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 from Los Angeles. He is a ’22-23 Dramatists Guild Foundation Playwriting Fellow and First Year Member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. His plays include TELL ME I’M GORGEOUS AT THE END OF THE WORLD: THE LAST GAY PLAY (2023 O’Neill Finalist, 2022 Yale Drama Series Prize Shortlist, 2023 Blue Ink Award Semi-Finalist), UNCLE REMUS, HIS LIFE AND TIMES, AS TOLD TO AARON COLEMAN (The Old Globe’s 2023 Powers New Voices Festival), and WHERE HAVE ALL THE FAIRIES GONE? (2022 Reading with Brave New World Repertory Theatre). His original short YA musical LEO’S BIG DAY OUT (music by Chuck Pelletier) was commissioned and virtually staged by Circle in the Square Theatre School.
Over the past couple years, Aaron has also been a Semi-Finalist for 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, a Finalist for The Civilians’ R&D Group (in 2020 and 2021), and a Finalist for the 2019 Playwrights’ Week at The Lark. Essentially, he’s been a finalist for everything.
He wrote lyrics for the Off-Broadway musical IMELDA written with East West Players and New Musicals Inc. (Pan Asian Rep, David Henry Hwang Theatre). As a lyricist with New Musicals, Inc. in Los Angeles, Aaron has developed musicals for McCoy Rigby Entertainment, the Celebration Theatre, and American Folklore Theatre. MFA: Writing for Screen and Television, USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Gloria Oladipo is a playwright based in New York, proudly hailing from Chicago, IL. She writes dark comedies about Black women, exploring themes of caregiving, mental health, and trauma through a mix of realism and absurdism.
Gloria is a 2022-2023 Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow and 2023 Seven Devils New Play Conference resident, where her play The Care and Keeping of Schizophrenia (and Other Demons) is in development. She is a 2023 Gingold Group Speaker’s Corner fellow, with her play I Wanna Kill, Annie G. Gloria is 2023 artist-in-residence with New York Stage and Film in Poughkeepsie, New York. Gloria is also a Velvetpark Writers Residency finalist.
Gloria’s other plays include The Good Victim (Cornell University reading/development), The Forever War (Heermans-McCalmon Competition for Dramatic Writing 2nd Place), and other works.
Gloria is also an award-winning cultural critic and journalist. She is a 2022 National Critics Institute fellow at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, an opportunity she was selected for via the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy. Gloria’s work has appeared in Teen Vogue, the Guardian, Bitch Media, and other publications.Bachelor of Arts and Sciences: Cornell University. gloriaoladipo.com
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-Latiné, and Trans non-binary playwright, educator, & theatermaker originally from Mount Vernon, OH. They are a 2022-2023 Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow. Currently, SMJ is creating work with Ars Nova, The Road Theatre Company, Latiné Musical Theatre Lab, The Orchard Project, American Theater Group, CRY HAVOC, The Actors Studio, PlayGround-NY, and The Uptown Collective. Their work has been seen in various forms throughout the US including the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, New York Stage and Film, Lincoln Center, National Queer Theater, Carnegie Mellon University, Otterbein University, Wright State University, Art House Productions, Andy’s Summer Playhouse, The Workshop Theater, The 24 Hour Plays, The Fled Collective, Live Arts, Philly Theater Week, The Tank, and DR2 Theatre. SMJ also writes for the serial podcast, University Radio. SMJ has been a semifinalist for the O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference, Princess Grace Award at New Dramatists, Van Lier New Voices Fellowship, and The Civilians R & D Group as well as a Finalist for the 2023 Parity Development Award, Write Out Loud Contest, 5th Avenue Theater’s First Draft Commission, and the Doric Wilson Playwright Award. SMJ is a graduate of Otterbein University and the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. They’re 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 is the inaugural recipient of the Julia Miles Playwriting Residency (WP Theatre), a 2022-23 Playwriting Fellow with the Dramatists Guild Foundation and a proud alumni of the WP Lab. She won the Pacific Rim Prize for Playwriting (Kumu Kahua / UHM Theatre Playwriting Contest); has been a finalist for the Blue Ink Playwriting Award; a finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival; a twice semi-finalist for the O’Neil National Playwrights Conference and a finalist for the Columbia@Roundabout New Play Reading Series. Plays include They Came in the Night, Return to Fall, The Rejects and How to Gild an Eagle. For five years, Zizi was the Artistic Director of Teater Ekamatra (Singapore) garnering multiple awards during her tenure. She teaches playwriting and drama in context at Syracuse University. MFA: Columbia University