Dartmouth Players and in Black Underground Theater Association productions. During her Junior and Senior years she was Director of BUTA. After graduation she spent two years learning the ropes on the production side of the business working as assistant to Barry Grove ’73, the executive Producer of Manhattan Theatre Club.
Feeding the Dragon received its world premiere at City Theatre in the Fall of 2016 and was subsequently produced at Hartford Stage in January 2018 and opened Off-Broadway at Primary Stages in April of 2018 where she was nominated for a 2018 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Solo Performance. She has been awarded a Tow Foundation grant and is Primary Stages 2018-19 Tow Foundation Playwright-In-Residence. Feeding the Dragon was also recently released as an Audible theater recording.
Sharon is a member of the Hopkins Center Board of Advisors. She is a Career Network Volunteer, Dartmouth Partners in Community Service mentor and was a member of the Moosilauke Forum. She has also served as a guest speaker at several Dartmouth events, including the Arts at Dartmouth Awards and the Centennial Circle Forum.
As an actress Sharon has appeared on Broadway in The Scottsboro Boys, the last collaboration of legendary team Kander & Ebb in a role she originated Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theater. Off-Broadway appearances include Dot (Vineyard Theater); Wild with Happy (Public Theater – Lucille Lortel nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress; Audelco Award); Luce (Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3); and The Overwhelming (Roundabout Theater).
Select regional credits include: Seven Guitars (Actors Theatre of Louisville); Intimate Apparel (Guthrie Theater); Merry Wives of Windsor and King Lear (Denver Center); Jar The Floor (Seattle Rep); The Story (Long Wharf Theatre) and the original company of The Piano Lesson (Yale Rep) directed by Lloyd Richards.
Film and television credits include: On the Basis of Sex (2018), The Kitchen (2019), The Looming Tower, Wiener Dog, Mistress America, The Bourne Legacy, Michael Clayton, School of Rock, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Malcolm X, Die Hard With A Vengeance, Gotham, Blue Bloods, The Blacklist, White Collar, Taking Chance, Royal Pains, Damages, Law & Order, Law & Order: CI, and Law & Order: SVU where she can occasionally be seen on the bench as Judge Virginia Hayes.
You may also recognize her voice from her narrations of several documentary series on Animal Planet, Discovery and NOVA. A native New Yorker, Sharon attended The Dalton School and received her MFA from the Yale School of Drama.