jakub | August 8, 2023

AMERICAN THEATRE | PlayGround Announces 8 Producing Fellows for 2023-24


Clockwise from top left: Julie Lippert-Pasco, Zoe Chien, Carmia Imani, River Bermudez Sanders, Emily Zhou, Christy Spence, Darius Adamson Jr., and Xinyuan Pu.

SAN FRANCISCO: PlayGround has announced the 2023-24 producing fellows, an expanded class of eight next-generation theatre leaders drawn from across the country who will work with PlayGround’s artistic staff and producing team on the company’s award-winning incubator programs over the next year in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. Fellows gain hands-on experience in the fields of literary management/casting, fundraising/grant writing, theatre management, human resources/contracts, and communications, with all fellows getting the opportunity to work in each department.

This year’s selected fellows are Zoe Chien, an actor and arts administrator with a BFA in Theatre from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts; Xinyuan Pu, a Chinese writer and director, and recent graduate of Northwestern University with a BA in theatre, playwriting, and French; Carmia Imani, a Chicago-based theatre artist committed to advocating for historically underrepresented groups and accessibility and inclusion in the theatre industry; River Bermudez Sanders, a Bay Area actor, director, choreographer, stage manager, production manager, teaching artist, and dramaturg with a BFA in musical theatre from Emerson; Darius Adamson Jr., a multi-disciplinary artist with experience in acting, writing, directing, producing, and design, and a recent graduate from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts; Emily Zhou, a Chinese American dramaturg, playwright, director, and arts administrator; Christy Spence, a former intern for multiple talent agencies and film/TV productions; and Julie Lippert-Pasco, an L.A. actor familiar with stage management, lighting, sound, directing, and a registered nurse.

This cohort of up-and-coming producer-artists was curated to reflect the diverse artistic community that PlayGround serves, with a focus on parity and diversity of gender, ethnicity, and sexuality. As PlayGround has grown, so has the producing fellowship program. This year’s class is the first to represent all PlayGround cities. Together these eight fellows will work part-time with PlayGround under the leadership of Jim Kleinmann (artistic director), Lana Richards (associate director of development), Jaque Bugler (production/general manager), and the full artistic staff to learn and develop their skill set in the process of theatre production, from inception to execution. As part of the company’s ongoing commitment to equity, PlayGround has established a base compensation level of $20 per hour and is continually looking at how to increase support for artists and artist-administrators.

The producing fellowship program was launched during the 2019-20 season, just two weeks before California shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. PlayGround maintained its commitment to the new staff members, shifting the entire program online and extending the initial term through July 2021 to help fellows weather the challenging economic climate. The inaugural Fellowship class included Donny Goglio, Edna Mira Raia, Lana Richards, and Chris Steele. Other fellows have included Bacilio Mendez II, Savannah Greene, Justin P. Lopez, Emlyn Doolittle, and Caroline Portante.

Founded in 1994 by Jim Kleinmann, Brighde Mullins, and Denise Shama, PlayGround has grown into the Bay Area’s leading playwright incubator and theatre community hub, with a deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and striving to uplift and center artists from historically underrepresented communities. PlayGround expanded to Los Angeles in 2012, to NYC in 2021, and Chicago in 2022.

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