Morgan Dean - Board Chair

Morgan (they/them) is a queer writer, actor, activist, and model. Through their art and through visibility, Morgan hopes to show all communities what queer and non-binary can and does look like. In 2016, Morgan worked for the Hillary for America campaign and vowed after the election to always be proud and visible, even if the face of violence and danger. They continued their political work, helping coordinate social media for Jehmu for DNC and Sister District, as well as volunteering and protesting. In 2018, Morgan realized something was missing in their life. Previously devoted to Musical Theater, Morgan flipped their life around and pursued something they loved but always told themselves they could never do: playwriting. In the past year Morgan’s play THEM has had readings with Broad Views on Broadway, the Summer Fresh Festival, and No Man’s Land Theatre Co. THEM will have its first fully staged premier in September 2019 at The Tank, produced by Honey Dipped Productions. Morgan is a 2018-2019 Artist in Residence with Broad Views on Broadway and a proud member and social media coordinator for Ring of Keys. Morgan graduated with a BFA in Music Theatre, Summa Cum Laude and with Honors, from The Hartt School. Morgan resides in Woodside, Queens with their beautiful and neurotic cat Ruby.

Keith Butler

Keith (he/him) brings nearly 20 years’ experience as a development professional with some of New York’s most prominent and diverse cultural and social service nonprofits. He is currently the Assistant Vice President, Institutional Advancement for the Museum of the City of New York. In this capacity, Keith oversees all aspects of the Museum’s development efforts in support of individual giving, and has direct responsibility for the generation of major gifts. Keith previously served as Director of Development for the James Beard Foundation, the signature culinary nonprofit and producer of the renowned James Beard Awards, overseeing the creation of a comprehensive fundraising strategy and organizational culture. Keith was Director of Institutional Partnerships for Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), overseeing both the major gifts and institutional giving portfolios for the organization (approximately $4.5 million annually). Additional nonprofit experience includes development roles and leadership with Film Forum, the Cunningham Dance Foundation (formerly the Merce Cunningham Dance Company), Dance Theatre Workshop, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc. He has taught “Development in the Performing Arts” as part of NYU’s Master’s program in Performing Arts Administration, and served as the Fundraising Specialist for Dance Theatre Workshop’s Laboratory in Arts Management. Keith holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance (cum laude) from Boston University and a Master of Arts degree in Performing Arts Administration from New York University.

Leigh Fondakowski

Leigh (they/them) is a playwright and director. Leigh was the head writer of The Laramie Project, co-writer of Laramie: Ten Years Later, and an Emmy Nominated co-screenwriter for the film adaptation of Laramie with HBO Films. Their other original plays include, I Think I Like Girls, The People's Temple, SPILL, and her current work-in-progress, Casa Cushman. Their plays have been produced under her direction at American Theater Company, Berkeley Repertory Theater, Encore Theater, EnsembleStudio Theater, The Guthrie Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, Perseverance Theater, SwinePalace, TimeLine Theater, and Z Space Studio. Awards include The Glickman Award for Best New Play in the Bay Area (The People’s Temple); Bay Area Critics Circle nomination for Best Production (I Think I Like Girls); and a Jeff Nomination for BestChicago Production (SPILL). Leigh is a 2007 recipient of the NEA/TCG TheatreResidency Program for Playwrights, a 2009 MacDowell Colony fellow, and a 2018 recipient of The National Endowment of the Arts Residency for Collaborative Teams at Yaddo. They held a Distinguished Visiting Chair at the University of Minnesota in 2010, and is the author of the creative non-fiction book, Stories from Jonestown, which they are currently adapting to film. They teach and lecture around the country, including New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and has been a member of Tectonic Theater Project since 1995. Leigh was the recipient of a Next Stage Drama League Fellowship in 2018 and was a participant in the Orchard Project’s pilot theater development program Orchard Project Greenhouse.

Charles Gershman

Charles (he/him) is a Midwest-bred queer playwright/screenwriter. He is a Dramatists Guild Foundation Playwriting Fellow, a 2019 Chesley/Bumbalo Playwriting Award winner, and a 2019 Relentless Award Semifinalist. His award-winning play The Waiting Game premiered at 59E59 Theaters in February 2019. His play Free & Proud recently had an acclaimed run in the UK (Edinburgh Fringe, Theatre503), where it was nominated for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award and the SIT-Up Award and called ‘One of 10 must-see queer shows in town’ (Evening Standard). It is published by Oberon Books (UK).

In the Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellows Program, he has been developing an untitled new play about a modern family and their foster teen, with mentorship from Diana Son. Other plays are currently being developed with support from The New Group, the Flea Theater, and the Lark. Charles earned an MFA in dramatic writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2018 and a BA in history at Columbia University. He has been a teaching artist at several colleges, including The New School’s Eugene Lang College, where two of his plays are regularly taught in an undergraduate playwriting class on adaptation.

Kevin Smith Kirkwood

Kevin (he/him) is an NYC based Actor/Singer/Dancer/Writer/Director/and Activist most recently seen on Katy Keene on the CW Network. Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, Kirkwood earned a B.A. in Fine Arts with a Music Concentration and a Theater Arts Minor from Fordham University. Kirkwood was a founding member of the outreach based Jaradoa Theater Company and has served as a teaching artist with non profits such as The Leadership Program and Art House Astoria. Kevin also served as Praise Leader and Choir Master at Community United Methodist Church in Jackson Heights since 2004. As an actor/performer Kirkwood made his Broadway debut in the The 25th Annual…Spelling Bee and also was an original company member for the entire Broadway run of the Tony Award winning musical Kinky Boots.  Other theater credits include National and European tours of Godspell, Grease, and Jesus Christ Superstar as well as numerous productions at regional theaters across the country. For two years, Kirkwood toured as a member of the political activist dragapella quartet, The Kinsey Sicks. And as a founding member of The Four Corners Project producing team, Kirkwood co-wrote/produced two off-broadway, queer themed musicals in Dial N for Negress and It’s Karate Kid! The Musical. The latter garnered Kirkwood a New York Innovative Theater Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor, while the show took home awards for Best Musical and Best Choreography. Kirkwood won a New Hampshire Theater Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Angel in RENT at the Weathervane Theater. He also created and stars in the critically acclaimed and wildly popular solo show, Classic Whitney: Alive! which has played to sold out houses at Joe’s Pub, The Cutting Room, cruise ships around the world, and even a command performance at the diva’s estate. www.kevinsmithkirkwood.com

Rae Kara

Rae Kara (they/she) is a Bronx-born, Brooklyn-based educator and multidisciplinary artist who views the arts as an incredible vehicle for healing, building community, and play! Their work as a performer spans multiple genres, from classical to contemporary, to Afro-Cuban Jazz. They have appeared Off-Broadway, in poetry slams and readings, and in iconic concert halls here and abroad including The Apollo, Carnegie Hall, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, among others. As an educator, facilitator, and mentor, they have taught NYC students and refugee youth of all ages in both English and Spanish, and deeply believe in the transformative power of the arts in education. They have participated in writing workshops at Cave Canem and The Leslie Lohman Museum, and are a founding member of the Queer writing collective Streaks of Lavender. Rae received their BA in Theatre Arts with a Sociology minor from Marymount Manhattan College and a Master’s in Music in Classical Voice Performance from Manhattan School of Music. They are currently pursuing a Master’s in Early Childhood Education at Brooklyn College. Rae was an Innovative Cultural Advocacy Fellow with the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) and an EMERGENYC Artist with The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. They currently work as a bilingual Early Childhood Educator while continuing to teach the arts to all ages. They live with their partner and fur babies, and enjoy the occasional impromptu living room dance party.

Shafer Mazow

Shafer (he/him) is the Executive Director at Z Space, is a writer, theater artist, fundraiser, and activist living in San Francisco and working in program development and strategic initiatives at the intersection of art, science, and social justice. Prior to joining Z Space, Shafer was Senior Grants Manager at the Exploratorium and Director of Institutional Giving and Strategy at American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.). He serves on the organizing committee for Bay Area Writer’s Resist, leads the trans and gender-non-conforming advocacy and empathy project IPFreely, and has helped to establish space-sharing initiatives for performing artists, community-based theater programs, and research and action initiatives to address gender equity in the non-profit theater field. Shafer holds a B.A. in English from Wellesley College and a M.F.A. in English and Creative Writing from Mills College. His work has appeared in the Berkeley Fiction Review, 580 Split, and the zines Found and Brood. In his early days in San Francisco, Shafer performed stand-up and sketch comedy throughout the Bay Area and was a founding member of the comedy troupe, This Side of Butch.