Models of Activist Theatre Webinar

by TCG News

in Activism

(Listen to the archived recording of the Models of Activist Theatre Webinar, and read the context of the Webinar below. The following text was sent to the Webinar participants.)

Models of Activist Theatre Webinar
Thursday, February 26th, 2015
for Actors, Teaching Artists, Education/Outreach Directors & Community Organizations

The purpose of this Webinar is to learn about some of the pathways theatre organizations are journeying to build community partnerships through their education and outreach endeavors to address a shared need in their community for activism.  We will examine the efforts of a sampling of theatre organizations that use arts education as a framework to create the conditions necessary for the expression of communities of people where, for some, theatre has never happened before.  Listeners on the call will also gain a sense of how teaching artists and actors take on the daunting task of implementing and creating a theatre education experience as a response to issues occurring within communities.

Key Areas of Exploration:

  • As Theatricians:  What makes us respond?  How do we identify needs?  What steps do we take to serve communities as artists?
  • As Community Partners: What are the things being learned?  What are the ways theatre illuminates your mission? Who feels the impact of the new levels of self-expression that are achieved through theatre education?

Moderated by

Tommy Demenkoff
Director of Outreach, Stella Adler Studio of Acting

A graduate of Ithaca College, Tommy debuted in the Original NYC productions of both Godspell and Grease and in LA with the Original Cast of Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit at The Mark Taper Forum.  Other highlights in NYC include Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Hudson Warehouse and Revenge and Hero for The Drilling Company.  TV: General Hospital; Law & Order; 100 Centre Street, Ed.  Films: Sgt. Peppers…, Anger Management, and Surf Nazis Must Die.   Regional Directing: A Few Good Men, Breaking the Code, and Equus; NYC: The Seagull for Hudson Warehouse and Romeo and Juliet for Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.  His documentary The Children of Izieu, about the murder of 44 children during WW II and the hunt for their killer, Klaus Barbie, featuring veteran Nazi Hunter, Beate Klarsfield, won three international film festival awards.  He has taught at Cornell University and contributed to their national outreach efforts, served as a Master Teaching Artist with Florida Studio Theatre, trained 3D animators for Pixar and Disney at the Ringling School of Arts and Design, taught communications at State University of New York at New Paltz and co-directed theatre arts projects at both Fishkill and Eastern Correctional Facilities.  As Director of Education at City Lights he designed and delivered playwriting projects in over 100 NYC classrooms per year.  As the Director of Outreach for the historic Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Tommy leads a team of Actor Warriors: World Class Instructors and Adler Ambassadors (Alumni & Student Volunteers) in providing FREE Actor Training for over 1500 students per week at the studio, in public & alternative schools, community centers, drug and alcohol recovery programs and correctional facilities in New York City, Los Angeles and Vieques, Puerto Rico.


Louise Chalfant, Director of Education, Guthrie Theater
LOUISE CHALFANT is the director of education for the Guthrie Theater where she oversees programs such as student matinees and in-school residencies, weeklong summer camps for youth ages 7-17, multi-week classes for adults in the Guthrie Learning Center, corporate training programs, as well as a successful partnership with the Minnesota State High School Thespian Conference and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Over the course of 23 years at the Guthrie, Chalfant has held such positions as Associate Director of Education and Community Programs, Literary Assistant, Assistant to the Director of Education and Special Projects Manager. From 1999 to 2007 she was Artistic Administrator for Guthrie Director Joe Dowling where she managed his office and played an important administrative role in the Guthrie’s transition from its location on Vineland Place to its new location on the Mississippi River. In addition to the Guthrie, Chalfant has worked for Project SUCCESS, a Twin Cities-based educational non-profit, co-founded with the Guthrie, that uses theater performance to assist students with life transitions and goal-setting, and has worked in stage management for The Denver Center Theater Company. She received her B.A. in Theater from Arizona State University.

Elaine Hall, Founder/Creative Director, The Miracle Project
Elaine Hall “Coach E! referenced by The New York Times as “the child whisperer,” was a top Hollywood  acting coach whose life changed dramatically after her son was diagnosed with severe autism. When traditional behavioral therapies didn’t work, she rallied creative people to join her son’s world and he slowly emerged out of his isolation.

Elaine developed these methods to train others and created The Miracle Project, a groundbreaking theatre and film program, profiled in the Emmy winning HBO documentary, AUTISM: The Musical and is now being requested internationally.  Elaine has appeared on CNN, CBS, NPR, Oprah Winfrey Network, and featured in The LA Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal.  Her students, once too anxious to walk into a room of peers, have performed with Jack Black, Crosby Stills and Nash and recently on the TV show Parenthood. 

The United Nations selected Elaine Hall’s memoir, Now I See the Moon, for World Autism Awareness Day. Elaine also consults with faith-based organizations about Inclusion.  She has received honors from Autism Speaks, Autism Society of L.A., The Mayor of Los Angeles, Holly Robinson Peete,  among others.  She presents her Seven Keys to Unlock Autism training in universities and theater programs nationwide including at Brown and NYU.  Nominated as one of Los Angeles’ 50 most inspiring women, Elaine lives in Santa Monica with the two loves of her life, her son, Neal and husband Jeff Frymer, a Marriage and Family therapist. 

Diane Luby Lane, Founder, Executive Director, Get Lit
DIANE LUBY LANE is Founder/Executive Director of Get Lit-Words Ignite, Southern California’s leading nonprofit presenter of literary performance, education and teen poetry programs; and the Get Lit Players, an award-winning classic teen poetry troupe, who perform for over 20,000 teens each year and have been invited to perform at Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, and The Hollywood Bowl. Lane’s LIT KIT, a standards based, in-school curriculum, has been adopted by over 45 Los Angeles Country high schools, In 2012, Lane was honored as a recipient of the Presidential Lifetime Volunteer Service Award and Get Lit has been chosen for recognition as a 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award Finalist, distinguishing Get Lit as one of the top arts and humanities based programs in the country. Lane has recently been awarded a Fellowship through the Southern California Leadership Network and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. She is a graduate of the Annenberg Foundation’s Alchemy & Alchemy + Leadership Programs. Finally, she is a TEDX speaker and a member of Mayor Garcetti’s select Poet Laureate Committee. For more information, please visit

Mark Lutwak, Director of Education, Cincinnati Playhouse
Mark Lutwak oversees the Playhouse’s educational programming, which reaches over 50,000 young people and families annually in Greater Cincinnati. Major responsibilities as Director of Education include commissioning, developing, producing and directing for the Playhouse outreach season touring program, which features professionally produced, age-appropriate work for different schools and community venues. He also creates school and community residencies; and coordinates the acting intern program.  From 1999 to 2005, he was Artistic Director at Honolulu Theatre for Youth. During his tenure, he commissioned and developed 25 new plays and built partnerships with a range of artistic, community and educational institutions. Mark has been a freelance director since 1976, directing across the U.S. with a focus on new plays for adults, families and children. He also has produced and directed award-winning educational media, and produced a wide variety of projects for non-profits arts, community and educational organizations. He is married to playwright Y York. They live with their dogs in Clifton for now.

Amy Singer, Senior Vice President & Director, Public/Private Partnerships & Business Development, Phoenix House
Ms. Singer joined the Phoenix House Foundation in 1994 as Director of Criminal Justice Planning, was promoted to Vice President, Director of Program Planning and Research in 1995 and Senior Vice President and Director of Program Planning and Operations in February 2000.  Ms. Singer has served as a senior advisor to all Phoenix House programs across the country – involving herself in all aspects of programming including early program design, training, implementation and evaluation issues. 

Ms. Singer previously worked as Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Planning and Programs for the NYC Department of Correction; Senior Associate for the Education Development Center where she focused on criminal justice consultancies; private consultant to the Gardiner Howland Shaw Foundation; Assistant Secretary for Criminal Justice, Boston, MA; and Chief of the Victim Witness Service Bureau in Cambridge, MA. Ms. Singer also chaired the National Advisory Committee for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s $21M Reclaiming Futures initiative. 

Ms. Singer has received national recognition for her work on behalf of individuals in conflict with the law. During her time at Phoenix House, she has championed a range of unique programs that complement treatment by building self-esteem, promoting engagement, and providing clients with an additional therapeutic outlet to work through their experiences – including horticulture, music, and theatre arts projects.

Ms. Singer has a B.A. from American University. She also has an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, where she was selected as the Arthur D. Little Fellow for her commitment to public service.

Sabra Williams, Director of Outreach & The Prison Project, The Actors’ Gang
Sabra Williams is an actress and founder of the Actors’ Gang Prison Project. She joined the The Actors’ Gang (Tim Robbins, artistic director) in 2004. Inspired in part by her experiences working in prisons in her native Great Britain, Sabra created the Actors’ Gang Prison Project in 2004 and serves as its director. Each year the Actors’ Gang Prison Project conducts at least five eight week workshops in California prisons and is the only Comprehensive Arts Provider recognized by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Currently in the midst of a statewide expansion, the Prison Project has demonstrated an ability to reduce in-prison violence and recidivism rates.