Northwest Creator Residency Program
Initially, five residencies were available through open submission. Due to the overwhelming amount of submissions, Village Theatre secured additional funding to support additional residencies. Overall, there were 11 resident creators who worked on 9 new musicals with 11 additional artists.
They include theatre artist Nicholas Japaul Bernard, evolving artist/activist Aaron M. Davis-Norman, musician/performer/collaborator/writer/creator Kevin A. Haylock, dance artist Lisa Kwak, dance artist/creative professional David Rue, writer/performer Be Russell, artist seranine, and evolving artist Porscha Shaw. They join the three previously announced invited residents actor-writer-filmmaker Lauren Du Pree, multimedia journalist and dance artist Imana Gunawan, and designer Lex Marcos.
Each creator received a $1,000 residency to begin work on any new element of musical theatre developed in a digital residency during the 2020-2021 season. Three of these musicals have will be receiving additional developmental support next season.
The new program is designed to foster artists’ humanity rather than focusing on one particular project. Creators were chosen based on their artistic vision, residency goals, and work samples. Artists were encouraged to bring their unique voice and point of view to their project and to create what is most present in their artistic spirit at this moment.
The Northwest Creator Residency program is produced by co-producer Alex Crozier and Village Associate Artistic Director, Brandon Ivie. Submissions were reviewed by Village Artistic Director Jerry Dixon, and a paid evaluation panel made up of Randy Ford (Creator|Advocate), Kathy Hsieh (Theatre Artist & Activist), Nikki Long (dancer/choreographer), and Sara Porkalob (storyteller activist).
Aaron M. Davis-Norman (he/him)
Aaron M. Davis-Norman is an educator, artist/activist originally from Compton, California and holds a BM in Vocal Performance from Cornish College of The Arts. Aaron has performed in many musical arenas from opera to musical theatre to gospel, and has worked with incredible musicians across Europe and North America. As an educator, Aaron has worked with students both young and young at heart. As an activist, Aaron fights for equitable theatre education programs for youth and diverse representation on stage and production teams. Aaron can be found teaching at Village Theatre KIDSTAGE and Cornish College of The Arts.
“I am excited to explore a Black royal family that governs a society rooted in African heritage, but not European-led conquest. I want to create a beautiful world that holds magic, power, and Blackness unhindered by systemic oppression and pain. I also want to hear Black music from a wide range of genres, from spirituals to modern R&B. I want to share the vastness of Blackness on stage, to show that we are not a monolith. It is also important to me to showcase a matriarchal society with strong female leads at the center of the story.”
Be Russell (she/her)
Be Russell is an Afro-Caribbean American, female, writer/performer, and born-and-raised Seattleite. She strives to promote racial equity, gender equality, and social justice in every project and professional space that she occupies; not afraid to risk being on the edge of discomfort for the sake of truth, transparency, and authenticity in the creative process and workspace. Be received her BA in Theater from Pepperdine University, and has been performing professionally for 18 years. She was last seen onstage in Village Theatre’s production of She Loves Me pre-COVID, and is gratefully ecstatic for the opportunity to create new work through this residency. Leggo!
“I’m interested in telling stories that explore the fullness of identity (gender, race, spirituality, etc.). What unites humans on a “soul” level, alternate realities that exist within different points of view, and the alternate realities of space, time, and spirituality. What does it mean to live your truth versus choosing your reality? How does one live authentically, in the midst of trauma and challenges with our own and others intersectionality? I want to invest my creative energy into something that unifies and brings healing through storytelling. To showcase how patience, love, reconciliation, and care can alter someone’s reality.”
David Rue (he/him)
Dance Artist, Creative Professional
David Rue is a dance artist and creative professional born in Liberia, and raised in Minnesota. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Individualized Studies that combined Journalism, English, and Dance. From 2011-2015, he performed with TU Dance where he danced the works of Dwight Rhoden, Camille A. Brown, Greg Dolbashian, Katrin Hall, and Uri Sands. He holds an MFA in Arts Leadership from Seattle University and currently works in the Public Engagement department of Seattle Art Museum, where he creates arts programming using the lens of equity, excellence, and joy.
“I am excited to utilize this residency to create an online performing arts experience that celebrates my passion for curating dance, combined with the elements of musical theatre that exist within a world of Y2K internet aesthetics. This residency will deepen my creative practice, allow me to celebrate Seattle’s brilliant creative sector, and present new challenges that I’m excited to meet with enthusiasm.”
Imana Gunawan (she/her)
Multimedia Journalist/Dance Artist
Imana Gunawan is a Texas-born Indonesian multimedia journalist, dance artist, and creative director. Through her journalism and art work, Imana believes in realizing a more just world for those historically pushed aside. She currently works as an editor at Factal, mostly covering the Asia-Pacific region. Imana’s works have been published locally (International Examiner, Seattle Weekly), nationally (NBC News, NPR Next Generation Radio, ColorBloc Magazine), and internationally (Humanosphere, The Jordan Times). In her art, she creates scenic, surreal dance-based worlds that center the stories of marginalized peoples, their ancestry, and their futures. Her dance works — including the evening-length MOONSHINE cabaret in 2018 — have been presented by Au Collective, On The Boards, American Dance Guild, Seattle Theater Group, and more. imana.co
Kevin A. Haylock (he/him)
Musician, Performer, Collaborator, Writer, Creator
Kevin A. Haylock is a Behavioral Technician and guitarist from Paramount, CA. In high school, Kevin played in a Spanish rock band then furthered his education at UC Riverside. Since college, Kevin has continued playing guitar, bass, and ukulele in various musical styles including Mariachi, blues, Mexican folk music, Traditional Filipino Music, R&B, Gospel, and Jazz. Since Kevin moved to Washington, he has accompanied classes for Village Theatre KIDSTAGE, and has worked with the Williams Project, Seattle Repertory Theatre, and a number of productions hosted at Taproot Theatre.
“Everything I consumed was science fiction and/or fantasy. The problem was that most every hero or character that I admired was white, so by loving these characters, I didn’t have space for loving me and seeing myself in the books, comics, and TV shows that I consumed. Thankfully, things are changing for the better with every piece of new media where BIPOC characters are the leads. If I can contribute in some small way in writing stories and building worlds where black excellence is the benchmark, then I will happily do that.”
Lauren Du Pree (she/her)
Lauren Du Pree is an actor, vocalist, writer, filmmaker, and emcee from Seattle, WA. After graduating with a BFA from Howard University, she began her career in Washington, D.C., working at theaters such as The Kennedy Center (Orphie in Orphie And The Book Of Heroes), Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, and Ford’s Theatre. Since moving back home to Seattle, she’s worked multiple times at The 5th Avenue Theatre (Ragtime, Man of La Mancha, Annie, Rock of Ages, The Pajama Game) and Village Theatre (Dreamgirls, My Heart Is the Drum, String). She’s an original cast member of the nationally syndicated PBS television show Biz Kid$. In 2019 she produced her first live show, A Night With Just Du Pree, combining all the things she loves: good music, tasty food, holistic health, and comedy. In June, she premiered her musical film shot in quarantine, Untitled: A Quarantine Playlist, during the We Out Here Festival. Her alter ego, Carmen with a K, a fame-obsessed Instagram model, was recently featured in the Sovereign Film Festival 2020. When not on stage or in front of the camera, Lauren manages a blog chronicling her healing journey from a widely unknown iatrogenic illness, topical steroid withdrawal. Lauren believes the lessons we learn during life’s challenges equip us to be a help to others; that’s the vision of her blog and the art she creates. Whether it’s sharing her very personal health journey or comically shedding light on our unhealthy obsession with social media, art should make us feel a little more seen and a little less alone. Most importantly, art is a tool for positive change. Looking forward, you can catch Lauren in the feature film, East of the Mountains, starring Tom Skerritt.
Lex Marcos (he/him)
Lex Marcos is based in Seattle and originally from Manila, Philippines. He studied Painting and Art History at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. He designed sets in Manila for nine years. He received his MFA in Scenic Design in March 2017 from UW School of Drama. After that, he designed shows in town for ArtsWest, INTIMAN Theatre, Sound Theatre, Washington Ensemble Theatre, Theatre Battery, Portland Center Stage, Artists Repertory, and Tacoma Arts Live. His works Ang Post Office ng Hari and Umaaraw Umuulan Kinakasal Ang Tikbalang have been selected for Philippines exhibit in the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space in 2011 and 2015.
“I’m interested in poetic images, child-like perspectives, and drawings. I am also interested in creating an idea or story that would touch the very essence of our human character and exploring it into a heightened world.”
Lisa Kwak (she/her)
Lisa Kwak loves dancing, creating, and learning. She currently resides in Seattle, WA, and works with dance companies Dani Tirrell and the Congregation, The Guild Dance Company, and PRICEArts N.E.W. She has also danced with The Three Yells, and artists such as Rachael Lincoln and Etienne Cakpo, among others. In addition to dance, Lisa is interested in developing her skills in graphic design, clothing design, and film directing. When she is not making art, Lisa is working for the University of Washington Department of Dance as the Operations & Media Specialist.
“I’m interested in exploring what a dance story about grief would look like.”
Nicholas Japaul Bernard (he/him)
Nicholas Japaul Bernard, in an attempt to avoid being excited, elated, or thrilled is brimming with enthusiasm to be a part of Village Theatre’s Northwest Creator Residency Program. A theatre artist originally from Rochester, New York Bernard has called Seattle home for three years now. Known mostly for his stage work in both straight plays and musical theatre, Bernard has been exploring content creation since the move to the Northwest with the INTIMAN Emerging Artist Program, The Scratch Theatre Festival, and now NCRP. Buy/Stream “What’s Your Pleasure?” by Jessie Ware wherever you consume music.
“I am someone, like most of the people reading this, who has strong opinions about musical theatre but has never written a musical let alone a song. I figured now is the time to change that. In this residency, I wanna get a foothold in developing a musical about a gay black couple going through the process of adoption. The definition of family has always been something that interests me and, if musical theatre deigns to remain family-friendly, then we must start exploring the complexities of different kinds of families. Also, I want it to be a disco musical because we deserve a disco musical that isn’t a cover band concert shackled to an underserving plot. I told you; I have strong opinions.”
Porscha Shaw (she/her)
Porscha Shaw is a graduate of the Professional Actor Training Program at the University of Washington. She is a native of Richmond, Texas, and a graduate of Santa Fe University of Art and Design where she majored in Drama under the training of Jon Jory. Her recent Seattle credits include ArtsWest’s Saint Joan, Seattle Rep’s Shout Sister Shout and NINA SIMONE’s Four Women, Upstart Crow’s Richard III, The Last World Octopus Wrestling Champion, Lamplighter, 12 Ophelias, By The Way, Meet Vera Stark, Sound Theatre’s Hoodoo Love, As You Like It, The Octavia, Iphigenia and Other Daughters, Wooden O’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Force Continuum.
“I am excited about exploring different voices, sounds, and black female representation during this residency. I want to explore black sound onstage without a European lens. I want the black woman from the Baptist church sound, the vintage and jazzy sound, the deep soulful bluesy sound all mixed with some amazing heightened circumstances. I am looking forward to exploring black royal families, non-binary black characters, and gender-fluid black characters. I want to dive into the taboo and switch it up!
In response to a world with no mirror for her, seranine began documenting her life on seranine.com as openly and fully as she could in April 2015, eight months after she remembered she was a girl, two years before she remembered that she had been made to forget. She recalled surviving early childhood sex abuse as publicly as the rest of her life, in the wake of an abusive relationship whose patterns mimicked the childhood she could not remember, and so kept reliving. This led to the writing and recording of automatron, a trilogy of original music, available at seranine.bandcamp.com.
“I am an autistic intersex pansexual non-binary trans woman of color and early childhood sex abuse survivor, raised to see myself as a neurotypical cisgender heterosexual white male. I lack authentic representation in contemporary media. I am excited to explore musical theater as a vehicle for introducing my whole human experience of being to a culture that traditionally portrays trans and intersex women as sad caricatures and monstrously villainous sexual predators. I have publicly blazed my own trail healing from childhood sex abuse, gaslighting, and rape, and my way has gone on to heal others. That’s a story worth telling.”
Co-Producer Alex Crozier (he/him)
Alex Crozier is an independent artist based in New York. He creates a form of informative entertainment that crosses artistic disciplines and is made accessible to a wide demographic so that an audience can connect with the subject matter on an honest and visceral level. Alex’s work seeks to inform audiences about various social issues including race, gender, and sexual orientation. As a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania he received his BFA in dance from The University of the Arts. He worked with Donald Byrd and Spectrum Dance Theater for five years performing various lead roles as a principal company member. A couple of his featured roles included the Interlocutor in Donald Byrd’s The Minstrel Show Revisited and the Carnival Boy in The 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of Carousel. Alex has performed with Pennsylvania Ballet as a guest artist, the Houston Grand Opera, and with Liz King’s D.ID in Austria, where he toured extensively throughout the country. In the spring of 2017 he co-produced, directed, and choreographed his full-length dance show MILLENNIALS which focused on cultural appropriation and gay culture within the Millennial generation. In 2018 Alex reformatted MILLENNIALS into his film The Millennial Experience which focuses on the aforementioned themes. The Millennial Experience has been officially selected for eight international film festivals and garnered two awards.
“I’m excited to be co-producing this residency with Village Theatre! It’s so important to have a residency like this to give a platform to BIPOC people who may have felt overlooked and may not have known that a program like this was possible for them. My hope is that there are more programs like this one in the future not just at Village, but all throughout Washington so that fresh artistic talent is fostered and in doing so I think we will have a healthy and flourishing arts community in the PNW.”