Team


STAFF


REYNA ERIKA BONAPARTE

TEACHING ARTIST

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Reyna is a teaching artist, educator, community organizer, facilitator and poet from Harlem, NYC. She earned her Bachelor’s of Art from Bard College and received her master’s in Applied Theatre from CUNY’s School of Professional Studies. Reyna has been involved in the arts for over 20 years and spent most of that time working at the Harlem Children Zone INC, where she ran multiple writing, media and arts programing for students across the agency’s many middle school and high school sites. Reyna is passionate about theatre for social change and activism and sees her work at PTP as crucial in her quest to help others find their voice and fight oppression everywhere.


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BOB BRASWELL

CO-FOUNDER, CO-EXECUTIVE AND MANAGING DIRECTOR

Bob co-founded People’s Theatre Project and is primarily responsible for its finances, development and marketing. As a teaching artist with the organization, he has worked with residents of Isabella Geriatric Center, and students at Harbor Heights Middle School for recent arrivals to the country. Under his auspices, the organization has grown from an idea on a napkin to a thriving organization bringing the arts to more than 1,200 people at dozens of sites across NYC each year. Braswell began his career in the arts as an actor and approaches administration as an ongoing creative project. As an actor, Braswell made his off-broadway debut in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter at New York Theatre Workshop under the direction of Tony Award winner, Doug Hughes. He has also worked with The Mint Theater, The Actor's Company Theatre (TACT), Cincinnati Playhouse, Baltimore Centerstage, Denver Center Theatre Company, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Huntington Theatre Company, Fulton Opera House and McCarter Theatre Center. Bob co-starred in the feature film “God Don’t Make the Laws” with Paul Sorvino and with Michael Shannon on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”. Bob had the pleasure of traveling the country with the Addiction Performance Project as Edmund in A Long Day’s Journey Into Night working with some well known actors including Dianne Wiest and Debra Winger. Bob studied Nonprofit Management at CUNY and theatre at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and received a BFA from Boston University’s School of Theatre.


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JESSICA CARMONA

TEACHING ARTIST

Jessica is an Award Winning Actress and Playwright of Puerto Rican descent. She is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she received her B.F.A in Acting with a focus on the Strasberg Method Acting. Her indie film, “Millie and the Lords” won her the Best Film and Best Actress Award at The People’s Film Festival and the Viva Latino Film Festival as well as an Award for Film Excellence from the International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival.  It was also featured at the Georgia Latino Film Festival, Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, Rochester Latino Film Festival and several others. She has performed in the hit show “Platanos and Collard Greens” in the role of “Samana”, as ‘Maddie” in the play Nickled and Dimed” at Blackfriars Theater and has worked with the Rochester Shakespeare Players in Upstate New York. She was also a member of “thedramaloft” theater group which developed original work about the September 11th attacks.

Her play Elvira-The Immigration Play was an official selection of the 2015 NYC Fringe Festival and selected as one of 7 most promising plays, and was further developed and presented at Long Island University, Grand Valley State University and Lehman College. The play is based on the life of real life Immigration Activist Elvira Arellano, as well as interviews with several of her students.

She is a member of SAG-AFTRA, the Off Broadway Alliance, and the United Federation of Teachers.

She has several years of experience working with youth in the area of Arts Education and she is also an Adult ESL Teacher.

Jessica is passionate about social justice, education, community building, her culture and her Faith. She believes in the power Art to transform lives and create positive change in the world.

She recently returned from a summer in the Dominican Republic, where she taught theater to young artists in the village of Cabarete.

She is represented by Emerging Talent Agency, LLC and her website is www.jessicacarmona.com. Jessica is honored to be on Staff with the People’s Theater Project.


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ANGELIQUE CASTRO

TEACHING ARTIST
Angelique graduated with a bachelor's degree in Theater Arts. After her graduation, she was cast in the off broadway tour of Platanos and Collard Greens as the lead, Angelita. Following a successful run thereat, she continued working in off broadway theaters passionately honing her craft. Her most notable role was playing Alice, in the theater adaptation of Closer. Angelique received an amazing opportunity to be a public speaker at Medgar Evers College. There she held a theater integrated workshop through their College Now Program. That moment was pivotal and ignited a complete turn of events for her. That was when she found her true passion as a theater educator. Summer of 2015 was a vital time for her in her field. She worked at the Riverdale Country School as a Creative and Performing Arts Specialist. There she taught Pre-K-4th grade and put together an original musical about the 1950s. Not only was Angelique the director, but she was the technical director, stage manager and choreographer, choreographing dances for over 150 children all in one week's time! It was a life changing summer where she developed many valuable skills, expanding her constantly growing skill set. Angelique is currently in graduate school for Theater Education and is ecstatic to be with the People's Theatre Project as a teaching artist. She is looking forward to sharing her passion through the lens of theater integration and yearns to make an impact in the NYC public schools while instilling a love for theater on our children.

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ERIKA DICKERSON-DESPENZA

ARTS & SOCIAL JUSTICE PROGRAM MANAGER

Erika Dickerson is a poet, playwright, educator, and activist from Chicago, IL. She has authored two books of poetry Talk Over The Sound (2009) and This Side of Mourning (2010), and curated her own gallery exhibition AKIMBO (2010). She earned her Bachelor of Science in English Secondary Education with a certificate in Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. There, she founded The For Colored Girls Project, Madison’s first and only womyn of color theatre ensemble, for which she served as Artistic Director. A 2013 Pushcart Prize nominee, Erika has served as an English, theatre, creative writing, and urban arts instructor for Chicago and and Madison metropolitan area elementary schools, high schools, universities, and community centers as well as primary and secondary schools in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2014, she debuted her one-womyn show, Cult of Blk Bodies at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin. Thereafter, Erika went on to pursue a Master of Arts in Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary. Currently, she is working on a triad of interdisciplinary theatre pieces: Can’t Hold Water, The Noose is Not a Metaphor and Miner, all of which are intertextual explorations of Black womyn’s historical and ongoing negotiation of belonging in America. When she is not teaching a class or drafting new work, you can find Erika at a play, protest, or in a roundtable discussion crafting new ways to seize liberation for oppressed peoples.


LYANA FERNANDEZ

TEACHING ARTIST

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Lyana Fernández has served as an actor with People’s Theatre Project for over four years, and has served on the Leadership Team for their Uptown Action group for the past two. During her 16 years as a resident of Uptown Manhattan, she additionally spent almost five years as a volunteer Advocate and Co-Director of Domestic and Other Violence Emergencies (DOVE) at New York Presbyterian Hospital, attending to survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault in their Emergency Department. Lyana has also worked as an Executive Assistant in the Private Equity division of a private wealth management firm in Midtown Manhattan since 2006.


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BEN JOHNSON

TEACHING ARTIST

Ben Johnson has performed as a professional actor, improviser, and physical comedian in over ninety cities across the United States and in ten countries around the world.

He has appeared in Waiting for Godot at Marin Theater Company, The 39 Steps and The Underpants at Center REP, Scapin at A.C.T., and as an improviser with The Magnet Theater, The PIT, Improv Playhouse of San Francisco, True Fiction Magazine, Awkward Dinner Party, and BATS Improv. His other credits include The Elephant Man, Mother Courage, La Bete, The Beard of Avon and Red Noses at the Gamm Theatre in Rhode Island; A Midsummer Saturday Night’s Fever Dream and All’s Kool That Ends Kool at the Troubadour Theater Company in Los Angeles; and an original solo performance called Trunk Show.

He is also a circus performer who has been a featured clown on Cirque du Soleil’s world tour of Alegría, a ringmaster with the Zoppe Family Circus, and a clown with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

His film and TV credits include TBS’s The Detour, the children’s video project Flummox and Friends, and the independent films All the Others Were Practice, Betrayed, Messenge, Reversal of Fortune, The Brides of Frankenstein, The 14th Floor, and Inhouse: Sketching Reality.

Ben has over fifteen years of experience working as an educator and trainer in a variety of contexts. He has designed and facilitated workshops for business professionals, and professional development for schools, districts, and other educational organizations. He has also worked as a substitute teacher, an instructional aide in special education classrooms, a one-on-one aide for a student with muscular dystrophy, a circus coach across the country for students fighting cancer, and a teaching artist in public schools and community centers in Rhode Island, California, and New York.

Ben recently relocated to New York City from Oakland, CA with his wife and their two daughters. He has a BA in History from UCLA, and an MA in Teaching from Brown University. Check out benbjohnson.com for more information!

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GERMAINNE LEBRON

TEACHING ARTIST
Germainne LeBron is a South Bronx born Actor and City College of New York alumni. He has pursued theatre through his post collegiate years. Some of his credits include (Jon Maran) A Strange and Separate People, (Oscar Wilde) The Importance of Being Earnest and Classics such as Romeo and Juliet, Othello and A Midsummer Nights Dream. Germainne joined The Peoples Theatre Project as an Apprentice Teaching Artist in 2014 Harbor Heights. He then joined the CUNY Creative Arts Team as an Actor Teacher creating and devising anti bullying and abuse workshops for middle to high school students all over NYC. Germainne is beyond thrilled to be invited back to PTP as a Teaching Artist!

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MINO LORA

CO-FOUNDER, CO-EXECUTIVE AND PROGRAM DIRECTOR

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Mino has been living and working as an artist, educator, activist and arts administrator in NYC since 2000. People’s Theatre Project is a true passion project for Mino and she takes a hands-on approach to the work. Each of the programs the organization has developed since 2009 began with her in the role of teaching artist. In recognition of her work, NBC Latino recognized Mino as one of 10 Latinos with Heart. She has also been profiled by FoxNews Latino, El Diario, Manhattan Times, Listin Diario, El Nacional and other newspaper and magazine publications in the US and abroad. Mino has participated as a panelist and guest speaker throughout New York City and was the international orator for the Women of Success 2014 conference in Santo Domingo, DR. The American Chamber of Commerce DR honored her with an award for her accomplishments as a Dominican working in the diaspora. Mino received her BA in English Literature and Theatre from Manhattanville College and her MA in Peace Studies and Conflict Transformation from the Graduate Institute.


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DONJA LOVE

TEACHING ARTIST

Donja R. Love is a Philadelphia born and raised Afro-Queer playwright, poet, and filmmaker. His work examines identity by unapologetically dramatizing the multifaceted nuance of Blackness and Queerness - and challenges the white supremacist, heteronormative structures that exist in American culture. He's The Lark's 2016 Van Lier Playwriting Fellow. He’s also the 2011 Philadelphia Adult Grand Slam Poetry Champion, and 2010 recipient of the Life Media Award for Best New Play runner-up (The Dead N---- Poem). His work has been featured in multiple festivals, The Advocate, Glaad, NBC, and many other publications.  He's the co-host of Broadway Black's podcast Off-Book, which highlights the work of Black artists on and off the Broadway stage. He’s the co-founder of Ademide Theatre Ensemble, which strives to strengthen the African-American theatre experience through provocative works that highlight the quality of Black theater; and The Each-Other Project, an organization that helps build community and provide visibility, through art and advocacy, for GBTQ People of Color, (www.TheEachOtherProject.com). Selected stage-plays include: The Dead N--- Poem (New Dramatists Resident Playwright Semi-finalist), and Sugar In Our Wounds. Selected film work: Modern Day Black Gay (web series), I Hate New York (web series), and The Space Between (short film).


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TARA MOONEY

TEACHING ARTIST

Tara Mooney, MA has facilitated PTP's Circle Up! program since 2011. She is a seasoned performer, teaching artist, certified circusyoga facilitator& long time activist. As a practitioner of Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed techniques, whom she studied with at the Brecht Forum in NYC, she’s presented his work throughout New England and was a delegate to the Festival of the Oppressed in Toronto, Canada where she co-created and performed with Class Acts Theater Troupe, part of United For a Fair Economy. She has designed and run art and social change based programs all over the northeast, most notably the Expressive Arts Therapy Program at Victory Programs, Inc. in Boston and "Arts from the Heart" at PS 188 in NYC. In addition, she has performed or taught with The Faux Real Theater Company, Hospital Audiences, Free Arts NYC, Counseling in the Schools National Network, HERE Arts Center, Scribble Arts Workshop, and with the after school programs at Bread & Yoga and Muscota New School. She is one half of the performance duo "Sisters of the House of Mercy" that creates original work exploring women's oppression and it's relationship to mental illness. Tara holds a Master's in Expressive Arts Therapy and a Bachelor's in Interdisciplinary Studies: Eco-Feminism, Psychology & Theater.


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KAT PENA

TEACHING ARTIST

Kat Peña has played roles from Anton Chekhov to singing Stephen Schwartz's music on stage. Her recent credits include Lyuba Ranevsky in The Cherry Orchard, Charlie in H.O.M.E. , Witch 1 in Shakespeare's Macbeth, Abri in the short film Abri's Story, and a few other short films. As a graduate of The City College of New York, she has costume designed a handful of shows. She is currently working on multiple projects, producing a Shakespeare miniseries, and is excited to be teaching social justice theater with the People's Theatre Project partnering with NYC Public High Schools. She continues to work alongside artists from her alma mater who share her desire to motivate and inspire audiences as well as creating original content that matters.


ESDRAS SANTANA

TEACHING ARTIST

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Esdras Santana is a proud resident of Washington Heights for 39 years now. She is the mother of two teenagers and served as PTA president for six years during their elementary/middle school attendance in the neighborhood. Esdras graduated from the Ward Acting Studio in 2007, is trained as a joker with Theatre of the Oppressed, and has studied Williamson Physical Technique at the Actors Movement Conservatory. She is currently participating in her 5th Uptown Action production and is a founding member of the Uptown Action Leadership Team. Esdras has been a labor/postpartum doula and childbirth educator since 2001. She enjoys working closely with new and expectant parents and is committed to supporting them through the birth and parenting process.


ASHLEY THOMAS

ADMINISTRATIVE COORDINATOR

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Ashley Thomas is an artist, educator, and arts administrator hailing from Harlem, NY. Her works infuse her love for poetry, hip hop, and community organizing. A recent graduate of the First Wave Urban Arts Scholarship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ashley is happy to be back home in New York. With a Bachelor of Social Work, she is eager to combine arts and activism in order to continue to serve her community through People's Theatre Project.

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CHANNIE WAITES

TEACHING ARTIST

Channie Waites is a performing artist, director, facilitator, educator and program consultant. She has worked and collaborated with youth, senior citizens and social justice leadership programs in the United States, Rwanda and South Africa. She has toured and performed professionally within the United States and abroad. She is currently performing a one-person adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk, produced my Young Audiences New York and Harlem Stage. Channie has received several honors and acknowledgements for her audiobook narrations including most recently, This Is The Rope. Channie has been co-program director for The International Theater and Literacy Project (ITLP) –Rwanda for the last four years. In Rwanda she has co-directed I Am! My Power!, Release and Pressure!, Love Is…, What Hate Does and Making Peace In Old Village, original plays devised by youth at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village and the Rwinkwavu Community Learning Center in Rwanda. Channie has worked for the August Wilson Monologue Competition, People’s Theatre Project, WNYC, and The Phyllis Rose Dance Company. She is an actor and program consultant with Only Make Believe, a not for profit organization that brings interactive theatre to children in hospital and health facilities. She was also co-founder of Capacity Arts, a theatre collective that created highly interactive historical dramas and developed tailored leadership workshops to lift up untold stories, build empathy across dividing lines, and deepen participants’ analysis of historical and present day conditions. Channie has a M.A. in Applied Theatre from the School of Professional Studies-CUNY and has a B.A. in Theatre from Penn State University.


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