April Dae Okpwae is a performer, playwright, composer, librettist & community organizer who utilizes comedy to highlight the diversity of black identity while exploring the intersectionality of religion in racial, economic, & gender inequities. Her 15-character solo show, I’mma Do Me, satirically exposes the impact of poverty in America & has won several awards including Best Emerging Actress at United Solo Theatre Festival in NYC and Best Short Play at Atlanta Black Theatre Festival. Her concert credits include Poetic Theatre Production’s Feeling Good as Ritual, Musical Theatre Factory’s 4X15, and Maestra’s & Parent Artist Advocacy League’s Motherhood Concert. Her music(al) video, Be Soft Be Pretty, from her latest musical in development, Queens of Solomon, was a 2021 Hip Hop Film Festival Official Selection. As a community organizer & nonprofit leader for the past 15 years, April Dae has worked in black & brown communities throughout New York City and Detroit, MI conducting performance-based development workshops. She is a founding board member of BlackCount, an arts-based voter education, engagement, & advocacy organization. Born & raised in Detroit, April Dae received her BFA from SUNY Purchase performing in television, theatres, & universities throughout the country.
Joriah Kwamé is a composer/lyricist/librettist based in NYC. In 2019, his career was launched when he won Tony Nominee Taylor Louderman’s Write Out Loud competition for “Little Miss Perfect,” which has since grossed over 15 million views and inspired a Broadway-aimed musical of the same name. He is a recipient of the 2020 ASCAP Foundation Cole Porter Award and was one of six ASCAP writers featured in the ASCAP Songwriters: Next Generation showcase. He participated in the 2020 Johnny Mercer Songwriting Project. He has written pieces for The New York Film Academy, Prospect Theater Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and 54 Below. Andrew Lippa enlisted him to write a piece for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus premiere song cycle, Songs Of The Pheonix, alongside the likes of Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Sondheim, and Ingrid Michaelson. With Pasek and Paul, he co-wrote “Top Of The World” from the upcoming Sony Picture Film Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, performed by Shawn Mendes. He has many musical projects in development, ranging greatly in style and subject matter. His upcoming work HOW TO: YOU is a 2022 O’Neil finalist and was featured in the 2022 NAMT Songwriter Showcase. He is a 2021 Jonathan Larson finalist.
Julián Mesri is a New York-based Argentinean-American composer and writer who makes multilingual plays and musicals in the US and around the world. He is a current member of the Public Theater Emerging Writers Group and received a 2020-2021 EST/Sloan Commission for his musical Favaloro: A Heart in Pieces. This spring he will be writing the songs for the Public Mobile Unit’s musical adaptation for Comedy of Errors directed by Rebecca Martinez. Recent productions include Telo (Live and In Color Finalist, O’Neill NMTC Finalist), Bartolomé de las Casas Ruins My Pool (O’Neill NPC Finalist), Immersion (Ingenio Festival at Milagro Theater, Columbia/Roundabout Finalist, BAPF Semi-Finalist. Mesri has been an Emerging Artist of Color Fellow and Usual Suspect at NYTW, a Van Lier fellow at Repertorio Español, and the recipient of an ASCAP Scholarship. His adaptation of Fuenteovejuna received the HOLA Outstanding production award. He has also translated dramatic works for the Lark US/Mexico Exchange and PEN World Voices. He received his MFA from Columbia University.
Nicholas Connors is a composer/lyricist, orchestrator, and conductor. His writing spans many genres and musical styles, from an award-winning short chamber musical, Here, In The Park to a zany sci-fi romp, Space Voyage: The Musical Frontier. Nicholas is currently at work on a new folk rock musical, Ten Long Years (book by Kyle Wilson) and an untitled bluegrass-infused musical about the West Virginia Coal Mine Wars. His songs have been performed throughout the country by artists including Karen Olivo, Kyle Selig, and Jenna Ushkowitz. Nicholas is the Assistant Music Director of the new Broadway musical Almost Famous
and his past Broadway credits include Kristin Chenoweth’s For The Girls (Associate Music Director, Orchestrations) and Mean Girls (Keyboard). Nicholas was also an Associate Music Director for Kristin Bell’s Encore! on Disney+. His orchestrations have been performed at Carnegie Hall, The Metropolitan Opera, and in televised concerts by some of America’s top performers and orchestras.
Aaron Coleman is a New York City-based playwright and lyricist originally from Los Angeles. He is honored to be on the 2022 Short List for the Yale Drama Series Prize for his play Tell Me I’m Gorgeous At The End Of The World. In February 2022, his play Where Have All The Fairies Gone? had a reading with Brave New World Repertory Theatre. Recently, his original short family musical Leo’s Big Day Out (music by Chuck Pelletier) was virtually staged by Circle in the Square Theatre School. Tell Me I’m Gorgeous also received a lab reading with The Workshop Theater. His play Uncle Remus, His Life and Times, As Told to Aaron Coleman was chosen by Primary Stages for their 2019 ESPA Drills reading series at the famed Lucille Lortel Theatre.
Over the past couple years, Aaron been a Semi-Finalist for the O’Neill and the Princess Grace Award, a two-time Finalist for the Jerome Fellowship at the Playwrights’ Center, a Finalist for New York Theater Workshop’s 2050 Fellowship, and a two-time Finalist for The Civilians’ R&D Group.
Select works: Lyricist for the Off-Broadway musical Imelda written with East West Players and New Musicals Inc. (Pan Asian Rep, David Henry Hwang Theatre). Co-bookwriter for Stay Forever: The Life and Music of Dusty Springfield (Renberg Theatre), produced at New World Stages as Forever Dusty. Aaron has developed musicals for McCoy Rigby Entertainment, the Celebration Theatre, and American Folklore Theatre. MFA: Writing for Screen and Television from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Gloria Oladipo is a playwright and journalist from Chicago, IL (best city in the world) and based in New York. She is a 2022 National Critics Institute Fellow with the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. She is also the 2022 KCACTF Institute for Theater Journalism and Advocacy Fellowship winner. Gloria graduated from Cornell University in 2021, where she won second place in the Heermans-McCalmon Competition for Dramatic Writing and showcased her play THE GOOD VICTIM. She was a 2019 Jeff Ubben Posse Fellow and script reader with the Public Theater in New York. She also created and led the Veterans’ Playwriting Project in partnership with Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, IL. Her short plays and longer works have received readings with the Curious Theater in Denver, CO, at Cornell University, and in other spaces. She is extremely excited and grateful to be named a Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow!
Matthew Libby is a writer and actor based in Brooklyn, by way of Los Angeles. His play DATA won the Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Award, and was adapted as a digital production presented by the Tony-winning Alliance Theatre in May 2021, a production featured in a New York Times review of virtual theatre works that “clear a path toward continued innovation and growth of the form.” Matt is a two-time Princess Grace Award finalist, two-time O’Neill Playwrights Conference semifinalist, and Blue Ink Playwriting Award featured finalist, and his work has been produced and developed by theaters across the country, including Alliance Theatre, Pioneer Theatre Company, The Kennedy Center, National New Play Network, Theater Masters, The Barrow Group, The Road Theater Company, WNYU’s Theatre-in-the-Sound, and others. With Stanford Repertory Theater, he helped devise and acted in THE MANY FACES OF FARCE, which was nominated for a 2018 Bay Area Critics Award for Best Production. As a TV writer, he is developing projects with eOne, Beau Willimon’s Westward Productions, and Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions, and his screenwriting work has been recognized by The Black List and Script Pipeline. Matt studied cognitive science and creative writing at Stanford University, and received his MFA in dramatic writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he was awarded the Chair’s Award for Distinguished Achievement. He is a proud member of the Writers Guild of America and the Dramatists Guild of America. https://www.matthew-libby.com/
SMJ (they/them) is an NYC-based, mixed-race, and Trans non-binary playwright, educator, and theatermaker. They are currently creating work at Carnegie Mellon University (this old haunt), The Fled Collective at The Flea Theater (SWAY & Serials), and CAMP at Ars Nova (Bora & Doots II with Anne-Marie Pietersma). Their work has been seen in various forms throughout the US and the UK including the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, The Workshop Theater, DR2 Theatre, Moxie Arts NY, Art House Productions, The Artist Co-op, Fort Salem Theater, Access Theater, Fresh Ground Pepper, the HMBG Foundation, The Citadel of Playwrights, The Strides Collective, The Sappho Project, The Workshop Theater, The Dare Tactic, The Midnight Factory, and Dragon’s Egg Studio. SMJ has been a semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference, the Princess Grace Award at New Dramatists, and the R&D Group as well as a finalist for the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award, The 5th Avenue Theater’s First Draft Commission, and Echo Theater’s 2021 National Young Playwright in Residence. They’re a graduate of Otterbein University and the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. SMJ is a member of the Dramatists Guild and Ring of Keys. www.smjwrites.com
Zizi Majid (she/her) is a playwright whose plays advocate for a shared humanity. She recently completed a residency at the Catwalk Art Institute where she wrote her new play The Rejects. A recent alumni of WP Theatre’s Lab, she presented a reading of her play They Came In The Night, at the Pipeline Festival 2022. Other plays include Return to Fall (Finalist, Blue Ink Playwriting Award; Semi-Finalist, the O’Neil National Playwrights Conference; Semi-Finalist, Bay Area Playwrights Festival); How to Gild An Eagle (Finalist, Columbia@Roundabout New Play Reading Series; Semi-Finalist for the O’Neil National
Playwrights Conference); Cost (Climate Change Theatre Action Commission 2021); To Raqqa With Love (International Human Rights Arts Festival); How Did the Cat Get So Fat? (nominated Best Play, Life! Theatre Awards, Singapore); Yusof (Festival Commission, Pesta Raya, Singapore). For five years, Zizi was Artistic Director of Teater Ekamatra (Singapore), successfully breaking into the mainstream during her tenure, tripling audiences and garnering multiple awards. Instructor of Drama at Syracuse University, MFA Columbia University.