jakub | November 25, 2023

AMERICAN THEATRE | 6 Theatre Workers You Should Know

Our newest edition spotlights theatre workers in Southern California. If you would like to recommend a theatre artist (from anywhere) for a future Role Call, fill out our open Google Form here.

Hana S. Kim (Haa-naa)

Hana S. Kim.

Profession: Projection and video designer
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea
Current home: Los Angeles
Known for: Hana has designed projections for a wide range of fare, from Orfeo at Santa Fe Opera to King John at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and her Broadway credits include The Old Man and the Pool and Summer 1976. Closer to her L.A. home base, she worked on The Industry’s site-specific opera Sweet Land and Tiger Style! at South Coast Rep.
What’s next: Her projections appear in the musical Real Women Have Curves, which starts performances this week at American Repertory Theater.
What makes her special: Ralph Peña, who directed SCR’s Tiger Style!, praises the “deep sense of storytelling” that Kim brings to her work, saying that Hana is “always looking to add nuance to a scene, but also knowing when to step back. She’s a fantastic collaborator who brings joy into every room she’s in, and like me, loves snacks.”
Visual fusion: Hana grew up in Korea “watching very theatrical films,” she recalls, citing the work of Julie Taymor and Akira Kurosawa, but put film aside when she came to the U.S. to study production and scenic design for the theatre. When she discovered projection design, she found a way to marry her two influences. As she puts it, projection design “made me fuse my previous education of visual communication design and theatre design.”

Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx (he/him)

Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx.

Profession: Artistic director 
Hometown: San Diego
Current home: Los Angeles
Known for: Jonathan is only the second artistic director of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the largest LGBTQ+ service organization in the world, where he programs the Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center’s Renberg Theatre, Davidson/Valentini Theatre, and Advocate & Gochis Galleries. For four years prior, he served as director of cultural programming for Pasadena’s A Noise Within.
What’s next: He’s in the midst of planning LGBT Center’s 2024-25 season, which he says will “amplify our four core service categories: Health, Social Services & Housing, Culture & Education, and Leadership & Advocacy.” He thinks of “the performing arts as an entry point for our community into a larger ecosystem of care,” and as such feels “motivated to shift theatre from ‘amenity’ to ‘essential.’”
What makes him special: He gets raves from colleagues, including Celebration Theatre artistic Brittney S. Wheeler, who hails his “innate ability to make something brilliant out of nothing”; from Celebration’s executive director, Chris Maikish, who says that Jonathan “takes a holistic view, he genuinely cares, and he’s never afraid to advocate for a better way of doing things”; from Outside In Theatre AD Jessica Hanna, who praises his “care of the artists he’s working with, apparent across all departments”; and from IAMA Theatre AD Stefanie Black, who is in awe of Jonathan’s “thoughtfulness, vision, and talent. I can’t wait to see what kind of legacy he will create.”
Bringing people together: Jonathan says that so far he’s most proud of tripling attendance at the LGBT Center, from “3,000 patrons pre-pandemic to 9,000 patrons year-to-date. We did this by practicing a ‘consensus organizing’ season planning model, building equitable partnerships with over 15 Los Angeles arts organizations, and cultivating shared stakes in the theatre’s success among our community of patrons and collaborators.”

Mildred Lewis (she/her)

Mildred Lewis.

Profession: Writer-director, professor
Hometown: Harlem, NYC
Current home: Inglewood, Calif.
Known for: For Antaeus Theatre’s Zip Code series, Lewis contributed $10 and a Tambourine, which was nominated for an Ambie. Other plays include Louisiana Shoal, The Bridge, Again?, and /kom’plisit/. She also wrote the screenplay for the film Unbowed. She started out in theatre as a director at the Actors Studio and Circle Rep’s LAB, and served as a U.S. representative to the International Theatre Festival.
What’s next: In Spring 2024, Juked, her adaptation of Sophocles’s Electra, will open at A Different Myth in Asheville, N.C.; We Four will be part of the Road Theatre’s Under Construction Festival; Fantasmas Crossings will be read through the Lucille Lortel’s Alcove Commission; and Phylicia’s Friendship Bench, a new fiction podcast, will be part of the Orchard Project’s Forward program.
What makes her special: Nancy Cheryll Davis, founding artistic/producing director of Towne Street Theatre, of which Mildred is a company member, calls her “a tremendously talented writer whose poignant plays reflect the human spirit in all its complexity and joy. The dialogue and storytelling with which she captures the African American experience in particular is honest, historical, deeply rooted, and compelling.” Sara Guerrero, founding artistic director of Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble, which has produced Mildred’s work, says that her “storytelling captures the human condition and its flaws with great humor and pathos.”
Welcoming change: Mildred is sanguine about the changes being forced on “the infrastructure of U.S. theatre” and hopes to be part of the solution. “I want to help create a new, sustainable, dynamic ecosystem.” She adds, “I don’t think we’ll be able to meet the climate crisis and rising authoritarianism without artists. Think Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, and Václav Havel—hey, we could use a few more women on this list!”

Orlando de la Paz (he/him)

Orlando de la Paz.

Profession: Theatre scenic artist
Hometown: Tia Ong, Quezon Province, Philippines
Current home: Van Nuys, Calif.
Known for: Olan, as he is known to colleagues and friends, started out painting scenery for a play at his nephews’ and nieces’ elementary school more than 10 years ago, and his reputation has only grown since. He has painted sets all over the Southland, including for Skylight Theatre, Colony Theatre, Sierra Madre Playhouse, Antaeus Theatre, Laguna Playhouse, International Center Theatre, El Portal Theatre, La Mirada Theatre for Performing Arts, and A Noise Within.
What’s next: Olan is creative director for an immersive event in Simi Valley next March: a 50th-anniversary celebration of the beloved TV series Little House on the Prairie, for which he’ll paint life-sized recreations of both exteriors and interiors of buildings that once stood at the Big Sky Movie Ranch during the series’ filming, through which fans will be able to take both in-person and mobile tours. “We hope to completely recreate many of the behind-the-scenes experiences shared by the cast and crew of the series from 1974-1983,” Olan says.
What makes him special: Stephen Gifford, a scenic designer for whom Olan has worked repeatedly, says that the painter’s “support for the people and companies he works for is unmatched. He’s not only a scenic artist, he’s also a multitalented creative possessing a vast array of artistic skills.” Director Jon Lawrence Rivera, another frequent Olan employer, calls him “always meticulously precise.” And scenic designer Frederica Nascimento says that Olan “captures precisely the colors and textures I want—he reproduces perfectly the scenic design. I can’t think of a more generous collaborator, outstanding scenic painter, and inspired visual artist.”
Lots of love: Olan says he particularly enjoys “translating what a designer may have created on paper or a model into a life-sized set through just two instruments: a paint brush and a can of paint.” But he also enjoys experimenting beyond those basic elements, expressing his love for “fabricating large bells out of foam or trees out of chicken wires and papier-mâché and then painting them to look like the real thing.” He has still more love to go around, effusing, “Most of all, I love the friendships and relationships I’ve been able to forge because of the collaborative nature of theatre. When you get to work with people you know are at the top of their craft, you feel confident that magic will indeed happen.”

Rachyl Spacca (she/her)

Rachyl Spacca.

Profession: Arts administrator
Hometown and current home: Burbank, Calif.
Known for: For the past six years, Rachyl has been director of patron experience and sales at Pasadena Playhouse, which follows years of similar experience at Center Theatre Group and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Before that she worked in the box office for the iconic San Francisco musical revue Beach Blanket Babylon, and as chorus manager for the Queer Chorus of San Francisco. 
What’s next: After a banner year in 2023, in which the Playhouse produced a six-month Sondheim festival and won the Regional Tony, Rachyl said it’s “full speed ahead” with an extension of Inherit the Wind, an upcoming holiday spectacular, Kate Berlant’s Kate in January, and the Playhouse’s first season of youth and family programming. “Never a dull moment or much time to look back,” Rachyl says.
What makes her special: Playhouse artistic director Danny Feldman says that Rachyl “approaches patron services the exact way that an artist approaches their work. Even though they may not know her by name, all audiences who come to the Playhouse feel welcome and that this is a place for them. That is all due to Rachyl’s love of what she does.”
The comeback: Calling herself “truly a patron experience nerd,” Rachyl says that she communicates to her teams the philosophy that “the art is what brings people to us for the first time, but the exceptional experience we give them when they’re here is what keeps them coming back.” As an arts administrator, she confesses some concern about the health of the nonprofit theatre industry, especially as other art forms seem to be comparatively on the mend, but affirms her belief “in the creativity and resilience of this community. I am determined to advocate for our future!”

Xavi Moreno (he/him/el/foo)

Xavi Moreno.

Profession: Actor/graphic designer
Hometown and current home: Boyle Heights, Los Angeles 
Known for: Xavi serves as both marketing director and actor for longtime L.A. mainstay Latino Theater Company, most recently appearing in Joel Ulloa’s Tacos La Brooklyn. Previous appearances with LTC include The Mother of Henry, A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story, La Olla, and Melancholia. He’s also worked regionally in such shows as Destiny of Desire at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and Into the Beautiful North at San Diego Rep, and toured with Placas: The Most Dangerous Tattoo. In addition to LTC, he’s also a veteran ensemble member with L.A.’s Independent Shakespeare Company, a producing director with Company of Angels, and co-founder of the spoken-word duo Los Poets del Norte.
What’s next: He’ll do his fifth tour of duty as Fraile Joaquin for the LTC’s holiday pageant, La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
What makes him special: LTC artistic director José Luis Valenzuela calls Xavi “a true jack of all trades,” adding that what sets him apart is “his willingness to say yes and take on any challenge. Xavi always goes above and beyond, ensuring that everything runs smoothly. He’s a rising star who never lets his title stop him from getting things done. He’s the future of American theatre. ”
Our stories: “Theatre saved my life,” Xavi said unequivocally, adding, “The theatre is my happy place, my sanctuary, my church—a haven of peace and harmony.” He traces the line back to a family of “class clowns,” but more precisely to his discovery, after the tragic death of a best friend in 2002, of the Boyle Heights theatre CASA 0101. That summer, at the end of 10-week creative writing and theatre workshop for youth at CASA 0101, Xavi and his colleagues produced a show titled Voces Voices, where “we portrayed our own life stories.” Now, he says, it his “mission every day as a storyteller to share our stories with as many people as possible, especially those in my community who are not represented onstage or on-screen.”

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