December 15, 2016 - The New Ohio Theatre

We will look at storytelling as a form of activism. How does form stand as a way to affect change? What is the artists' role in using structure to send a bigger message?

Who's Talking

James Lecesne (Actor/Playwright, Co-Founder of The Trevor Project), 

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen (Playwright)

Mj Rodriguez (Co-Choreographer/Actor in Street Children)

Pia Scala-Zankel (Street Children Playwright, Artistic Director of Vertigo Theater Company

Jenna Worsham (Director of Street Children). 

Emily DeVoti (Playwright and Founding Theater Editor of The Brooklyn Rail) will facilitate.

Shoptalk: StreetTalks

Artist as Social Citizen

December 8, 2016 - New Ohio theatre

We will expand on the artist's role and responsibility as a social activist. Are artists to be considered artists first or social citizens first? What is the artists' role in the structure that we live in? What is artists' responsibility; is there an intersection between entertainment and education and activism?

Who's Talking

 Robb Leigh Davis (Director/Playwright, Director of Cultural Engagement at The LGBT Center)

Diana Oh (Actor/Singer-Songwriter/Theatremaker/Creator of {my lingerie play})

Cece Suazo (Actor in Street Children)

Pia Scala-Zenkel (Street Children Playwright, Artistic Director of Vertigo Theater Company

Daniella Topol (Artistic Director of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater) will facilitate




Shoptalk is a casual salon-style gathering of theater makers engaging with the pressing topics that define theater today.

Following on the success of last year’s lively conversation about women in theater, in this installment, we consider experiences, struggles and victories of LGBTQ and gender non-conforming people in theater. Typically held around a dining table, this presentation opens up intimate conversations to a broad and diverse public. Moderated by Ginia Bellafante.

Who's Talking

Adam Bock

Adam Bock's plays include A Life (Playwrights Horizons with David Hyde Pierce), The Colby Sisters (Tricycle Theater, London), A Small Fire (Playwrights Horizons, Drama Desk nom for Best Play), The Receptionist (MTC, Outer Critics nom, Best Plays of 2007-2008, The Evidence Room with Megan Mullally, Audience award), The Drunken City (Playwrights Horizons, Outer Critics nom), The Thugs (Soho Rep, OBIE Award), and Swimming In The Shallows (Second Stage Uptown, GLAAD nomination). He has won the Glickman, BATCC and Heideman awards and is a Guggenheim fellow. His plays have been produced all over the US, in Canada, the UK and Australia, and around the world.

Will Davis

Will Davis is a director and choreographer focused on physically adventurous new work and old plays in new ways. He is also the newly appointed artistic director of American Theater Company ( ATC). Recent projects include: Evita for the Olney Theatre Center, Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus for Clubbed Thumb's Summerworks and Playwrights Horizons; Orange Julius by Basil Kreimendahl; Mike Iveson’s Sorry Robot for PS122’s COIL Festival; and two productions of Colossal by Andrew Hinderaker for Mixed Blood Theater and the Olney Theatre Center, for which he won a Helen Hayes award for outstanding direction. Davis has developed, directed and performed his work with New York Theatre Workshop, Clubbed Thumb, the New Museum, the Olney Theatre Center, the Alliance Theatre, the Playwright's Realm, the Fusebox Festival, New Harmony Project, the Orchard Project, the Ground Floor Residency at Berkeley Rep, Performance Studies International at Stanford University, and the Kennedy Center. He is an alum of the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, the NYTW 2050 Directing Fellowship and the BAX (Brooklyn Art Exchange) artist in residence program. He holds a BFA in Theatre Studies from DePaul University and an MFA in Directing from UT Austin.

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Donnetta Lavinia Grays

Donnetta Lavinia Grays is a Brooklyn based actor/playwright. Notable acting credits: Broadway’s “IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY,” “WELL,” “O, EARTH” (The Foundry Theatre), MEN ON BOATS (Playwrights Horizons and Clubbed Thumb). Regionally her stage work has garnered 2 Connecticut Critics Circle Awards and a Helen Hayes Award nomination. Film/TV: BOOK OF HENRY, WILD CANARIES, THE ENGLISH TEACHER, THE WRESTLER, BLUE BLOODS, THE BLACKLIST, all LAW & ORDERS, MERCY, RUBICON, THE SOPRANOS and A GIFTED MAN. Her plays include: LAST NIGHT AND THE NIGHT BEFORE (2015 National New Play Network New Play Showcase. 2015 Todd McNerney National Playwriting Contest Winner. 2014 Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference Semifinalist), THE REVIEW OR HOW TO EAT YOUR OPPOSITION (2013 Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference Finalist) among others. Inaugural recipient of the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award and a 2016-2018 Time Warner Foundation WP Theater Playwright’s Lab Fellow.

Carmelita Tropicana

Carmelita Tropicana has been performing in New York’s downtown arts scene since the 1980s, straddling the worlds of performance art and theater in the U.S., Latin America and Europe with her irreverent humor, subversive fantasy and bilingual puns. She received an Obie for Sustained Excellence in Performance (1999) and is a recipient of the Performance and Activism Award from the Women in Theater Program / American Theater in Higher Education (2015). Notable and recent works include: Schwanze-Beast (2015), a performance commissioned by Vermont Performance Lab; Recycling Atlantis (2014), a performance installation at 80WSE Gallery; Post Plastica (2012), an installation/video and performance presented at El Museo del Barrio; and the highly anthologized Milk of Amnesia (1994). Her publications include the book, co-edited with Holly Hughes, Memories of the Revolution: The First Ten Years of the WOW Café (University of Michigan Press, 2015). Tropicana has taught at numerous universities and sits on the Board of Directors at Performance Space 122 and NYFA.

Ginia Bellafante

Ginia Bellafante is an American writer and critic for The New York Times. She was a Senior Writer for Time Magazine, and has worked for The New York Times for over a decade, starting as a fashion critic, reviewing off-Broadway theater, and then spending the next five years reviewing television. She currently writes the weekly column “Big City” devoted to life, culture, politics and policy in New York City.

Previous Shoptalk Events:



Maria Goyanes

Maria Goyanes joined the staff of The Public Theater in 2004 as an Artistic Associate under Producer George C. Wolfe, and is currently the Associate Producer to the Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis. As Associate Producer, she is responsible for producing a full season of plays and musicals at the five-theater venue at Astor Place and at The Delacorte Theater for Shakespeare in the Park. While at the Public, she has worked with hundreds of artists, including David Byrne, Suzan-Lori Parks, Alex Timbers, Michael Friedman, Phyllida Lloyd, Lisa Kron, Jeanine Tesori, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tommy Kail and Julie Taymor. In addition, Maria was the Executive Producer of Obie-award winning 13P (13 Playwrights, Inc.), a 13-play project founded with a collective of writers that included Sarah Ruhl, Young Jean Lee, Anne Washburn, Lucy Thurber, and Sheila Callaghan. She ran the Soho Rep Writer/ Director Lab for two years developing work with David Adjmi, Jason Grote, Karinne Keithley, and Mike Daisey, among others. She was the recipient of the Josephine Abady Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women. She graduated from Brown University and is a first generation American hailing from Jamaica, Queens.

Marsha Norman

Marsha Norman won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for her play, ‘night, Mother, and a Tony award for the book to her musical, The Secret Garden. She is co-chair, with Chris Durang, of the Playwriting Program at The Juilliard School. Her newest projects include the book for the musical King Kong, and a play about trafficking and violence toward women worldwide. She won a Peabody award for her work in television, and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation. She won the Margo Jones Award, the Sidney Kingsley Award and the William Inge Lifetime Achievement Award in Playwriting. She writes and lectures frequently on playwriting and the musical book. She serves on the Board of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. She is a founder and President of The Lilly Awards Foundation, and serves on the Steering Committee of the Dramatists Guild of America.

Tamilla Woodard

Tamilla Woodard Tamilla is a theatre director working nationally and internationally. Currently, she is serving as the Artistic Director of The Five Boroughs/One City Project, a multi year initiative of The Working Theater. She is co-founder of PopUp Theatrics, a partnership creating site specific and immersive productions and collaborations around the world. She is a current Time Warner Directing Fellow at the Women’s Project Theater Lab, a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop, alumnus of The Lincoln Center Directors Lab and former Audrey Fellow at New Georges. She graduated from The Yale School of Drama’s Acting program and is the recipient of The Josephine Abady Award from The League of Professional Theatre Women and The Charles Bowden Award from New Dramatists.

Ginia Bellafante

Ginia Bellafante is an American writer and critic for The New York Times. She was a Senior Writer for Time Magazine, and has worked for The New York Times for over a decade, starting as a fashion critic, reviewing off-Broadway theater, and then spending the next five years reviewing television. She currently writes the weekly column “Big City” devoted to life, culture, politics and policy in New York City.


Shakina Nayfack Originally from Southern California, Shakina has enjoyed an eclectic career as a performer, director, writer, producer, and social activist. In 2015 she became the first transgender woman to receive a Lilly Award recognizing the remarkable contributions to the American Theatre made by women. Her autobiographical rock musicals One Woman Show (2013) and PostOp (2015) both premiered to soldout houses at Joe’s Pub, and will be returning to the Public Theater for encore engagements in June. This summer she will be joining the second season of the Hulu original comedy series Difficult People. Shakina is also the Founding Artistic Director of Musical Theatre Factory, a volunteerbased organization dedicated to helping musical theatre artists develop and present new work. More at Follow her on the socials: @shakeenz


SHOPTALK is a casual, intimate Q&A between Vertigo community members and invited guests. Each meetup features a select producer, director, writer, actor, designer, or other artistic professional.

Shoptalk invites guests to share both their professional expertise and their personal stories in order to educate, inspire, and empower the next generation of emerging artists.

Check out our videos to see who’s been talking! Previous Shoptalk guests include Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis; director John Gould Rubin (The Private Theater, Labyrinth Theater Company); actor Stephen McKinley Henderson (Between Riverside and Crazy, A Raisin in the Sun); and Obie award-winning playwright Lucy Thurber (Hill Town Plays).


  • Lucy Thurber, May 2014, Moderated by Emily Simoness, Space on Ryder Farm
  • Stephen McKinley Henderson, March 2014, Moderated by Michael Kingsbaker, The Shelter
  • John Gould Rubin, March 2014, Moderated by Tara Ricasa, Vertigo Theater Company
  • Stephen Adly Guirgis, January 2014, Moderated by Michael Kingsbaker, The Shelter