DNAWORKS convened the DNAWORKS Ensemble in January 2017 in response to the change in the U.S. political landscape. Our goal was to create a mindful collective to focus our attentions and energies on connection, support, hope, and change. The intergerational, intercultural Ensemble consists of fifteen members from three different countries and numerous geographic, cultural, and religious heritages. The Ensemble members support one another in projects and project planning and create work together as well.
Eunice S. Ferreira
My artistic and scholarly works are interdisciplinary, international, and intercultural in scope. I am drawn to plays that engage cultural and global issues and strive to create opportunities for such plays to be realized through my teaching, research and professional endeavors. As a director, I use visual metaphors to create compelling stage pictures and a world that evokes visceral performances from actors. We play with the dynamics of spatial relations, language and vocal work as we discover the play together as an ensemble throughout the rehearsal process.
As a scholar, I focus on the intersections of theatrical performance and issues of language, race, class, gender, culture and national identity. My areas of expertise include: world theater history, intercultural performance, translation studies, multilingual performance, creole and mixed race studies, transnational studies, African American theater, race and performance, musical theater, new play development, theater for social change, Cape Verdean theater, and theater of the African diaspora.
Kwesi Johnson is a Creative Director and Movement Specialist – moving people bodies, minds and attitudes. He has over 20 years of professional industry experience as an award-winning choreographer, dance teacher and producer.
His work is the intersection of dance, physical theatre, visual storytelling, spoken word, and street culture. He is a pioneer of the now global, Hip Hop Theatre. Kwesi is also influenced by digital innovation, creative placemaking and how this can create community cohesion.
He is co-founder of a creative agency, The Cultural Assembly, and Founder and Artistic Director of Kompany Malakhi. He is a graduate of the Institute of Leadership and Management and is the current Creative Associate at the Young Vic Theatre in London.
In the arts he develops and delivers his own bespoke events and projects and is interested in the intersection of live, site specific and livestreamed performance.
Giovanni Ortega (AEA, SAG-AFTRA, SDC) was a resident scholar at Playwriting Australia’s National Play Festival & an artist-in-residence for Philippine-Australian Arts, Culture and Innovation Central. In addition, he is a visiting director in Singapore at the Haque Centre of Acting & Creativity where he devised The Trilogy of the Body Series. In Los Angeles, Giovanni was commissioned to write ALLOS, the Carlos Bulosan Story and Criers for Hire, East West Players’ highest grossing world premiere play. Directorial works: The Hotel Play (AD, Center Theatre Group/ Playwrights’ Arena), La Madre de Todos los Exilios (La Casa Tercer Acto, Bogotá), Mama Bares (East West Players). Upon the Fragile Shore was screened for the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival 2016. He also originated the role of President Marcos in Imelda, The Musical (East West Players), Romance of Magno Rubio (LA Weekly award nomination), Dogeaters & The Refugee Hotel (CTG).
Maritri is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and vocalist who was born and raised in California, spent the last twenty years as a musician in New York, and has recently moved back to California. She is classically trained on piano and cello and self-taught on guitar and bass. She graduated from Fisk University—where she was a world renowned Jubilee Singer—with a BA in Biology; and from Howard University, where she received a BS in Music and an MFA in Jazz Studies. She has traveled the world making music, including Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, , and the United States. She has scored movies; composed for commercials; played with artists Barbra Streisand, Corey Glover, Meshell Ndegeocello, Michael Amante, and her own bands, the Soulfolk Experience and Hue; and opened for Gladys Knight, the Indigo Girls, and Kenwood Dennard. Maritri has written music and soundscapes for Countee Cullen's Medea, Hollow Roots by Christina Anderson (both directed by Daniel Banks), and Danny Simmons’ Bombay Sapphire campaign, “What Is Art?” She was a host on BET on Jazz and recently appeared in an Emirates airline commercial. She was a staff pianist for the Washington Ballet under the tutelage of Mary Day and Lupe Serrano. She has four albums available on iTunes and various streaming platforms...two with the Soulfolk Experience, one solo, and a duo with Nick Cassarino. She is grateful to be a working musician.
Anthony David Lyons
Anthony David Lyons was born on December 20th in Hollywood, Florida, USA. He is an actor and producer, known for The Book of Negroes (2015), American History X (1998), Hotel Rwanda (2004) and The Sum of All Fears (2002).
His artistic universe straddles the globe with one foot planted firmly in both South Africa and the USA. He holds an MA in Applied Theatre from the City University of New York (CUNY) and manages to maintain a thriving career as a professional artist in tandem with his activist and scholarly pursuits. His career continues to evolve with the added dimension of poetic house artist and lyricist. In 2007 he released his first solo project Human Jewels and We Dance We Pray in 2011. He is the author of three plays: Celebration, Beautiful Struggle and We Are Here. He has also been a Fulbright Awardee, an Oregon Shakespeare Festival Producing Fellow and a Scholar in Residence at University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). We Are Here (WAH) has grown into a social activism initiative that has implemented programming in South Africa, New York, Detroit, and Ann Arbor. This project is designed to foster an environment where the arts can impact social conditions, attitudes, perceptions and structures amongst men and boys.
Christopher Rivas is a 2018 Ariane de Rothschild Social Entrepreneurship fellow. He's a two-time Moth winner, published writer, actor (GLOW, Grey's Anatomy, For the People, SEAL Team, Shameless, Rizzoli & Isles, 2 Broke Girls, Rosewood), social activist, teacher, and speaker.
Human narratives are his single greatest passion, and his mission is to create and share powerful stories that move us forward, blend boundaries, and encourage dialogue. As a speaker and facilitator, he has worked with organizations all over the world using the power of storytelling to craft messages that inspire and set us free. He's developed and facilitated storytelling workshops for The WWE, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Safe Place for Youth, LAMP on Skid Row, The Museum of Broken Relationships, The Skirball Cultural Center, UCLA, CalArts, Upworthy, and content for SoulPancake to name a few.
He's also currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Expressive Arts for Global Health & Peace Building from The European Graduate School.
Nicole Hodges Perley
Nicole Hodges Persley is the Artistic Director of the KC Melting Pot Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri. A theater and film director, Hodges Persley has directed critically acclaimed works nationally and internationally. She is an award-winning Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre at the University of Kansas and the Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
A. J. Muhammad
A.J. Muhammad has a background in dramaturgy, audience development and library public services. A long association with DNAWORKS co-founder Dr. Daniel Banks has given A.J. the opportunity to serve as dramaturg and/or research assistant on productions directed by Daniel that were performed in the U.S. and internationally. A.J. was a participant in The Field's AMP (Artist Manager Partnership) program, an initiative to provide artists with the experience to move into leadership positions within a range of performing arts organizations. He assisted Neyda Martinez with the development and implementation of the New Audience Project, a pilot program that aimed to develop a cadre of Latina/Latinx arts ambassadors, group ticket sales agents, and consultants. A.J. is on the producing team of The Fire This Time Festival, which presents the work of emerging, early career, and under-represented playwrights from the African diaspora via an annual festival and other programming.
Mei Ann Teo
Mei Ann Teo (she/they) is a theatre and filmmaker who works at the intersection of artistic/civic/contemplative practice. As a director/devisor/dramaturg, she collaborates across genres, including multi-form performance and music theatre, at theaters and festivals internationally. She was featured at MIT’s Symposium Next Wave: The Future of Asian American Theatre, is a National Directing Fellow, and profiled in American Theatre’s “Role Call: Theatre Workers to Watch.” Recent and current work includes: the Chinese world premiere and nationwide tour of Dim Sum Warriors by Colin Goh and Yen Yen Woo (composed by Pulitzer Prize winner Du Yun), Jillian Walker’s Songs of Speculation (Jack), Diana Oh’s Clairvoyance
(ART Oberon), Bex Kwan and Sophia Mak’s Double Yolk Moon (Bax, BricLab), and Nia Witherspoon's Dark Girl Chronicles (Playwrights Realm, Jack, The Shed). She is the Producing Artistic Director of Musical Theatre Factory, a resident company of Playwrights Horizons.
Denise Woods' work as a vocal coach includes Mahershala Ali’s Golden Globe nominated performance in Green Book as well as his role of Wayne Hayes in the HBO series True Detective Season 3. Other award winning and nominated clients include Academy Award winning actor Common, Golden Globe winner David Oyelewo, Golden Globe nominated Idris Elba, Academy Award nominated actor Will Smith for the title role in the film Ali and Ken Watanabe for his work in the film The Last Samurai. She coached Audra McDonald's fourth Tony Award winning performance in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess on Broadway and was Zoe Saldana's Dialect Coach in the feature film based on the life of Nina Simone. Ms. Woods’ Dialect Coaching talents can also be seen in the 20th Century Fox film Hidden Figures starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner and in the upcoming feature film Harriet starring Cynthia Erivo and Leslie Odom, Jr.